With around 400km of coastline and over 100 offshore islands, New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula is a treasure trove for outdoor adventures. Situated on the east coast of the North Island on the Pacific Coast Highway, this subtropical playground is just over an hour away from some of the country’s most popular holiday destinations including Auckland, Rotorua and Hobbiton.
Easily reached by road, air or ferry, the Coromandel’s lush rainforests and shimmering white sand beaches make it a hotspot for watersports and land activities alike. From major thoroughfares in the region such as Thames and Whitianga to hidden gems like New Chum Beach, here are some of the best destinations for outdoor adventures in the region.
As one of the country’s most renowned natural icons, it’s no wonder Cathedral Cove was chosen for the opening scene in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Half an hour drive from Whitianga, Cathedral Cove can be found on the eastern side of the peninsula in the small town of Hahei. A mecca for outdoor activities, this spectacular reserve is home to several scenic tracks, including a two-hour return walk to the Cathedral Cove track, which allows access to Gemstone Bay, Mares Leg and Cathedral Cove. Brimming with aquatic life, this picturesque coastline is also a great spot for diving and snorkeling. This videos show the idyllic coast line on a charter with the Glass Bottom Boat.
Half an hour up river from Thames, the Pinnacles are located in the picturesque Kaueranga Valley. Once part of the vibrant Kauri logging industry, this scenic track offers a unique insight into the history of New Zealand’s most famous tree. Traversing through groves of nikau palms, giant rata trees and across streams and swing-bridges, the three-hour walk to the base of the craggy Pinnacles takes hikers past giant kauri stumps, abandoned logs, dams and tramlines. Here walkers are rewarded with panoramic views of the Coromandel. Although the walk is easily completed in one day, it may also be done as an overnight stay at the Pinnacles Hut.
The Hauraki Rail Trail
Cycle through some of the North Island’s most beautiful scenery on this weekend track. A three-day ride for most and a two-day trip for more experienced riders, this trail passes through a series of historical mining towns such as Thames and Waihi in the southern and south-western part of the Coromandel. Accessible via both locations, as well as Paeroa and TeAroha, this trail also offers a range of shorter riding options.
Located in the eastern surf town of Tairua, Mt Paku is a climbable twin-coned volcanic peak. Once an island, Mt Paku boasts a fascinating geographical past. But it’s Mt Paku’s historical background that separates it from other walks. Overlooking the earliest known site of Polynesian settlement in New Zealand, the volcanic peak offers 360-degree views of the picturesque Tairua Harbour. Best of all, it’s just a 30 minute climb to the summit.
New Chum Beach
Hidden from civilization, this secluded beach is void of buildings, roads, infrastructure and campsites. Often voted one of the world’s top 10 beaches, this secret gem can be accessed from the North end of Whangapoua beach along the northeastern coastline. Approximately 30-40 minutes walk via the Mangakahia Dr track, this trail takes walkers through nests of nikau and pohutukawa trees.
Coromandel Coastal Walkway and Mountain Bike Track
Located at the very top of the peninsula, the Coromandel Coastal Walkway stretches from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay and offers magnificent views of the region’s deep blue coastlines and offshore islands. A 3-4 hour walk one-way or 7 hours return, this trail showcases the diverse landscapes of the Coromandel. Passing bushland, farms and beaches, as well as sacred Maori sites like Mt Moehau, this trail is ideal for those who want both variety and views.
At the base of the Coromandel Range sits the spectacular Karangahake Gorge Walkway. Offering one 2.5km track and one 7km trail, Karangahake Gorge takes cyclists and hikers through the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi. Whether travelling on foot or bike, travellers are sure to enjoy the contrast between the natural gorge setting and the remnants of the mining and railway eras.
Shakespeare Cliff and Flaxmill Bay
An hour-long walk from Flaxmill Bay on the east side of the peninsula up to Shakespeare Cliff takes walkers through grassy reserves and pohutukawa groves to one of the country’s most historic sites. Once an anchorage point used by Captain James Cook, Flaxmill Bay’s Shakespeare Cliff boasts unparalleled views of Mercury Bay. Close to Front Beach, Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach (named after Cook himself), this area is a must visit for adventurers with an interest in New Zealand’s history.
Chartered boats abound, the Coromandel is the perfect spot for snapper, kingfish, striped marlin and kahawai. For river fishing, head to the Waihi region. Rainbow and brown trout can be found in many rivers along the area, with Ohinemuri, Waitawheta, Komata, Hikutaia and the Tairua rivers preferred by locals.
Diving & Snorkelling
For the best diving spots in the Coromandel, head to Tuhua or Mayor Island off the coast of Waihi Beach at the southern end of the peninsula. With more than 60 species of fish in the region and a marine reserve off its northern end, this dormant volcano is any diver’s dream. Although there are many dive sites to choose from, Mayor Island’s Two Fathom Reef and Orongatea Bay are the most popular. In addition to Mayor Island, further up the coast divers are sure to enjoy the impressive sponge gardens and reef systems of Cathedral Cove.