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Want to know the best offbeat and fun things to do in Coromandel? I got you! I know this region really well and want you to love it as much as I do.
The Coromandel Peninsula, known as The Coromandel to Kiwis, is a largely forested and mountainous peninsula on the North Island of New Zealand that is ringed by stunning beaches and small coastal communities. Once a hub for Kauri forestry and gold mining, tourism is now the lifeblood of the Coromandel.
It is one of my happy places. Throughout my life in New Zealand, until I left when I was 21, I went every year. It is a popular place for Aucklanders to holiday in summer and it has now been discovered by international tourists too.
But just because it has been “discovered” doesn’t mean you can’t get away from the crowds. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to do. There are numerous excellent things to do in the Coromandel that will make you fall in love with this special place.
Here are my Coromandel favorites, I hope they inspire you to plan your trip to one of New Zealand’s best beach paradises.
10 Best Things To Do in the Coromandel
1) Discover Undeveloped Opoutere Beach
Beautiful Opoutere Beach is one of my favorites on the Coromandel Peninsula because there is no development there, and you have to walk through a peaceful forest to reach it. It is never crowded and it’s great for walking on the beach because it’s a nice long one.
At the southern end of the beach, there is a long sandspit you can walk out on at low tide, and at the northern end, there is a small island you can walk to at low tide as well as some rockpools. To really unwind, stay overnight at the basic beach campground.
2) Take the Ferry From Tairua to Pauanui
Pauanui is where I used to spend most of my summer holidays when I was a kid and it is still one of my favorite places on earth.
There isn’t a lot there to see other than the ridiculously pretty beach, but there is a very peaceful vibe here, and the streets are really interesting – they are made of red gravel which gives the town a unique look.
I highly recommend visiting for at least a half day, and the easiest way to do this is to take the short ferry ride from Tairua – otherwise, it is a 25-minute detour. Pauanui is walkable so once you arrive I recommend walking along the beach and grabbing lunch in the compact town center. Even better – take your bike on the ferry if you have one and you can bike all over town.
There’s a super kitschy miniature gold course if you are mini golf inclined, and if you want a good workout, then hike to the top of Mount Pauanui for epic views over Pauanui, Tairua, and their beaches.
3) Hike To a Stunning Hidden Beach
There are numerous beaches in the Coromandel that you can only reach by hiking so I like to call these hidden beaches. You can’t just pull up in a vehicle, you have to work for these beauties. Visiting one of the Coromandel’s hidden beaches is the best way to escape summer crowds as well as get some exercise.
Number one on my list of hidden beaches in the Coromandel is the incredible New Chums Beach. New Chums has been rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and although you do have to hike to get there, it’s not a hard or long hike – it’s less than 30 minutes from the start point in Whangapoua.
You will be rewarded with a wild beach with pale sand and clear, emerald water backed by dense native forest. It doesn’t get much better than this!
Another very worthwhile hidden beach you should visit is Orokawa Bay, a 45-minute hike along a scenic coastal trail from the north end of Waihi Beach.
4) Visit Picture Perfect Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei)
You can’t visit the Coromandel without seeing Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei) – these beautiful sheltered cove beaches linked by a grand cathedral-shaped cave is one of the very best things to do in Coromandel and shouldn’t be missed. It may not be an offbeat attraction but it is certainly a fun one.
The easiest way to get to Cathedral Cove used to be to hike there from the car park near Hahei Beach, but the trail was seriously damaged due to storms in early 2023 and it won’t be up and running again for at least another six months. The only way to currently reach Cathedral Cove is by taking a boat tour, water taxi, or kayaking from Hahei.
Make sure to keep your distance from cliff faces and you can’t currently go into or too near the cave due to danger from further landslides and rockfalls.
5) Visit Hauturu Island in Whangamata at Low Tide
While nearby Donut (Whenuakura) Island is the star of the show these days in the Coromandel, and kayaking there is on a lot of people’s things to do in Coromandel bucket lists, you can’t actually set foot on the island because it is a wildlife sanctuary.
