Easily accessible from Auckland, the Coromandel is a real favourite amongst New Zealanders and travellers alike. There are just so many things to do in the Coromandel region!
Packed full of tropical, palm-tree lined beaches, stunning native bush and unique Kiwi experiences, the peninsula really packs a punch. With temperate weather and beautiful coastlines, there really isn’t a bad time to visit the region (or New Zealand for that matter).
This region shows visitors a totally different side of Aotearoa.
To help plan your trip, we’ve out together our top Coromandel recommendations.
This post first appeared on Exploring Kiwis.
These are the Best Things to do in the Coromandel
1. Warm Up at Hot Water Beach
One of the Coromandel’s most unique attractions, Hot Water Beach attracts countless visitors each year. Drawn in by the geo-thermally heated water, sitting just below the sand, this is an iconic beach that has to be seen to be believed.
Two hours either side of high tide, flocks of visitors to this Coromandel beach, with shovels in hand. Digging just below the surface, you’ll find incredibly hot water (and plenty of not-so-warm water too, so choose your spot carefully!)
With the sun on your back, the waves at your feet and warm water surrounding you, this true-blue Kiwi experience really is a must-do, and best of all, assuming you have your own spade, it won’t cost you a cent.
Pro Tip: To make the most of Hot Water Beach, you’ll need to take a spade with you. Alternatively you can rent one locally for $5-$10 + a deposit or, should you be staying there, borrow one free of charge from your accommodation (if you’re lucky).
2. Check out Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is one of the most photographed spots in the Coromandel, and for good reason.
Just 10 minutes from Hot Water Beach, Cathedral cove is only accessible by foot, boat or kayak. An easy 1.5 hour walk will see you cover the 2.5km track.
Once you arrive at this giant stone archway, you’ll find kilometre after uninterrupted kilometre of pristine beach.
The the summer time, you’ll find scores of people enjoying the ocean but come winter, it becomes a quiet haven for photographers and nature lovers.
3. Take on Some of New Zealand’s Best Canyoning
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush on the Peninsula, there’s one activity (and one only) that you just have to check out!
We recommend the full-day canyoning trip; it’s the perfect combination of incredible scenery, personal challenge, delicious food and great fun.
We took on the challenge and came with nothing but fantastic things to say about an incredibly memorable day.
This is an experience that every adventurous traveller in New Zealand should have!
4. Hike the Pinnacles
Recognised as one of the best short hikes in New Zealand, the Pinnacles (officially known as the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail) offers spectacular views out over the Coromandel.
With so many possibilities on offer, the Pinnacles is a surprisingly responsive hike. Whether you complete it in one day or two, whether you stay in the DoC hut or at one of the many campsites near the start of the trail, you can be assured on an incredible day (or two) out in the New Zealand bush.
Hikers have two main options in the area; you can choose to hike in and out on the Webb Creek Track (the classic Pinnacles route which is between 6 and 7.5 hours), or complete a circuit, connecting the Webb Creek track with the Billygoat Track (8 – 9.5 hours).
Whichever you decide on though, the highlight of this hike is undoubtedly the incredible views from the top.
Be warned though, you’ll need to scramble up the iron ladder, attached to the rockface right up the top. It’s 100% worth it!
Pro Tip: If you do decide to camp at the start of the Kauri Trail, the Trestle View Campsite is the closest to the start point of your hike.
Explore the ‘Famous 309 Road’
5. Visit a Local Legend: Stu (& his Pigs)
World-famous-in-New-Zealand, Stu is a real character and a firm favourite amongst locals.
As the first stop on the 309, you’ll find Stu roadside (likely barefooted) along with over 100 of his dearly-loved pigs. Gifted to him by his brother years ago, Stu now spends his days (and nights) looking after his drove whilst chatting to the ever-increasing number of tourists that stop by.
You’ll notice signs by the roadside instructing people not to feed the pigs meat.
