Coromandel is a peninsula that lies in the North Island of New Zealand. Renowned worldwide for its natural beauty and unique landscape, it is one of New Zealand’s most popular holiday destinations.
Along 400 kilometres of coastline, unspoilt beaches offer an ideal place to slow down, relax and unwind or to experience more energetic marine-based sports and activities.
Its main centres are Thames, Whitianga, Whangamata, Paeroa, Waihi, Pauauni and Tairua. One of the most beautiful parts of Coromandel is its east coastline, between the towns of Whitianga and Tairua. This volcanic region is spectacular dotted with islands, clear blue waters and beautiful white sandy beaches like Hahei, which gives access to the iconic Cathedral Cove and the Marine Reserve.
The beach town of Whitianga makes an excellent base for explorations of Mercury Bay and the adjacent coast. Reefs, caves, archways and soft sediments provide the ideal habitat for a variety of plants, fish, molluscs and crustaceans, making this a popular destination for diving and kayaking.
Geothermal activity is still present on the Peninsula and can be found in several hot springs, notably at Hot Water Beach, on the peninsula’s east coast, near Hahei.
Coromandel Attractions and Activities
The Whitianga region offers to the visitors a truly distinctive blend of attractions and activities. You can choose skydiving or take a bush walk ranging from several hours to several days. Watch the delight of penguins, seals and dolphins when they visit the bay or just sit and relax in a warm pool on some of the hot springs.
Its relatively sheltered waters are perfect for all water sports, so choose from the numerous water activities available – fishing, sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming.
Take a kayak or a boat guided cruise to explore the magnificent volcanic coastline, including Cathedral Cove, the offshore islands, spectacular sea caves and blowholes.
1 – Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is one of the “must visit” sites on Coromandel Peninsula; a magical white sandy beach framed by shady trees and clear blue waters, ideal for swimming, snorkelling, picnics and relaxing.
The beach is part of the 9-square-kilometre Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve, which also includes Mares Leg Cove, Stingray Bay and Gemstone Bay. Reefs of hard rock, soft sediments, intricate caves and underwater arches are shelters for a varied marine life.
The idyllic Cathedral Cove scenery is highlighted by the iconic white limestone archway that joins two secluded coves and reveals a breathtaking view of a huge pinnacle in the water.
Very popular with tourists, the beach is in the opening set of the Disney movie Prince Caspian from the Chronicles of Narnia. The cave and beach was used as the tunnel through which the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia.
Cathedral Cove is only accessible by boat, kayak or on foot. A two-hour return walk exists from the northern end of Hahei Beach, and it is also possible to walk from the local authority car park at the top of the headland between Hahei and Gemstone Bay. On the way, you may also see the beautiful Stirling Bay and Mares Leg Cove.
2 – Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is an incredible place where hot water bubbles through the golden sand and provides you with an opportunity to dig your own natural spa pool. It is located 8 kilometres south of Hahei, at the northeast tip of Coromandel Peninsula. Some volcanos develop huge underground reservoirs of superheated water, which flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at Hot Water Beach. The water cools on the way and emerges on the two underground fissures located close to each other at the beach with a temperature as hot as 64°C (147°F) at a rate as high as 15 litres/minute. This water contains large amounts of salt (NOT salt water), calcium, magnesium, potassium, fluorine, bromine and silica.
These natural springs can be found on the beach opposite the offshore rocks. Within two hours either side of low tide, it is possible to dig into the sand allowing hot water to escape to the surface and make your own spa pool, where visitors can relax and soak in the thermal water. There are other hot water springs nearby, but the location of these two springs on the beach makes them unique.
3 – Kayak and Boat Cruise
The delightful Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve is best seen and experienced from the water. So on a boat cruise or on a kayak you can explore this spectacular volcanic coastline, with islands, reefs, huge sea caves, blowholes and bays, including the world famous Cathedral Cove.
Snorkelling or on board of a glass bottom boat, you can see the underwater world with many types of marine life, including fish, seals, crayfish (lobster), stingrays, and hopefully, some blue penguins, dolphins or orca.
Among the attractions of this extraordinary volcanic coastline accessible only bay boat or kayak are the Cooks Blowhole, the Orua Sea Cave, one of New Zealand’s largest, where you can hear amazing acoustics inside, and the Blowhole, an awesome roofless gigantic rock cylinder 80 feet high.
4 – Driving Creek Railway
The Driving Creek Railway is a narrow gauge bush and mountain railway that leads up the mountain to the “Eyefull Tower”, a viewing platform building that offers great panoramic views of Hauraki Gulf and Islands with the forested valley and mountains behind.
The one-hour train ride climbs the hill and takes you through replanted native kauri forest and includes 2 spirals, 3 short tunnels, 5 reversing points and several large viaducts until it gets to the mountain-top terminus. Located near the town of Coromandel, it is also a place where you can see exceptional outdoor art works by its own potters and sculptors.
The Coromandel Peninsula is just one and a half hour easy drive from Auckland. Buses provide regular services and a passenger ferry operates from Downtown Auckland via Waiheke Island.