With its pinnacles, canyons, beaches and forests the Coromandel Peninsula is a true outdoor adventure playground, popular with both tourists and locals alike. This does of course mean that you need to be prepared for crowds in summer, particularly at some of the favourite tourist hotspots like Hot Water Beach (which is literally hot) and Cathedral Cove.

But if you’re not one for crowds, don’t be put off because the further north you head along this gradually narrowing peninsula, the more isolated it becomes, and although it’s a little way to travel, on windy and often times narrow gravel roads, the Coromandel Walkway makes it all worthwhile. This 10km (6 miles) walking track and cycle path offers spectacular views of the Coromandel coastline with rocky cliffs and azure blue bays, together with views of Great Barrier Island ‘just across’ the Colville Channel.

Coromandel Walkway
A first glimpse of what's to come
Stony Bay
Heading down to Stony Bay

Getting There – Stony Bay or Fletcher Bay?

The walkway runs between the Department of Conservation (DOC) campsites at Stony Bay on the east coast and Fletcher Bay on the northernmost tip. Getting to either end involves a 1.5 hour drive from Coromandel Town which itself is about an hour north of Thames. So which is the best end to start from? Our suggestion, and this is how we chose to do it, is to start in Stony Bay. Not only is Stony Bay more scenic (at least we think so) but it’s also a good place to end your walk or cycle if you choose to do the route both ways as this is not a loop walk.

And in case you’re thinking that a 20km return walk or cycle is your only option, don’t worry, there are tour operators that will drop you off and collect you again at the other end. More details on those at the end of this post.

Walk or Cycle – You Decide

The walk is rated by DOC as easy, with a return time of 7 hours, making it a perfect day walk, especially since you’ll be stopping many times along the way to take in the amazing views. It’s also a great cycle path, but not to be confused with the Coromandel Mountain Bike Track that also starts/finishes in Stony Bay. More on that later.

Starting from the Stony Bay end, the well formed walkway climbs gradually and then gently undulates along the coast. There is however a bit of a sting in the tail. Have a look at this elevation profile and you’ll see what we mean. That little ‘dip’ around 3.5km out from Fletcher Bay is where the path makes its way down to a scenic spot called Poley Bay. We challenge anyone but the most superhumanly fit to cycle this section of the route so chances are, like us, you’ll be pushing some of the way down and all of the way back up… twice. It’s a bit of a tough slog but it’s worth it.

Coromandel Walkway
Taking a log break

If you’re walking, at about an hour out from Stony Bay you’ll reach a sign pointing to a lookout. You’re not going to want to miss this as a few minutes walk will lead you to a viewpoint that offers spectacular views north towards Sugar Loaf and south over Shag Bay and beyond. For us, this really was the highlight, and if you’re short on time and don’t want to do the full walk all the way to Fletcher Bay, this makes a good point to turn around.

Shag Bay
Looking down on Shag Bay

We of course had yet to encounter Poley Bay so after enjoying the view from the lookout, we continued on our way in blissful ignorance.

Coromandel Walkway
The view north towards Sugar Loaf Rocks
Poley Bay
Poley Bay

Fortunately, after Poley Bay it’s mostly downhill so, enjoying the effects of gravity, and after a brief encounter with a few friendly cows (the path crosses farmland) we made our way to Fletcher Bay where we stopped for a well earned lunch break.

Fletcher Bay
Looking down on Fletcher Bay
Coromandel Walkway
View towards Sugar Loaf from Fletcher Bay

The first half of the ride back from Fletcher Bay is obviously the toughest. There’s a slow and steady climb followed of course by the joy that is Poley Bay round two. But at around the 6km mark you reach the highest point on the walkway and from there it really is pretty much a 4km gentle downhill run back to Stony Bay. The other nice thing about finishing in this direction is that this downhill run is mostly in shade, something you’ll appreciate on a hot summer’s day.

Stony Bay
And that's why it's called Stony Bay
Stony Bay tree
Shade on a hot summer day

After 20km and having worked up a good sweat, we headed down to the water for a refreshing dip and then relaxed in the shade of a Pōhutukawa tree to contemplate another day well spent on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Coromandel Walkway Tour and Shuttle Services

If you can’t or don’t want to take the drive all the way out to Stony of Fletcher Bays, there are two local operators that can get you there:

Coromandel Mountain Bike Track

Depending on which direction you’re tackling it from, the Coromandel Mountain Bike Track also starts and finished in Stony Bay. DOC describes it as ‘more challenging’ than the Coromandel Walkway itself and that was confirmed by the local ranger who we spoke to before heading out. On our ride, we actually met two other mountain bikers who, like us, had cycled along the walkway from Stony Bay but chose to return via the mountain bike track. We met them back in Stony Bay later in the day and they confirmed that this track is steep and you really don’t want to start from the Stony Bay end unless you like pushing. They seemed pretty fit and experienced to us so we’ll take them at their word. Don’t say we didn’t warn you 😉

Have you walked or cycled the Coromandel Walkway? Share your experience with us.

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