The Coromandel… Good For Your Soul

The Coromandel… Good For Your Soul

10/06/2024 0 By

There are many beautiful places in the world, only a few can be described as truly special. With a thousand natural hideaways to enjoy, gorgeous beaches, dramatic rainforests, friendly people and fantastic fresh food The Coromandel experience is truly unique and not to be missed.

The Coromandel is within an hour and a half drive of the major centres of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, and yet the region is a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Renowned for its natural allure of verdant valleys, misty forests and pristine beaches, The Coromandel offers a tranquil escape along its extensive 400km coastline dotted with countless hidden gems. Embracing the laid-back ethos of ‘Coromandel Time’; quaint towns beckon you to pause, unwind and immerse yourself in the simplicity of life.

The Coromandel is easily explored by road, boasting a well-marked route that encapsulates its scenic highlights. Or you will find ample adventure on the family-friendly Hauraki Rail Trail, while mountain biking enthusiasts can discover the region’s exceptional mountain bike tracks of varying grades.

For those seeking to explore on foot, The Coromandel offers a plethora walking trails catering to all fitness levels, showcasing coastal pathways, ancient kauri groves and historic heritage routes. Many of these walks traverse conservation land, ensuring well-maintained paths with clear signage.

Indulge your palate with The Coromandel’s renowned fresh cuisine, where local chefs artfully showcase the region’s bounty of ocean-fresh seafood and homegrown produce, including macadamias, artisanal cheeses, boutique wines, craft beers and more.

Experience the region’s vibrant creative scene by visiting local art galleries, where you can immerse yourself in a world of imagination and inspiration. With the luxury of time and space, allow yourself to be moved by the diverse array of artistic expressions.

Embark on aquatic adventures around The Coromandel’s waters, from diving and fishing to surfing and kayaking, guided by knowledgeable locals eager to share the rich stories of our coastal heritage, wildlife, and communities.

With each excursion, discover the beauty and wonders that await in The Coromandel, where a holiday is good for your soul.


Top 10 Coromandel Experiences:

1 – Hot Water Beach:

A truly unique experience that every visitor should seek out! Hot Water Beach is a New Zealand Must Do and one of its most intriguing places. From the sound of surging waves to the surprising warmth of hot sand underneath your bare feet at low tide, Hot Water Beach presents a landscape and an atmosphere like nowhere else.

An underground river of hot water flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at Hot Water Beach…a long white curve of sand located between Tairua and Whitianga. This stunning beach overlooks the Pacific Ocean and offshore Castle Island, with Pohutukawa-lined cliffs at either end.

Popular for a patch of thermal water bubbling just beneath the surface of the beach at low tide, Hot Water Beach has achieved cult-like status as a worldwide wonder. Visitors flock to the usually deserted location two hours either side of low tide. The lure of hot water brings people in buses, campervans, tour groups and rental vehicles. They pull into the recently expanded carparks with a mixture of excitement, fascination and anticipation on their faces.

At high tide, the beach appears much as you might expect – dramatic rolling surf, craggy rock-edged coastline, vast horizon with the shadowy glimpse of islands in the distance. At low-tide, the scene is spectacularly altered. Every day (and nights with a full moon), without exception for weather, holiday, season or circumstance, you will find a community of people gathered within a 20-metre radius. They will be industriously digging a small pool or soaking in the rewarding results of theirs or someone else’s earlier efforts. The water is hot…up to 64 degrees Celsius.

With the ebb and flow of the tide, each individually created hot pool is washed away clearing the way for the next influx of visitors. The tide will determine when you visit Hot Water Beach, but it is up to you how long to stay.

Hot Water Beach is a place favoured by intrepid adventurers and sightseers alike. It offers a little work, a little play and a lot of relaxation in a setting at once social and solitary. On a cold Coromandel day (or a rainy one) a trip to Hot Water Beach cannot be beaten.

2 – Cathedral Cove:

Perched on an edge of the magnificent Mercury Bay, within easy reach of the charming village of Hahei, lies the iconic Cathedral Cove, an absolute essential on any New Zealand travel itinerary.