But you can set foot on neighboring Hauturu Island, and you don’t need to book an expensive tour to do so – you can just wade over there at low tide. The water is around waist deep so take a dry bag or leave your stuff in your car.
Once you get to the island, explore a little, swim at the beach there, and then make your way back when you are done, happy to have visited an island in Whangamata for free.
6) Do an Overnight Hike in the Pinnacles
If you want to really stretch your legs during your Coromandel vacation, hike the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail and stay the night at the largest hut in New Zealand, the 80-person Pinnacles Hut.
The 8.8 mile/14km out-and-back trail can also be hiked as a day hike but I recommend staying in the hut if you can – these hiking huts are a real Kiwi experience and you will be able to drop your bag and hike up to the rocky spires known as the Pinnacles at sunset or sunrise when they are at their most glorious.
This may not be for you if you are deathly afraid of heights because to get to the highest point of the Pinnacles, you will need to climb some pretty crazy ladders that are bolted into the rock – I personally love an obstacle course added to my hike but I know it’s not for everyone.
7) Explore Historic Coromandel Town
Coromandel Town is my favorite town on the Coromandel Peninsula and a visit here is one of the best things to do in Coromandel.
Coromandel Town is the peninsula’s oldest established settlement and it has long attracted creatives and people who live more alternative lifestyles. The small downtown is home to beautifully restored historic buildings that house independent gift shops, boutiques, and galleries.
There are also peaceful beaches, stands of ancient Kauri trees, scenic hiking trails, and the quirky Driving Creek Railway to name just a few of the area’s attractions.
I recently revisited for a couple of days and wrote about the best things to do in Coromandel Town.
8) Hike To Old Gold Mining Sites in the Karangahake Gorge
Located at the bottom of the Coromandel Peninsula, Karangahake Gorge sure is gorgeous (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Once a gold mining mecca, you can see remnants of the mining operations scattered through the gorge. Don’t miss the remains of the Victoria Battery, one of the best places to experience the gorge’s gold mining history.
You should also definitely do a hike while you are here, there are short and easy trails you can do along the river and through lush native bush. I recommend the 2-mile/3.2km Old Railway Tunnel Loop that follows the river for a section and takes you through a long, and slightly spooky railway tunnel.
Stop for a picnic by the river or grab lunch at the historic Waikino Hotel or the Waikino Station Cafe in the old Railway station. You can also take scenic train rides on the Goldfields Railway to Waihi from here.
9) Visit an Old School Kiwi Holiday Town
One of my favorite holiday towns in the Coromandel is sleepy Whiritoa, and it’s one of the best places to experience a quintessential sleepy Kiwi beach town.
With many of the quiet beach towns being developed and multi-million dollar homes replacing the simple baches (Kiwi slang for a basic beach house) that used to dominate Coromandel beach towns, Whiritoa feels like it hasn’t changed at all in the past 30 years – it’s like a time capsule to my childhood and I love it.
There are some newer and larger homes there these days than there might have been 30 years ago but there are also so many of the older style baches hanging in there, and there is still only one business in town – the charming Whiritoa General Store and Cafe. Life is deliciously slow here.
Also, Whiritoa Beach is incredibly beautiful – it’s one of the best beaches in New Zealand in my opinion. So make sure you stop off in Whiritoa to have a look around, swim at the beach, and get some fish and chips or a burger from the General Store.
10) Dig Your Own Hot Pool at Hot Water Beach
OK, so this isn’t off the beaten path at all but it is pretty unique and special so you can’t miss it. I don’t know anywhere else in the world other than New Zealand where you can dig into the sand and make your own hot pool!
Visit two hours on either side of low tide, grab a shovel (you can hire one from one of the local cafes), and head to the southern end of this pretty beach, near the rocks, where hot thermal water bubbles up from under the sand.