You are indeed allowed to feed Stu’s pigs appropriate food (bread, fruit etc). We’d suggest checking in with Stu to be safe, but definitely bring some snacks for the pigs – you’ll be helping this kind soul feed his buddies (and score yourself a fun experience in the process).
6. Channel Your Inner-Child at the Waterworks
With dozens of homemade water-based mechanical marvels, the Waterworks is the perfect spot to while away a sunny afternoon.
Great for kids, the young at heart, curious minds and those looking for some respite from the Coromandel summer, come prepared for a good laugh and to potentially get a little wet.
Be sure to have your camera at the ready!
7. Walk Amongst Giants at The Kauri Grove
Some of the tallest trees in the world, the New Zealand native kauri grows to over 50m tall. Living for more than 2,000 years and with trunk circumferences of up to 16m, these trees really are the amongst the mightiest in the world.
Found only in the North Island of New Zealand, the Coromandel is home to a lovely grove of kauri trees (and a stunning little waterfall).
8. Jump Aboard the Driving Creek Railway
One of the most popular attractions in the Coromandel, the Driving Creek Railway is an awesome example of Kiwi ingenuity (and family fun).
The only narrow gauge mountain railway in New Zealand, the hour long return trip takes visitors through beautiful native kauri forest before stopping at the Eyefull Tower for sweeping views out over the Hauraki Gulf.
9. Hike to New Chums: One of New Zealand’s Best Beaches
Born and raised in New Zealand, I’ve been to a great number of our beautiful beaches; in my opinion, though, none can compete with the beauty and privacy of New Chums.
Getting to New Chums Beach is easy but does require a walk along a not-so secret track. After 30 minutes or so, you’ll pop out over the crest of a hill and get your first look at this incredible spot. There, you’ll also find an incredible photo lookout (which involves a little more of a hike) – it’s well worth the effort though.
The beach itself is long, white and lined by nikau palms. It’s gorgeous. It’s surprisingly quiet. It’s a must-see on your Coromandel itinerary!
10. Soak Up the Serenity at the Lost Springs
If you’re looking for a place in the Coromandel to unwind and relax, the Lost Springs is the spot for you! Heated by the same geothermal waters that bless Hot Water Beach (I know, Kiwis lack a fair bit of imagination when naming places, don’t we?!), you can spend anywhere from one and a half hours to a full day there.
Should you wish, there’s the option to add a number of food and massages to your pool access, but whatever entry ticket you choose, you’re guaranteed a massive dose of relaxation.
Looking for a low-cost alternative?
Though they’re decided less fancy than the Lost Springs, the Mirana Hot Springs offer an affordable way for everyone to experience geothermal mineral water. They were a favourite of mine as a child and are still going strong now.
11. Explore the Karangahake Gorge
Known to most North Island Kiwis, the Karangahake Gorge not only connects many towns in the Coromandel, but also offers beautiful and varied hiking.
With walks that weave alongside the free-flowing Ohinemuri River, old gold-mining tunnels, beautiful New Zealand bush and picture-perfect waterfalls, there’s not much that this stunning gorge doesn’t offer.
Part of the Hauraki Rail Trail (which just so happens to be in this post – check out #14), the Karangahake Gorge offers a beautiful backdrop for cyclists, hikers and holiday makers looking for a picnic stop. Be sure to include it on your Coromandel itinerary.
12. Head Over to the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary (Donut Island)
Once a real hidden gem, word of the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary (also affectionately known as Donut Island) is spreading fast. Just off the coast of Whangamata, you’ll find a gorgeous little cove, accessible only through a watery cave entrance.
As a wildlife sanctuary, access onto the island itself is not allowed. The surrounding coves and waters are treat enough though – offering crystal clear waters that seem more at home in the South Pacific than in Aotearoa.
When you’re looking for things to do in the Coromandel, they really don’t get any more beautiful!
13. Paddle Board at Sunrise
As they say, the early bird catches the worm and there’s no better reason to get out of bed than to enjoy the stillness of the day on the water.