Its name is derived from the grand arched cavern that cuts through a majestic white rock headland, connecting two secluded coves. This cathedral-like arch imparts an aura of grandeur to the entire area, while the soft sandy beach is framed by Pohutukawa trees.

Beyond its breathtaking beauty, Cathedral Cove boasts a rich history that dates back centuries. Māori legend speaks of Te Whanganui-O-Hei (the Great Bay of Hei), named after a voyaging ancestor who explored these waters centuries ago.

Today, Cathedral Cove stands not only as a natural marvel but also as a meticulously preserved marine reserve, teeming with a kaleidoscope of marine life and immaculate coral reefs. Exploring the crystalline waters through snorkelling or kayaking reveals a vibrant underwater world, where colourful fish dart among swaying kelp forests and intricate rock formations.

Just a stone’s throw from the beach lies a remarkable sight…’Te Hoho’, a colossal pinnacle of pumice breccia rock sculpted over centuries by the relentless forces of wind and water. Resembling the prow of a colossal ship, this geological marvel adds another layer of intrigue to the Cathedral Cove experience.

To feel the magic of this place and to discover the secrets of the volcanic coastline from which it is formed, jump on a local boat or in a kayak and approach the majestic cove from the water. Not only does the approach by sea give you a different perspective on the beaches where Kiwis love to holiday, it also introduces you to the stories of coastal life and the people who have made this place their home over the years.

 3 – Karangahake Gorge:

Karangahake Gorge, hailed as one of the ‘101 Must Do’s For Kiwis’, offers a captivating blend of history, nature and adventure. Situated conveniently on State Highway 2 between Paeroa and Waihi, it’s a mere 2-hour drive from Auckland or just an hour from Hamilton and Tauranga.

Once a bustling hub of gold mining activity, this gorge now stands as a testament to both human ingenuity and nature’s resilience. Karangahake Gorge was once a maze of bridges, trams, water races and construction. The regenerating native bush and crystalline currents of the Waitawheta River make it a stunning nature spot for visitors today.

The ‘windows’ of the walk are four open holes, once used to tip tailings into the Waitawheta Gorge below. They frame dramatic views from their midway vertical vantage point. Looking down, the sunlit track of the Crown Walkway hugs the cliff-face opposite. Further down still, the swift river smashes over boulders. Looking up, the sharp peaks, sheer cliffs and lofty summit of Mt. Karangahake rise to dizzying heights.

The windows also provide an opportunity to pause and regroup after tentative steps through low-ceilinged, pitch-black tunnels. When all you can hear is the echoing of your own footsteps, all you can see is the dim light of your torch and all you can feel is the eerie air of old mine shafts, a flood of light is a welcome relief!

Karangahake Gorge is a resilient place. Even the spindly pines clutch firmly to their rocky origins. One cannot help but be impressed by the magnitude of what the workers of the time achieved. The scale of industry contained within the area is massive, and more can be seen on The Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway. Shared with part of the Hauraki Rail Trail, this track follows the old Paeroa to Waihi railway line along the banks of the Ohinemuri River.

Old mining equipment, buildings and sites can be seen from various vantage points along the path, with information panels offering a rich history. A highlight (and another chance to use your flashlight) is the exciting journey through the 1,100m Karangahake Tunnel.

At the eastern end of the Karangahake Gorge, Waikino Station makes a worthwhile whistle stop. Vintage suitcases sit on the platform as if waiting for their passengers. The café’s lace tablecloths and old-fashioned baking set an atmosphere of yesteryear.

Incongruously, modern mountain bikes fill the racks beside the station. Falls Retreat and the historic Waikino Tavern are also welcome rest stops for delicious local Karangahake Gorge cuisine and refreshments.

4 – The Pinnacles:

Reaching the summit of The Pinnacles should be something every Kiwi does at least once! The lush green Kauaeranga Valley located upriver from Thames is one of New Zealand’s hidden playgrounds. There are many popular historic walks in the foothills of the valley, but the walk to the intriguingly-shaped summit of The Pinnacles on the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail rates as one of our most popular day walks, and certainly one of the most accessible. The Pinnacles can be walked in one day if you’re reasonably fit. You should allow 8 hours to do the loop from the car park at the road end.

