In this leg travel from the exquisite and fascinating Coromandel Peninsula south through a hot beach and amazing scenic views to a town to stock up on supplies and enjoy some hikes.
Leg 2: Coromandel to Whakatane
Total distance: 320km
Estimated driving time: 5.5 hours
It’s entirely possible that once you reach this peninsula, you might not want to leave. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of these stunning locations in brochures or travel websites, but the immersing yourself in the real thing is even more impressive. In fact, you should probably plan to spend a few days here to see why locals and tourists alike choose the Coromandel as a favorite holiday spot – with plenty of golden sand beaches and crisp, clear water as far as the eye can see.
The entire northern peninsula is referred to as the Coromandel, but there’s also a community there with the same name. The Coromandel township boasts a rich history tracing back to the 19th century, when the area experienced an exciting gold mining boom.
(Image courtesy of Breizh33,Flickr)
This naturally-formed rock “cathedral” is one of the Coromandel Peninsula’s – and all of New Zealand’s – most famous destinations. Located right on the beach, this huge arched cavern joins two secluded coves, which you can reach without even leaving the refreshing water. You can access this spectacular, surreal spot by following a one-hour walking track along the top of the cliff – and then explore either on foot or by hiring a kayak or water taxi.
The walking track will take you through Gemstone Bay, a stony beach with hidden, iridescent beauty lying just below the surface of the water. You’ll also pass by Mares Leg Cove, which feature some impressive rock formations of its own.
Next, you’ll want to check out the nearby town of Hahei – a quaint seaside community that was established to accommodate the many campers who travel to visit the area’s beaches. Hahei Holiday Resort features a fantastic campground with plenty of amenities, including communal showers,toilets, and a kitchen, a laundry, a TV lounge, and a beautiful spot for outdoor dining. Parking here for a night or two will allow you to explore the community at your leisure, either on foot or by renting bikes to cruise around this picturesque spot.
Hot Water Beach
Look up the time when the tide is lowest and head out about two hours before – Hot Water Beach is just a bit further south along the coast – for a luxuriating dip in this popular hotspot. People will be digging huge holes in the sand as you arrive, so find a spot along the shore and dig yourself a pit of your own. Then, crawl in and relax in a natural spa of your very own as the hot water begins to bubble up through the sand. Guaranteed, you’ve never experienced a hot tub like this!
If you’re up for a hike, this historic walkway along an old rail path is a good one. Take a right out of Waihi to reach the gorge, and plan to spend at least four hours on this easy hike – or rent some mountain bikes to get around a bit quicker. Along the trail between Waihi and Paeroa, you’ll travel through a 1km tunnel and two old truss bridges.
(Image courtesy of VinceO’Sullivan, Flickr)
You’ll be able to stock up on food and other supplies in this city, which is the first major centre you’ll hit after departing from Auckland – but there’s a lot more to do here than just shop for groceries. The Blokart Recreation Park is the perfect spot for some afternoon adventure, where you can get in a little wind buggy and cruise around in the sand, or head into the water to look for dolphins. Or, if you’re in the mood for some more hiking, the extinct volcanic cone of Mt Maunganui (which means “caught in the light of day”) provides some fantastic views of the area – and is an iconic feature of the city’s skyline.
(Image courtesy of AdamCampbell, Flickr)
After spending a couple of days seeing what else this great city has to offer, head back out on SH25 and follow the scenic coast to the city of Whakatane.