The Coromandel Peninsula is an incredibly beautiful section of New Zealand’s North Island. In the Coromandel, you’ll find beautiful beaches such as New Chums Beach and Cathedral Cove. There are wonderful hikes in Mount Maunganui and the Karangahake Gorge. Secret swimming holes and island paradises are waiting for you. Follow our guide and be whisked away to the Coromandel Peninsula, one of the most unique and beautiful places you can visit in the world!
To start this blog, we’ll go over the high level Coromandel itinerary. With this plan, you’ll be able to hit every amazing site along the peninsula all in a row, continually making your way from beautiful site to beautiful site.
Now, we routed this itinerary as if you are coming from Auckland, as we did. If you are coming from the Eastern part of the North Island, you may want to do this same itinerary completely backwards, from the end to the beginning.
Kauri Block Hike
The Kauri Block Hike is an excellent first stop while exploring the Coromandel. At this hike, right outside Coromandel Town, you’ll have the opportunity to hike up above the surrounding area and get a bird’s eye view of the Coromandel Peninsula.
From atop the Kauri Block Hike, you’ll have a view that is half-land half-water, and fully amazing. The hike itself is not incredibly long, but remember you’re in New Zealand, and this place can get HOT! Bring along some water on this hike, and all of the hikes we recommend, you’ll be glad you did.
New Chums Beach
New Chums Beach is a hidden beach located just north of Whangapoua. To get to New Chums, you’ll have to take a bit of a walk along the beach from Whangapoua, keeping the Ocean on your right hand side. You’ll follow a trail that goes along the coast and goes briefly through a small forrest and everges at New Chums Beach.
This beach is equal parts secluded and stunning. The sand is soft and white, and the water is a beautiful blue in the bay. You’ll be surrounded by huge rocky cliffs dotted with lush green trees, and you’ll have the hot New Zealand sun high in the sky.
We recommend taking some time to walk down the beach, dip your feet in the water, then find a nice shady spot to hang out for the day. Bring along a picnic, and maybe a good book, and spend the day relaxing and enjoying the beach. New Zealand is FULL of beaches, so you’d better get used to spending some time with your toes in the sand.
Whangapoua is an awesome beach town, where you’ll have to park in order to get to New Chums Beach. The Whangapoua beach is no slouch itself, with a HUGE stretch of sand that frames the Pacific Ocean beyond it.
Also in Whangapoua is a small peninsula that you can explore on foot if you’d like to. You can get out to a point where you’re surrrounded by water on 3 sides, which is especially beautiful as the sun rises over the ocean each morning. Whangapoua sunrises are stunning.
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Shakespeare Cliff Lookout
Shakespeare Cliff Lookout is located right between Ferry Landing and Cooks Beach, and is really a must as you make your way through the Coromandel Peninsula. The cliff gives you a beautiful 360 degree view of Mercury Bay and the surrounding land and rock formations.
You can drive pretty much the entire way to Shakespeare Cliff Lookout, however if you have a particularly large vehicle, you’d be better off parking at the base and walking up. That walk should take about 15 minutes each way, on top of the 5 minute walk from the end of the road to the cliff itself.
Shakespeare Cliff is named becase Ol’ Bill Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet at this very spot. To be honest, that is totally made up, and we’re 99% sure it is false, however we aren’t going to fact check it, and it sounds cool, so we’ll go with it.
Cathedral Cove is the best place on the entire Coromandel Peninsula. To get here, you’ll have a bit of a walk (or a boat ride, if you have access to a vessel) but it is SO SO worth it. This incredible rock formation and dual-beach site is one of the best in the entire North Island of New Zealand!
Cathedral Cove is located just outside of Hahei. Once you get into town you’ll see dozens of signs pointing you to the walkway, and offering excursions to take you there on the water. We recommend doing the walk, as you’ll get a workout and also see some of the beautiful New Zealand countryside and cliff overlooks on the way.
On the walk to Cathedral Cove, you’ll pass a fork in the road that takes you down to Gemstone Bay. Gemstone Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots in New Zealand, offering the chance to see rays, snapper, and many other breeds of fish! If you want to snorkel, this is the place to do it.