The Pinnacles Walk follows the stone 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 summit traverses groves of nikau palms, huge rata trees and across streams and swing bridges. Crossing the streams you can imagine the roar of huge torrents of water and logs rushing past as the trip dams upstream were released sending thousands of kauri downstream towards Thames. Allow an extra 40 minutes, one way from the hut, to climb the stairs and ladders to the summit lookout platform of The Pinnacles.

For those who stay overnight, an early start the next morning will see you clambering carefully up the peak with your head torch to see the first rays of sun over the Pacific Ocean and the eastern offshore islands of The Coromandel. You’ll want a good head for heights but will be rewarded with 360-degree panoramic views of The Coromandel, the Bay of Plenty, Hauraki Gulf and the Plains.

On the return walk you can take an alternative route from Hydro Camp and follow the Billygoat Track tramline which also transported logs from the hills, past the Short Trestle and Billygoat Falls before emerging back at the Kaueranga River.

For those venturing further afield, Crosbies Hut is located on the Memorial Loop Track off the Main Range Track, approximately 12 kms northeast of Thames. The hut can be accessed from a number of tracks, with two access points from Thames township (Waiotahi and Karaka), two off the Thames Coast Highway (SH 25) (Te Puru and Waiomu) one off the Tapu-Coroglen Road and one from the Kauaeranga Valley. The Waiotahi Track can be extremely muddy in wet weather. Allow 4 to 6 hours for all access tracks to Crosbies Hut.

5 – Hauraki Rail Trail:

The Hauraki Rail Trail is one of the easiest Great Rides in New Zealand. Perfect for those looking to enjoy our temperate climate and eager to indulge in The Coromandel’s homegrown cuisine. Cycle between heritage towns and through the Karangahake Gorge, pausing to sample organic cheese, ice cream and wood-fired pizza.

The 197km trail showcases some of the region’s best scenery, and as a Grade One cycle trail, the Hauraki Rail Trail is suitable for all fitness levels and cycling skills. Accessible from Kaiaua, Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Matamata, Waihi, Waikino and the Karangahake Gorge, the Hauraki Rail Trail can be ridden in comfortable day sections, or as a multi-day adventure.

With Section 5 the newest section to open, the leg from Te Aroha to Matamata sees the trail increase to 197kms in length. This section will take you on a journey past goat, dairy and thoroughbred farms and on to one of New Zealand’s must-see attractions, the Hobbiton Movie Set.

Marvel at the spectacle that is the Karangahake Gorge, one of the “14 Wonders Of New Zealand” and the gold mining relics from yesteryear. Situated off State Highway 2 between Paeroa and Waihi, the railway line within The Karangahake Gorge was closed in 1979, allowing visitors to access the historic sites associated with gold mining. The Karangahake Gorge showcases some of New Zealand’s best scenery, rich in pioneering history.

In the early 1900’s, the townships of Karangahake, Owharoa and Waikino were important mining centres with large batteries to crush and treat gold-bearing quartz from local mines. As you cycle along this scenic gorge you can feel the past all around you, with gold mining relics still scattered along the trail.

The visitor information centre at Waikino, which is housed in an old railway station, can provide you with a guide to the walks and features along the trail.

The Hauraki Rail Trail is fully serviced with supported tours, shuttle services, luggage transfers, standard and electric bike hire services, laundromats, showers and plenty of dining and accommodation options nearby. The Hauraki Rail Trail, an experience that is good for your soul ethos.

6 – Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Coast:

The vast wild expanse of the Shorebird Coast runs from the seaside village of Kaiaua in the North, around the edge of the shallow Firth of Thames, over chenier shell banks and stony beaches. Journey through one of the most important ecological coastal and wetland areas for shorebirds in New Zealand.

With nearly half of the population of the endemic Wrybill found here, and over 100 migratory bird species gracing the western shores of the Firth of Thames, the Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre is a mandatory stop for any birdwatcher or nature-lover.

Visit the Shorebird Centre to learn about the birds and the area, relax and take a break or browse the shop for great gifts and an extensive range of natural history books. From here you can either walk (30 minutes) or drive 2kms south to the Robert Findlay Wildlife Reserve, where you can take a walk out to the bird hides or join a guided tour departing from the Pūkorokoro–Miranda Shorebird Centre to explore the reserve and learn more about the history, ecology and the amazing shorebirds it supports.