I recommend wiggling your feet into the sand or digging test holes till you find a spot with hot water, then you can start digging out your pool.
How To Get To the Coromandel Peninsula
The best way to explore the Coromandel is by hiring a car and driving there. This gives you the freedom to see a lot of the peninsula and it’s currently the only way to get to some of the things to do in Coromandel on my list.
There are currently no buses to the Coromandel Peninsula further than the town of Thames, in the far south of the peninsula. You can usually catch a ferry to Coromandel Town from Auckland City but this service is currently on hold.
Best Time To Visit the Coromandel
It gets really busy with Kiwi families with accommodation booked out far in advance during the New Zealand school holidays which go for around six weeks from just before Christmas through to the end of January.
To avoid the crowds, aim to visit in late summer (February and March) or early summer (first two weeks of December) and during the week rather than over the weekend.
Where To Stay in the Coromandel
If you have the time, I recommend basing yourself in a few different places on the Coromandel Peninsula to get the most out of your stay. Below are the towns with the best accommodation options:
Coromandel Town is an excellent base for the northern Coromandel Peninsula and it has some of the best restaurant options in the Coromandel. Visit attractions around town and New Chums Beach from here.
I highly recommend the beautiful Buffalo Lodge, a boutique hotel nestled in the hills close to town. I stayed here for a couple of nights in November 2023 and loved it.
For budget-friendly accommodation, you can stay in a basic male or female dorm at Tidewater Tourist Park or camp at the Coromandel TOP 10 Holiday Park – both are right in the town center.
More luxurious options include Jacaranda Lodge on six acres of farmland, The Olive Motel which offers studios and suites, and the Coromandel Seaview Motel with sea views and a jacuzzi.
For vacation rentals, check out the Coromandel Orchard Cottage, The Bali Room Eco-friendly Cabin, and this quirky Fishermen’s Cottage.
Tairua is one of the bigger towns on the Coromandel Peninsula but it is still a compact and pretty spot. You can easily visit Opoutere and Pauanui from here.
The most budget-friendly options in town are Tairua Beach House Hostel which offers dorms and private rooms, or camp at Tairua Campground. The best-rated mid-range options are Paku Lodge and Tairua Shores Motel.
For vacation rentals, the best options are this cute self-contained tiny house, this gorgeous custom built home with epic views, and The Tairua Treehouse.
Whitianga is the biggest town on the popular East Coast of the Coromandel Peninsula and a great hub for tours and to see nearby beach communities. You can easily visit New Chums Beach, Hot Water Beach, and Cathedral Cove from here.
If you are looking for accommodation on a budget you can camp right in town at Harbourside Holiday Park or the Mercury Bay Holiday Park where you can also rent a basic cabin and caravans for affordable rates.
Great midrange options include Nana Glads Beachfront Accommodation, Bayside Motel Whitianga, and Bayview Valley Lodge Bed & Breakfast.
For vacation rentals, my picks are this quiet bach close to town, The Publican’s four-bedroom beach house close to the beach and town, and the modern three-bedroom Pipi Dune Beach House.
A buzzing beach town popular with younger crowds in season, Whangamata is a gorgeous spot and another great base on the Eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. Visit Hauturu Island and Whiritoa from here.
Stay at Whangamata Motor Camp if you are on a budget, there are campsites and cabins available. For mid-range options, stay at Southpacific Motel, Palm Pacific Resort & Motel, or Breakers Motel.
Solid vacation rental options include this stunning modern two-bedroom house close to the beach, this quintessential Kiwi bach close to the beach, and this tiny studio in a peaceful orchard a short drive from Whangamata.
The Best Insurance For Your New Zealand Trip
Make sure you get travel and health insurance before your trip, just to be on the safe side. Safety Wing is my go-to and they are cheap and easy to claim with.
Safety Wing also allows you to sign up when you are already traveling, unlike a lot of other travel insurance providers.
If you liked this post, check out some more of my North Island New Zealand content:
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