The Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand’s North Island features picturesque beaches, coral reefs, rainforest hiking trails, vintage railways and country hideaways just a 1.5-hour drive from Auckland. There are three main areas of the Coromandel, the north west coast including Coromandel town, the Whitianga area on the east coast, and the Thames area to the southwest.
Coromandel Town encompasses the Coromandel harbor and islands within it, and offers an abundance of outdoor activities from fishing, swimming and sailing on the harbor, to rainforest train trips and treks through ancient Kauri forests. The town itself is full of character, with historic buildings and gold mining relics. Take a narrow gauge railway through rainforest to a pottery.
The Whitianga area has some of the most stunning and geographically interesting beaches. Dig yourself a thermal spa at Hot Water Beach, where hot spring water seeps up through the sand. Hike through coastal pine forest and over scenic headland to Cathedral Cove Beach. Enter through the huge white rock archway that gives the beach its name. Take the ferry from Whitianga to Cooks Beach for a secluded swim and bush trails, a visit to wineries, or a game fishing expedition.
Whitianga is known for its seafood. Come in September for the annual scallop festival where you can try everything from green lipped mussels and pipis to crayfish.
Gold history comes alive in the Karangahake Gorge in the Thames area. Hike or cycle through 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) of rainforest by a spectacular gorge and river, strewn with interesting historical ruins from one of New Zealand’s most productive mines. Adventurous travelers can canyon down waterfalls in Kaueranga Valley just outside Thames.
Get around the Coromandel Peninsular by rental car. Many tour operators offer all-inclusive adventure packages leaving from Auckland. Ferries run between Auckland and Coromandel year-round. The area has many beaches to explore, water activities to enjoy, and fresh seafood to sample, so it’s best to give yourself at least a couple of days to enjoy the natural beauty and unwind.