The hides overlook mudflats and shell banks that are a seasonal home for around 40 species of shorebirds including Bar-Tailed Godwits and Red Knots, which breed in Alaska and Siberia. Thousands of birds can gather in the roost area and the best viewing is two hours either side of high tide.

You can view the birds from three hides as you walk along the paths over the marshland. Look out for Godwits who arrive in October, making the shell flats home before migrating back to Alaska and Russia in March.

The Shorebird Coast is home to Pūkorokoro-Miranda, a small settlement located about a one hour drive from Auckland, near the Firth of Thames on the Shorebird Coast. Make a weekend of it and stay at the award-winning Miranda Holiday Park which offers a range of holiday accommodations in beautifully landscaped surroundings, with natural thermal pools for guests.

Visit Miranda Orchard and Gallery, another spectacular treasure of the region, offering visitors homegrown hospitality in the form of healthful organic wholefoods and coffee from the farm shop café, and the serene sculpture gallery which is set within the orchard and an airy indoor artspace…the first off-the-grid gallery in New Zealand.

7 – Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary:

Whangamatā boasts one of New Zealand’s most stunning coastal gems, Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary, known by some as Donut Island. Once a local secret, this Pacific paradise is now emerging as a must-do adventure. With its pristine beauty and unique ecosystem, the guardians of the islands and Whangamatā locals encourage all to treat these treasures with the utmost respect to ensure their preservation for future generations.

Located just one kilometre east of Whangamatā Beach, Whenuakura beckons with its enchanting allure. Nestled within the collapsed blowhole of the island are two small beaches, offering a serene escape from everyday life.

Embarking on the journey to Whenuakura, visitors are greeted by a dramatic entrance – a single 40-foot-high cave that leads into the heart of the island. As you venture through this natural gateway, marvel at the mesmerising rock formations while your voice echoes off the ancient cliffs. Emerging into the tranquil blue lagoon, surrounded by sheer cliffs adorned with vibrant pohutukawa trees, you’ll feel like a castaway discovering your own deserted paradise.

However, it’s essential to remember that Whenuakura is not just a picturesque spot – it’s a vital wildlife sanctuary. As such, landing on the island is strictly prohibited to preserve its delicate ecosystem. Instead, visitors are encouraged to admire its beauty from their vessel, leaving nothing behind but memories and capturing the moment with photographs.

To truly unlock the secrets of Whenuakura and the Whangamatā Islands, a local guide is highly recommended. With their expert knowledge and detailed commentary, they breathe life into the landscape, providing insights into the island’s history, geology and wildlife. They also ensure safe access to the sanctuary, navigating the unpredictable ocean conditions, winds and terrain.

So, whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker or simply seeking a slice of paradise, Whenuakura promises an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this hidden sanctuary, where every moment is a testament to the wonders of the natural world.

8 – Coromandel Coastal Walkway:

The remote northern part of The Coromandel is home to the spectacular Coromandel Coastal Walkway, an untouched, beautiful part of the country that is truly good for your soul and worth exploring.

The Coromandel Coastal Walkway offers a unique opportunity to walk the last frontier and become part of The Coromandel’s magnificent coastal landscape where dramatic bluffs fall into crashing seas and native bush, twisted trees, abundant birdlife and sheer cliffs can be seen as far as the eye can see.

Your journey begins from the moment you start driving on the gravel road north of Colville. You can take the 20km eastern route via Port Charles to commence the walk at Stony Bay or the 30km western route hugging the coast north through Fantail Bay and Port Jackson, arriving at the walk’s other access point at Fletcher Bay. If you prefer not to drive, a guided tour is an excellent option, offering transport and collection from either access point.

The walkway hugs the northern Coromandel coastline between Stony and Fletcher Bays, linking the top of the peninsula via an historic bridle path used by Māori and early European settlers. It is a well-established trail encompassing 10kms of native forest and coastal farmland. It is permitted for use by mountain bikers and hikers and is graded by the Department of Conservation as an Easy Walking track.

