The Coromandel: An introduction

Coromandel Peninsula is a sunny slice of heavenly white sandy beaches, hidden coves and lush forested hills – essential elements of a classic Kiwi holiday.

The Coromandel region, across the water from Auckland, stretches from the shorebird coast on the western edge of Hauraki Gulf, across the rural plains to the narrow coastland of the Coromandel peninsula.

Here, pohutukawa tree-lined coves and sheltered beaches are surrounded by hills covered in green rainforest. It’s a natural wonderland, ready and waiting for outdoor adventures and experiences. 

Easily accessed from Auckland, the Coromandel is a popular weekend and holiday destination. For visitors, the region offers an unspoilt environment, away from the crowds but only slightly off the beaten track. Along the 400 kilometres (250 miles) of coastline, unspoilt beaches offer idyllic settings for lazy holidays or more energetic marine-based sports and experiences.

Walking tracks that trace the valleys and inclines of the Coromandel’s interior rainforests also tell stories of gold-mining and kauri logging.

Seafood is a specialty of the Coromandel region, where oysters, mussels, scallops and other foods are grown and harvested sustainably offshore. 

Heritage

Ancient Māori village sites along the Coromandel coast are evidence of New Zealand’s earliest Polynesian settlement.

British explorer Captain Cook visited the Coromandel in 1769 to observe the transit of the planet Mercury across the face of the sun. His mission is commemorated in the names of beaches such as Mercury Bay and Cook’s Beach. Lured by Cook’s descriptions of the towering kauri trees, early European settlers came to mill the forests.

Gold was discovered in the Coromandel area in the late 1800s. This was New Zealand’s first recorded gold discovery and gold rush. Coromandel goldfields yielded 16 million tonnes of gold ore between 1862 and 1952.

Nature and wildlife

Unique New Zealand wildlife inhabits the Coromandel’s coastland and rainforests. Several conservation projects for kauri, kiwi and other birds originated on the Coromandel Peninsula, where 34 percent of the land is under Department of Conservation (DOC) protection.

Tangiaro Kiwi Retreat is nestled in the heart of the Moehau Kiwi Sanctuary, one of the first kiwi sanctuaries in New Zealand. Visitors can sit on the deck of a luxurious bush hut at night and listen to kiwi calling each other.

Te Whanganui a Hei marine reserve, a community-led project off the Hahei coastline, has been a no-take zone for 20 years, and marine life here is thriving. Glass-bottomed boats reveal many species of fish, seals, crayfish (lobster), stingrays, blue penguins, dolphins and orca (killer whales).

Adventure / outdoors

Coromandel outdoor adventures include scuba diving, sea kayaking and fishing, short and long forest treks on foot or cycling, and the incredible Sleeping God canyoning adventure.

The Hauraki Rail Trail, an easy, flat bike ride, is a great way to explore the area and discover the diversity of the wider region. The 82 kilometre (50 mile) trail has various stages for rides of up to three days and links charming rural towns from Kaiaua in the west with Te Aroha in the south.
 

Many of the walking tracks are steeped in local mining and logging history. The "Windows" walkway in the Karangahake Gorge follows the old Paeroa–Waihi railway line, exploring gold-mining relics and river scenery.

The "Pinnacles" overnight walkway through the Kauaeranga valley was originally constructed for horses carrying supplies to kauri loggers, gum diggers and gold-miners in the early 1900s. Walkers stay in a DOC hut, where an early-morning rise reveals the sun’s first rays on the Pacific Ocean and 360-degree panoramic views.

Cathedral Cove’s limestone archway and pristine golden beach were featured in the film The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. To get to the cove, there’s the option of a two-hour return walk or a guided kayaking trip. The cove is an idyllic location for swimming, snorkelling, picnicking and relaxing under pohutukawa trees.

At Hot Water Beach, where underground thermal activity provides bubbling hot water, visitors can create their own natural jacuzzi in the wet sand during low tide.

Seasonal highlights

A sunny climate and laidback lifestyle make the Coromandel a year-round holiday destination for visitors. In summer, Kiwis flock to the region to stay in baches (holiday homes) and camping grounds, but regular events and festivals throughout the year also offer visitors a chance to indulge in the Coromandel way of life and environment. 

The Coromandel locals are famous for their relaxed and welcoming style. Inspired by the natural beauty and laidback lifestyle, the region’s resident artists contribute to the quirky, creative vibe.

In autumn, artists and artisans open their studios and workshops for the Mercury Bay Art Escape and the Coromandel Arts Tour. This an opportunity to experience the beauty hidden in the rugged valleys and stunning landscapes that inspire these creative locals.

In winter, the Coromandel celebrates the scallop harvest at the Whitianga Scallop festival. This large outdoor food festival combines local food, wine, entertainment and family activities. 

And by the way...

  • Thames, the gateway to the Coromandel Peninsula with a population of 7,000, was once New Zealand's biggest town. It boasted more than 100 pubs and was proposed as the country's capital city.
  • Thames' colonial architecture goes back to its gold-mining heritage.
  • The name Coromandel has an Indian origin. HMS Coromandel, the first European ship to bring settlers to the region, was named after India’s "Coromandel Coast".
  • Foodies consume about 100,000 scallops in a single day at the Whitianga Scallop Festival. 

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