The Coromandel Peninsula is small enough that you can complete the entire loop in a day driving around, but why would you. For one, it would be a pretty slow ride anyway, that’s not only because the roads are very hilly and windy, but the coastal scenery is breathtaking. Ideally you should allow for at least 2 to 4 days in this magical place.
The most famous and iconic places in the Coromandel are by far the majestic Cathedral Cove which can be accessed by a 45 minute walk, on a kayak or on a boat. The nearby Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own spa on the beach at low tide is another favorite among travellers.
There’s far more to the Coromandel than the iconic places. The beach towns scattered around the Peninsula each have their own unique character and will entice you to hang around a little. A 55 minute drive along the Pohutukawa coastline on the eastern side starting in Thames takes you up to Coromandel town, a town full of history from New Zealand’s early gold mining days. These days, mussel and oyster farming is its biggest industry, so we certainly recommend you try these on your dinner plate! The town has a very laid and creative vibe, and a place where artists thrive. It’s also a great base to explore the Coromandel’s remote North Coast. This is where you get off the beaten track, and the lesser known beaches of Port Jackson, Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay are popular with Kiwis themselves during the summer holidays. The Coastal Walkway from between Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay is highly recommended. A captivating one-hour railway journey inspired by the story of one man’s lifetime passion to bring Art, Conservation and Engineering together to create Driving Creek, is a unique experience.
The 309 Road between Coromandel Town and Whitiange is a gravel road which takes you on a journey through dense bushland with spectacular views as you follow alongside the river. As you progress through the 309 road there are a number of sites to stop off at along the way, such as giant Kauri Groves and the hike up Castle Rock rewarding you with incredible views. The road is just 22 km long and connects the East and West side of the peninsula together . . . . known as the alternative Coromandel/Whitianga road.
The other route to Whitianga continues along the coast, and this is where you’ll find a pretty well kept secret : New Chums Beach. This beach is only accessible by foot or boat, and is consistently voted one of the best 10 beaches in the world.
Whitianga Town is a great place to eat the most amazing sea food, so a great place to stop for lunch, and if you happen to be there in the weekends, don’t miss the local market when artists from around the region come and display and sell their works.
The beaches on the eastern side of the Peninsula are pristine almost everywhere you go, from Whitianga down to Waihi, and the towns all have a relaxed feel about them. Climb Te Paku mountain in Tairua and legend goes you’ll be back in New Zealand within 7 years. A prospect that looks very appealing when you return home from your holiday! Whanagamata has a 4km surf beach and has a great surf break attracting many Kiwis during the summer.
Inland, the Coromandel Peninsula consists of lush native forests with the New Zealand fern featuring predominantly. The Kauaeranga Valley n Coromandel Forest Park has over 30 walks, and the pinnacle of these walks is…well the Pinnacles Track. This hike takes you through regenerating forest to the jagged limestone outcrop as the Pinnacles, from which there are excellent views. The climb up to the top will make you feel as if you were in Jurassic Park!
On the southern edge of the Coromandel is Karangahake Gorge, with numerous walking opportunities passing through tunnels and the remains of ore-crushing plants.
Don’t underestimate the driving times on the Peninsula. There are stretches of very hilly and windy road where your speed may be limited to only about 40km/h.