The Coromandel

Pinnacles, forests and golden arches

The Coromandel

Pinnacles, forests and golden arches

You know it’s a good sign when a place is popular with the locals. The Coromandel Peninsula is one such place and every summer, Aucklanders flock here to get their share of fun and sun. If you enjoy stunning white sand beaches, lush native rainforests and are intrigued by the thought of a unique hot water beach experience, The Coromandel should be high on your adventure destination list.

Coromandel region marker

While the population does increase significantly over summer, that doesn’t mean you can’t escape the hustle & bustle if that’s what you prefer. The further north you travel towards the northernmost tip of the peninsula, the more remote it becomes and if you’re willing to explore a little off the beaten track, some special places can be found. Surfing, kayaking, snorkeling and hiking are just some of the available activities and if you’re up for it, one particular activity is guaranteed to get the heart racing.

Although only around 40 km / 25 miles wide at its broadest point, The Coromandel peninsula covers quite a large area from Waihi Beach in the south to Fletcher Bay approximately 115 km / 71 miles to the north. Depending on how much time you have to explore the region, you may end up having to choose just a handful of activities in which case how you travel to The Coromandel and where you choose to base yourself will be an important consideration. Here is a list of some of the region’s main towns along with approximate travel times and distances.

Drive times from Auckland

  • Thames: 115 km / 71 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Coromandel Town (for New Chums and northern beaches) 169 km / 105 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Whitianga (via Coromandel east coast): 190 km / 118 miles – 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Hahei (for Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach): 175 km / 109 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Whangamata (a popular surfing beach): 159 km / 99 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Waihi (via Paeroa and Karangahake Gorge): 143 km / 89 miles – 1 hour 50 minutes

Drive times from Hamilton

  • Thames: 103 km / 64 miles – 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Coromandel Town (for New Chums and northern beaches) 157 km / 98 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Whitianga (via Coromandel east coast): 180 km / 112 miles – 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Hahei (for Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach): 164 km / 102 miles – 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Whangamata (a popular surfing beach): 124 km / 77 miles – 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Waihi (via Paeroa and Karangahake Gorge): 94 km / 58 miles – 1 hour 20 minutes

Travel times can vary significantly, particularly in popular areas during peak visitor months (December – February). For current travel times and updates on delays, roadworks and road closures, use the NZ Transport Agency journey planner before travelling. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for photo stops and, when travelling longer distances, rest stops.

Fullers 360 provides a limited ferry service to Coromandel Town from downtown Auckland City. The journey takes approximately 2 hours, travelling via Waiheke Island. Bear in mind that from Coromandel Town, transport options to places like New Chums Beach, Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach are fairly limited unless you’re relying on a shuttle service provided by a particular tour provider.

With a subtropical/oceanic climate and moderate temperatures year-round, the Coromandel does not have very distinct seasons. In the height of summer it can reach high twenties or even above 30 °C but the average high in summer (December – February) is 23 °C / 73.4 °F while the average low is 14 °C / 57.2 °F.

In winter (June – August) average temperatures drop to a mild 15 °C/ 59 °F high and 7 °C / 44.6 °F low. Sea temperatures become noticeably cooler and swells larger but it’s hard to beat kayaking or paddling in the Coromandel on a calm winter’s day.

Check current conditions and get the latest weather forecasts on for Thames and Whitianga.

While there’s not much you can do about the weather once you’re here, it’s worth knowing what to expect at different times of the year and in different parts of the country. These two articles are well worth reading:

Top things to do in The Coromandel

Looking for ideas to help you plan the ultimate New Zealand outdoor adventure? Here are some of the top things for active travellers to see and do in the Coromandel region.

Visit Cathedral Cove

Situated in the Te Whanganui-a-Hei Marine Reserve, Cathedral Cove is most probably one of the most iconic and most visited locations on the entire peninsula. Only accessible on foot or from the sea, the much-photographed rock archway is just one of many dramatic features along this stretch of coast. A one and a half hour return walking track from Hahei Beach requires a reasonable level of fitness but rewards with great views. Alternatively, you can paddle to Cathedral Cove or when it’s warm, snorkel there, stopping in at Stingray Bay where you might see… you guessed it, sting rays. Read about our experience at Cathedral Cove and Hahei Beach.

Cathedral Cove

Paddle to Whenuakura Island

More commonly referred to as Donut Island by the locals, this used to be something of a secret spot. From the shore, this island doesn’t look like much but it has a little surprise in store for keen adventurers. While it’s possible to paddle to the island unguided, we wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re well equipped and experienced on the water. And if you do choose to visit unguided, please adhere to the signs and don’t step onto the island. For guided tours to Whenuakura and the surrounding area, visit Surfsup New Zealand.

Donut Island

Visit New Chum Beach (Wainuiototo)

This is another of The Coromandel’s ‘secret spots’, or at least it used to be. Since appearing on numerous top 10 beaches and other lists that’s not the case anymore. That said, this long stretch of golden sand, only accessible on foot or via boat, does deliver and since most visitors congregate at the southern end, if you’re willing to walk a little further you can still feel like you have this beach all to yourself.

New Chums Beach

Explore Karangahake Gorge

State Highway 2 (SH2) between Paeroa and Waihi and then on to Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty passes through Karangahake Gorge. Many people drive straight through without stopping but miss out on something special. Formerly a bustling gold mining area, nature is slowly reclaiming the place. What’s left are the disappearing steel and concrete remains along with tram tracks and mining tunnels. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this place with a number of walking and cycling options plus a ‘secret’ swimming hole for those willing to venture a little further. Nearby Owharoa Falls is also worth a quick visit as you pass through the area.

Karangahake Gorge

Climb The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles walk is rated as one of New Zealand’s most popular overnight hikes. While it can be done in a single day if you’re fit, the real appeal of this walk is experiencing the stunning view at sunset and sunrise. This means staying overnight in the Department of Conservation hut which sleeps 80. Owing to the walks popularity, advance hut booking is recommended.

Coromandel Pinnacles

Visit Sleeping God Canyon (Atuatumoe)

We’ve saved the best for last although that may depend on how adventurous you’re feeling as this is definitely not for the fainthearted. This guided canyoning experience descends over three hundred meters down a set of waterfalls. With abseils, natural water slides and pool jumps, this is truly an exciting and challenging adventure which you’ll never forget.

Sleeping God Canyon