A middle section of track, above Shag Bay, is closed (at this time) as it is impassable. Access is via return tracks from Fletcher and Stony Bay. The loop track cannot be completed.

The return walk from Fletcher Bay takes around 4 hours for a fit person. Starting across farmland, the path leads through native bush, climbing around headlands for stunning views of the sparkling water below. Descending to rocky bays, it then ascends again for expansive vistas. From Stony Bay, the return walk takes about 2.5 hours. Passing through coastal forest, you’ll glimpse the Pinnacles, Great Barrier Island and Cuvier Island.

For the adventurous an 8km mountain bike trail utilises part of the Coastal Walkway, but is only suitable for advanced riders due to its steep traverse and challenging conditions.

9 – Wainuiototo – New Chum:

Hidden away from the masses and rarely explored by Kiwis is the spectacular Wainuiototo, also known as New Chum. It is so pristine and beautiful, as you make your way over the headland to find this place all to yourself, you will understand why New Chum was voted one of the World’s Top 10 Beaches.

This stunning arc of golden sand fringed by Pohutukawa and native forest, is deserted for most of the year. Wainuiototo embodies The Coromandel’s good for your soul. This protected place means no buildings, no roads, no infrastructure nor camping – it is a jewel in New Zealand’s coastal crown.

From the north end of Whangapoua Beach, cross the stream to begin your walk along the rocky shoreline and over the headland. The 1km long Wainuiototo Bay, or New Chum Beach, is approximately 30-40 mins walk via the Mangakahia Drive track over the saddle through spectacular Nikau forest and giant Pohutukawa trees.

New Chum is the sort of good for your soul place where it’s entirely possible to witness Orca or dolphin swimming the length of the beach. They are languid beasts, possessing that same New Chum quality of stillness, even when moving. A solitary Dotterel can twitter and skittle safely across the sand. These delicate birds are free from the threat of dogs and hordes of people at New Chum.

10 – Cycling Around The Coromandel:

Getting out on your bike is a great way to explore The Coromandel’s wide-open spaces, enjoy the sweet, fresh scent of native New Zealand bush and take in the wide-open Pacific Ocean vistas. From family- friendly parks, thrilling downhill tracks and challenging cross country trails, there’s a route for all fitness levels, skills and occasions.


  • Whangamatā Ridges Mountain Bike Park

The newly upgraded trails located in the Matariki Forest, 4kms north of Whangamatā, offer rides for first-timers to thrill-seekers. The tracks include swooping berms, table-tops and gap jumps, with plenty of scope for expert and freeriders. Trails are graded 2-5 with some fun single-tracks. Set in a commercial

pine forest, you can climb on forestry roads and uphill trails, before heading down. The shady base area is set up for a picnic close to the kids trails and the family dog is welcome too.


  • Ride Coromandel Bike Park

The park is a short ride from Coromandel Town and it’s perfect for an epic session or an e-bike adventure. A free to use network of mountain bike trails, flow trails, downhill and gravity jumps and Velosolutions pump track, the park has some amazing trails showcasing the rugged hills and sea views of the northern Coromandel. There are grade 2- 4 descent trails and two intermediate single tracks in the Kauri Block. There are wash stations at the park entrance, so please use them to protect the forest against Kauri dieback disease.


  • Whitianga Bike Park

There are some mountain bike trails in the Whitianga Bike Park, however they are quite short and technical. There is a beginner track and BMX track and, conveniently, the park is accessible by bike from downtown.


  • Thames

Mountain biking in the Coromandel Forest Park is possible in a couple of places, with the lower section of the Karaka Track open to dual use. The Thames Mountain Bike Club has built two parks at Moanataiari and Hotoriori, which are good for beginners or those with limited time.


  • Coromandel Coastal Walkway

For a different outlook completely, this trail traverses the remote northern tip of the peninsula. It is a shared-use DOC track, with a separate section for mountain bikers. Steep in places and sometimes rutted, the views are spectacular and the walkway itself, at 10kms long, is a fun scenic adventure. You can hire bikes and grab a shuttle from Colville if you prefer to ride one way.

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