Shelly Beach is the perfect spot to jump onboard a paddle board and zip around the coastline. Great for fitness, building core strength and just to calm your mind, paddle boarding ticks all of the boxes.
There’s no need to go far to fire your board and paddle either, as the Shelly Beach Top 10 has them ready and waiting for guests.
14. Hit the Hauraki Rail Trail (by Bike)
Just two hours from Auckland, you’ll find the Hauraki Rail Trail, one of the easiest and most accessible bike trails in the country. With 160km of track, split into 5 different sections, you can take on as much or as little of the trail as you’d like.
Whether you’d prefer to complete a day ride or commit to spending 3-4 days on the tracks, this grade one trail is suitable for all fitness levels and biking abilities.
Assuming you’ve not got the gear with you, there’s no need to worry – plenty of local suppliers offer bikes and equipment for rent and others provide shuttles to get you back to the gear you left behind.
15. Snap a Photo with the L&P Bottle!
Though it’s not exactly the most exciting tourist attraction in Aotearoa, it is one of the most famous mega-sized novelties we have (which says quite a lot for a country known for them).
Lemon & Paeroa (now more frequently known as L&P) was created way back in 1907 and though it’s now produced by Coke, its roots are much more home-grown.
16. Check out the Gemstone Bay Snorkel Trail
With a protected marine reserve right off the beach, the Coromandel offers some of the very best snorkelling you’ll find in New Zealand.
A top thing to do in the Coromandel, Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve is home to an awesome variety of Kiwi ocean-life including snapper, goatfish, trevally, banded wrasse, red moki, kina and crayfish.
There, you’ll find our buoys, spread around the marine reserve; each of them, complete with handles (to help those less confident in the water) and plenty of information. It’s the perfect spot to try your hand at snorkelling whilst in New Zealand.
17. Hit the Waves and Learn to Surf
Known for it’s newbie-friendly surf breaks, Waihi Beach is the perfect place to learn to surf. With forgiving waves and plenty of patient teachers on hand, this is the perfect place to start your NZ surfing career.
If you’re keen for a little downtime whilst at the beach, there’s also a fantastic fish and chips shop down at Waihi Beach!
18. Hike One of New Zealand’s Best Kept Secrets
A day hike to rival any of New Zealand’s Great Walks, the Jackson Bright Coastal Walkway is the walk that you’ve probably never heard of but absolutely should take on whilst in the Coromandel.
A comfortable half-day hike, you’ll take in spectacular views, beautiful bush and enjoy a whole bunch of native birds.
To make things easy, we recommend you book a shuttle with Coromandel Adventures, allowing you to leave the organisation to someone else whilst you enjoy this hike.
Where to Stay in the Coromandel
With so much to do on the Coromandel Peninsula you want to base yourself somewhere nice and central; the Shelly Beach Top 10 offers exactly that.
Situated right on the beach, the Shelly Beach Top 10 Holiday Park provides travellers with a fantastic range of accommodation options – everything from traditional camping to glamping in their very own beachfront pods (known on Booking.com as a chalet and a bungalow with sea view).
We found the staff to be exceptionally friendly, the facilities to be clean and tidy and the location second-to-none.
Inside the pod, we made the most of the complimentary wifi, enjoyed the comfortable bed and tucking into all of the complimentary mini-bar snacks!
Our little pod really was the perfect home-away-from-home. There’s no doubt we’ll be returning one day soon!
With So Many Things To Do in the Coromandel, Isn’t it Time You Planned a Visit?
The Coromandel packs a massive punch!
With so much to do in such a small area, it’s really unlike anywhere else in New Zealand.
When visiting Aotearoa’s North Island, the question isn’t whether you’ll visit the Coromandel but which part of it you’ll visit first!
Photo Credits: 100% Pure New Zealand, The Coromandel, The Lost Spring and Driving Creek Railway.