Once you reach Cathedral Cove you’ll notice the beautiful beach in front of you. However, look to your left and you’ll see an ENORMOUS natural archway that was carved out of the rock just for you to walk under! While you’re walking under, you might as well grab a picture for Instagram as well… Everyone else sure does it, this is photoshoot central!
After getting your fill of photos, choose which of the two beaches on each side of the arch you want to relax at, and claim your spot. Spend your day relaxing, reading, swimming, walking along the beach, and having a nice picnic! If you are feeling like some fun, there is a rock located a few hundred feet from shore that you can jump off into the water. Cathedral Cove is tons of fun, and has more than enough adventure to make a full day out of it.
Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is one of the most unique and famous sites in the Coromandel Peninsula. The name describes this place perfectly, but it can also be confusing. Is the beach made of hot water? Is the water at the beach hot? How does that work? All your questions will be answered momentarily.
There is a hot spring directly beneath Hot Water Beach that bubbles to the surface at a particlar point in the beach. Near this point, you can dig a hole in the sand and create your own hot tub! Have you ever built your own hot tub before? We sure hadn’t, and we had a blast on our first time!
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If you don’t have a shovel along, you’ll have two options: either rent one or borrow one. There are many rental shops right at the entrance to the beach, however we recommend befriending someone once you get to the beach and asking if you can borrow their shovel for a few minutes. That’s what we did and it worked perfectly, plus we got a new friend out of it!
You might even get lucky and get there right at a time when someone else is leaving a perfectly dug spa for you… Make sure to plan in a stop for at least an hour or two at Hot Water Beach. Once you have your perfect build-your-own-spa setup, you probably won’t want to leave too quickly. Take your time and enjoy Hot Water Beach.
Mount Paku Summit
The Mount Paku Summit hike is a pretty quick hike up a very unique rock formation along the East coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. From Mount Paku, you’ll be surrounded by water on almost every side, with only an extremely thin strip of land connecting you to the rest of New Zealand. From here, you’ll get a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean in all her glory, extending for mile and miles until it flows off over the horizon.
The hike to the Mount Paku Summit will only take 20 minutes or so, however it is pretty much a vertical incline the entire way. You’ll be going up the steps the whole way on the ascent, and down those same steps on the descent. You may work up a bit of a sweat, and a nice appetite, so make sure you are properly fueled with food and water for this activity!
Whangamata Beach & Whenuakura Island
Another beach? Yep, another beach! Whangamata Beach is a beauty though, and has something that no other beach we’ve been to so far has: Whenuakura Island.
From a distance, Whenuakura Island is a beautiful tree covered rock emerging from the ocean about a thousand meters from Whangamata Beach. However, Whenuakura Island has a secret cove that few people know about.
The cove at Whenuakura Island leads into a tropical paradise that is unlike anything you’ll see in the Coromandel, or all of New Zealand for that matter. The cave, located on the south end of the Whenuakura Island, leads to an inner-island cove full of lush greenery, tall cliffs, and beautifully clear water. This is a unique site that you are not going to want to miss.
Okay, you may be thinking ‘Whenuakura Island is an island right? How do I get there?’ Great questions. Yes it is an island, so the best ways to get there are going to be kayak or paddleboard. If you’d like to rent a full-on boat or jet-skis, you can do that as well. If you don’t have any paddleboards or kayaks along, then this will be the only activity in this article that you’ll have to pay for, but it’ll be more than worth it. You’ll have awesome stories and stunning photos and a memory you will never forget.
The Karangahake Gorge is a bit inland, which makes it extremely unique from all of the other sites on the Coromandel Peninsula! The Karangahake Gorge is New Zealand’s version of the Grand Canyon. Of course, it isn’t as wide or enormous as Arizona’s Grand Canyon, however it is still extremely beautiful and offers a lot of fun things to do.
In the Karangahake Gorge, the number one thing to do is to hike The Windows trail. This hike isn’t extremely long, only taking an hour or two to complete, and brings you up the gorge through caves that have window overlooks over the river below! These are extremely beautiful, and make for a great day trip.
