Auckland to the Coromandel
Serving up a seductive blend of coastal views, sandy beaches, bushy walkways, arty communities and heritage sites, it’s no wonder the Coromandel Peninsula is so popular for holidays.
It’s also conveniently close to Auckland, with short driving distances between sights. So if you’re looking for a road-trip with maximum adventure for the mileage, this one should be right up your alley.
Auckland to Waihi Beach
You can get there in one day, but if you want to really get to know the North Island you should allow for 4 to 9 days.
Best time of year
This part of New Zealand is worth a visit all year round!
Auckland: the City of Sails, New Zealand’s biggest metropolis
Waihi Beach: a 9km stretch of paradise, just to top it all off
Whangamata: fish and chips, fun, sun and sand between your toes
Miranda: heavenly hot springs on the Seabird Coast
- Planning Tips
- Leg One Auckland
To sample the City of Sails before hitting the road, head to downtown Auckland. Once you’ve wandered along Queen Street and around the Viaduct and Wynyard Quarter harbourside precincts, set your sights on Auckland Art Gallery or Museum, Ponsonby’s restaurants and bars, or board a cruise to the volcanic island of Rangitoto.
- Leg Two Auckland to Miranda
Set off towards Miranda via Clevedon, a country village with a wealth of provisions. The road winds around the Firth of Thames with numerous parks and rest areas for admiring the wide-ranging views. This side of the Firth is known as the Seabird Coast; see the feathery evidence on the short walk starting from Miranda Shorebird Centre. You'll also have a chance for a hot soak in therapeutic mineral pools.
- Leg Three Miranda to Thames
Continue to the peninsula’s gateway, Thames, a good place to fuel up and stock up, with the bonus of historic sights and a waterside boardwalk.
SIDE TRIP - Kauaeranga Valley
Thirteen kilometres inland of Thames, verdant Kauaeranga Valley is a good place to learn about the peninsula’s natural and human history. Check out the visitor centre, then take one of many walks that explore the surrounds. There are also eight basic camping areas, nestled into the bush.
- Leg Four Thames to Coromandel Town
Snake around the peninsula’s western bays to Coromandel Town, a charming gold rush-era town. As well as arty shops and several good eateries, there are enjoyable walks such as the Tucks Bay/Kauri loop. The town’s most famous attraction, however, is Driving Creek Railway where cute carriages clatter through native forest up to a spectacular lookout, while the departure depot doubles as a pottery workshop and gallery.
- Leg Five Coromandel Town to Whitianga
SH25 crosses the peninsula to reach Whitianga. On the shores of Mercury Bay and with a sunny disposition, the town makes a great base for exploring this stunning stretch of coastline.
SIDE TRIP New Chums Beach
Signposted off SH25 between Coromandel Town and Whitianga, New Chums Beach may well be the beach of your dreams. A swathe of sand, lapped by turquoise waters and fringed with native forest, it is all the more beautiful for its isolation – the 30-minute walk to reach it from Whangapoua (less than ten minutes' drive from the SH25 turnoff) keeps visitor numbers low.
- Leg Six Whitianga to Cathedral Cove
Continue south to Hahei, a popular holiday resort filled to overflowing come high summer. Much of the crowd comes for the 30-minute walk to Cathedral Cove – one of NZ’s most photogenic beaches, famed for its huge stone arch. You can avoid the masses by paddling there with a local kayak tour.
- Leg Seven Cathedral Cove to Hot Water Beach
Get a hot beach body by digging a hole in the sand and lolling about in the waters that seep up from underground springs. Strange but true! Overnighting in the area will make it easier to hit the beach at the right tide time.
- Leg Eight Hot Water Beach to Whangamata
Pretty darn irresistible, Whangamata cranks up to the max during the summer holidays, so time your visit accordingly. Fortunately, the beautiful beach is a big ’un, and you can always seek respite the village’s shops and cafes, or head to Wentworth campsite where there’s a two-hour walk to a waterfall.
- Leg Nine Whangamata to Waihi Beach
SH25 meanders onward to Waihi, site of a huge, opencast gold and silver mine, right behind the main street. Ten minutes’ drive away is Waihi Beach, a 9km stretch of sand with one of NZ’s safest surf breaks - suitably scenic surrounds to round off and reflect on your Coromandel adventure.
Where to from here?
It’s less than two hours’ drive from Waihi Beach to Auckland via SH2, which heads first to Paeroa. If you like to bike, hire one at Waikino to ride the Karangahake Gorge section of the Hauraki Rail Trail, which features riverside mining remnants, tunnels and even a winery. Alternatively, continue south along the Pacific Coast Highway towards Tauranga, Eastland and Hawke's Bay.