The Coromandel Peninsula on the north-east coast of the North Island of New Zealand has a small permanent population, but is a popular holiday destination year-round, and especially in summer. There are fabulous golden and white sand beaches with magnificent coastal scenery and a rugged, forest-clothed interior to be hiked. The peninsula, 85 km long, separates the Hauraki Gulf and the Auckland Region from the Bay of Plenty.
- 1 Coromandel – small town on the western, Hauraki Gulf side
- 2 Hahei and Hot Water Beach – near the Marine Reserve – at Hot Water Beach, two hot springs come up through the sand near low tide, and you can dig your own hot pool
- 3 Kuaotunu – beach settlement north of Whitianga on the east coast
- 4 Pauanui – upmarket holiday resort town on the east coast
- 5 Tairua – longer-established town on the east coast across the harbour from Pauanui
- 6 Thames – the biggest town and one of the main entry points to the regions, at the south-western end of the Peninsula
- 7 Whangamata – one of the bigger towns, popular for surfing and boating, on the east coast at the southern end of the Peninsula
- 8 Whitianga – second biggest town, with its own beach plus others across the harbour
Evidence of some of the earliest Polynesian settlement in New Zealand exists on the Coromandel. Historical interest points exist around every corner, telling the stories of the two great navigators Kupe and Cook and those who followed in their footsteps.
Captain Cook visited the area in 1769 and observed the transit of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun hence the names of some of the region's beaches and bays - Mercury Bay and Cook's Beach.
In the nineteenth century the peninsula teemed with human activity associated with the exploitation of timber, gold and kauri gum. Eventually the kauri and the accessible gold were exhausted and the gum market destroyed. The Coromandel lapsed into an economic and social decline that was eventually halted by the gradual growth of farming, fishing, horticulture and tourism. The land slowly "mended" and a new era of people moved into the area, one that valued the environment. Thirty four percent of the land on the peninsula is now administered by the Department of Conservation.
The Coromandel is a rich and colourful creative hub with many studios and galleries showcasing some of New Zealand's most talented artists’ work. It is also a very popular place to retire; 27 percent of the Coromandel's permanent residents are aged 65 or over, nearly double the New Zealand average.
Thames, the gateway to the Coromandel, is located within an hour and a half drive of the major centres of Auckland (115 km) and Hamilton (107 km) and their airports, and yet the region is a world away from the hustle and bustle of those cities.
- Intercity Coachlines operate New Zealand's national bus network with daily departures from Auckland. Tickets can be purchased online or throughout the country at numerous agents including the i-SITE network of tourist information centres.
There are a variety of ways to get around including bus, taxi and hiring your own car or bike.
Hire a yacht and sail around the Coromandel Peninsula!
- Thames and the nearby Kauaeranga Valley are rich in history and tourist attractions and make a great place to start any trip to the Coromandel Peninsula.
- Coromandel is a nice coastal village with many craft shops and interesting tourist attractions.
- Hahei and Cathedral Cove. Visit the Te Whanganui-A-Hei marine reserve.
- Hot Water Beach is a beach with two hot springs emerging under the sands, meaning visitors can dig their own hot pool. A popular and busy tourist destination, visitors are advised to arrive an hour or two before low tide, when the springs emerge from the receding tide. Hot Water Beach is signposted from the road south of Whitianga. Bring your own spade.
- Thames Coast, the winding coastal road from Thames north towards Coromandel is worthy of special mention also. In December the beautiful pohutakawa trees flower, and is a site to behold. This tree is affectionately known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, and several festival events in December celebrate the time.
The unique landscape and relaxed lifestyle attract many Kiwi and international visitors and there is plenty to do in the Coromandel and plenty to learn about.
The Coromandel is a walker's paradise with many coastal walkways and inland bush walks ranging from several hours to several days. Huge kauris that were saved from the loggers' saws still remain and can easily be viewed.
Many artists and craftspeople have made the Coromandel their home, inspired by the region's idyllic setting. Visitors can follow an arts and crafts trail from one side of the peninsula to the other following the popular Pacific Coast Highway.
- Mercury Bay Art Escape. Studio hours 10:00-16:00. Self drive art tour of open art studios around Mercury Bay held annually over 2 long weekends in Feb/Mar. See the best in Coromandel arts & meet the artists. Art for sale, music & associated art events. Free.
Other tourism operators have established themselves to take advantage of the clear waters and many kilometres of coastline and islands surrounding the Coromandel. Choose from the numerous water activities available - fishing, sailing, kayaking, snorkelling or swimming.
- 1 Driving Creek Railway. A tourist attraction close to Coromandel town which began life as a back yard project for sculptor Barry Brickell, who initially created his narrow gauge railway to help extract sculpting clay from deposits on his land. Over the years it has grown into an elaborate mountain railway with spirals, tunnels, viaducts, reversing points, and a summit station called the "Eyefull Tower" with views above the forest canopy across the Coromandel. $20 for one hour return trip.
Thames, the biggest town, has the best range of shopping.
- Snapper from the sea bream family is one of the most popular food fishes on the Coromandel. Try out some of the best smoked fish in the world!
- Green-lipped mussels from Coromandel are the best around and are farmed commercially in the Firth of Thames and Hauraki Gulf.
- Crayfish or spiny lobster are a local delicacy.
- Scallops are plentiful on the Coromandel and the annual Scallop Festival in Whitianga is a must do.
Stop in at Thames and visit the historic pubs.
- Waihi Beach – at the foot of the Coromandel, between Whangamata and Tauranga Harbour
- The Bay of Plenty including Tauranga and Mount Maunganui is 1.4 hr from Whangamata and 1.7 hr from Thames.