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After completing a hike you can go for a swim in the freshwater river that runs through the heart of the Karangahake Gorge. When you’re finished here, keep your swim suit on because we are heading to an awesome swimming hole with beautiful waterfalls!
Owharoa Falls is a wonderful swimming hole right along your path through the Karangahake Gorge. What makes this swimming hole so special? Well, there are beautiful New Zealand waterfalls along one end of the pool!
You can cannonball in right from the rocks on shore, and enjoy swimming in the clear fresh water under that bright New Zealand sun. There are many shaded areas at Owharoa Falls to hang out and have a picnic. If you are feeling on the edge, there are a few cliffs you can jump off into the pool. Make sure to check the depth to make sure it is safe before leaping!
The Trig Walk
The Trig Walk is a beautiful hike located just a bit north of the town of Waihi Beach. We recommend doing this hike right away in the morning, as you’ll get a beautiful view during the early part of the day, and you can treat this as your workout for the day! The Trig Walk is not long, however it isn’t overly easy either. There are many steps up to the top, which contribute to the awesome view at the summit!
At the summit of the Trig Walk you’ll be able to see rolling hills for miles and miles in one direction. In the other direction, the seemingly endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean spreads before you. Also on the summit is an awesome tree stump that has been carved into a giant throne! No joke, this is here, and it is a great place for a photo sitting on the throne of the Trig Walk.
Mount Maunganui is part-town part-awesome-hike. There is a great tourist resort town here, complete with 2 huge and wonderful beaches, one in a bay and one on the ocean. Along with the beach are great restaurants and cafes, Mount Maunganui is a great place to kick your feet up and relax on the beach. There are even excursions you can do such as jet-skiing, kayaking, and dolphin watching!
If you are interested in hiking, you are also in luck here at Mount Maunganui. At the end of the peninsula that makes up this town is a mountain, called Mauao! Mauao juts out over 230 meters above the sea at its feet, and makes for a challenging 45 minute hike to the summit.
From the summit of Mauao you’ll be able to see for miles in every direction. Your view is completely unimpeded by any surrounding land, which makes Mauao so unique and awesome! Do yourself a favor and make sure you spend a few hours hiking up and down Mauao. The view will be lovely and you’ll get some awseome photos to show friends and family.
Bonus Activity – Pinnacles Path
The Pinnacles Path is a beautiful hike that we were really hoping we had time for. Unfortunately, all of our time was taken up doing the rest of the incredible things we’ve mentioned in this article! If you are a hiking enthusiast and have the time to see the Pinnacles Path, do it! Tell us how it was!
Here is some advice on hiking Pinnacles from The Coromandel:
The Pinnacles Walk follows the original steps constructed for packhorses which carried supplies for kauri loggers, gum diggers and gold miners who plundered the area in the early 1900’s.
The stunning 3 hour walk to the base of the craggy Pinnacles traverses through groves of nikau palms, huge rata trees, and across streams and swingbridges. Crossing the streams you can imagine the roar of huge torrents of water and logs rushing past as the kauri dams upstream were released sending thousands of huge kauri logs downstream towards Thames. Allow an extra 40 minutes one way from the Hut to the sumit of The Pinnacles.
For those who have stayed the night, an early start the next morning will see you clambering carefully up the peak of the Pinnacles to see some of the first rays of sun hitting the Pacific Ocean and offshore islands of The Coromandel. You’ll want a good head for heights but will be rewarded with 360 degree panoramic views of both coasts of The Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Hauraki Gulf and Plains.
Free Camping in Coromandel
We free camp everywhere we go, and that was no different in the Coromandel Peninsula. There were a ton of free Freedom Camping sites for Self-Contained campers, which were beautiful! We use Wikicamps NZ to find these sites, and HIGHLY recommend free camping.
If you are interested in living the campervan van life in New Zealand, we also wrote a blog all about how to buy a campervan in New Zealand.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a beautiful section of New Zealand, that is a must-visit while you are on the North Island. The incredible beaches including New Chums Beach and Cathedral Cove, coastal hikes like the Trig Walk, and awesome adventure in the Karangahake Gorge make the Coromandel an adventurer’s wonderland. Spend a week here exploring everything you can get your eyes and hands on, you’ll be glad you did!
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