The Coromandel Peninsula is a beautiful peninsula with a spectacular coastline; on both sides stunning bays, wonderful beaches, picturesque historic towns, great hiking trails and unique fauna. Driving around the Coromandel Peninsula is really one of New Zealand’s greatest road trips. So what to see on Coromandel Peninsula and what makes me come back?
So far I have been twice to Coromandel Peninsula and it is still absolutely one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! The color of the water, the exotic vegetation, the beachy atmosphere, I love it!
Magnolia trees, purple flowers, perfect mowed green lawns, cute wooden beach houses with white fences, big old native trees, happy kids with ice creams… Hahei has that picturesque beachy atmosphere that makes it so popular with both Kiwis and foreign tourists. Not only offers this lovely town an excellent beach, a few bars, restaurants, shops and art gallery, with Cathedral Cove on walking distance, what more could we wish for? No wonder many Kiwis love spending summer in their holiday homes here.
Some tips for your time in Hahei:
- Try a scoop of hokey pokey ice cream at the local ice cream shop, yum!
- Enjoy some drinks at The Pourhouse and dinner for example at The Church Bistro.
- Pre-order fresh snapper fish & chips at the Hungri Hunter early afternoon for pick-up to avoid having to stand in line later on.
- Want to save some money? Load your trunk with groceries in Auckland before driving off to Coromandel. The restaurants/bars along Highway 25 are either bad or closed (holidays) and the Hahei Beach Store (mini market) is pricey and limited in its offerings.
- This is a water sports paradise, options include bodyboarding, paddle boarding, kayaking, diving, snorkeling, jet-ski, etc.
- As it gets busy around Christmas holidays, book your accommodation in time (6-12 months), see below for my recommendations.
The photo taken from Cathedral Cove with the beach, sea and rock on the background, has become a popular image to promote New Zealand. I was here before but almost forgot how amazing it is. From Hahei, it takes at least an hour to reach Cathedral Cove on foot – so worth it! First walk ±25 min from Hahei Beach to the Kiss & Ride parking lot where the Marine Reserve begins. And then the actual Cathedral Cove Walk to the beach, which takes about 45 min.
Since the path is pretty hilly, I would suggest to avoid the hottest hours of the day. When I was here 18 years ago, it was less busy but that should not spoil the fun. Try to avoid the weekends and holidays. Before reaching Cathedral Cove, you may also want to visit the quieter Stingray Beach and/or make a pit-stop at Gemstone Bay. Another way to reach Cathedral Cove is by kayak tour from Hahei Beach, but since we planned to do that in Abel Tasman NP, we decided to walk. No regrets!
Feeling lazy or tired? The Cathedral Cove Water Taxi is the easiest way to/from Hahei Beach.
- Duration: 10 min
- Starting at 10:00h in the morning (latest in summer 16:00h)
- Price: $15 one way for adults and $10 for children
- Reservations highly recommended in high season
Hot Water Beach
On a short drive from Hahei, this natural phenomenon is a must see on Coromandel Peninsula! It can get a bit crowded, but who cares? Between two hours before and after low tide, dig your own spa pool in the sand, or be smart and enjoy someone else’s hard work after abandonment. Within this four hour time frame, the sea withdraws far enough to reveal the part of the beach where the sand is close to the thermal source. By digging a hole you can reach the hot water underneath. Be careful; the water can be as hot as 64°C (147 °F)!
Hire or buy a spade at the local shop and bring a bucket if possible. A unique Kiwi experience!
Hot Water Beach is where my two Kiwi cousins used to camp, play and swim every summer. If the weather is good enough for a swim, make sure you check the sea conditions before entering the water and always swim between the flags. Hot Water Beach has very strong currents, dangerous rips and holes so things can get tricky here in the water. Especially children should be supervised at all times.
The most popular parking lot is located at the south end of Hot Water Beach, which includes toilets, showers but also touring cars in high season. We decided to park north of Hot Water Beach, which is one turn left earlier from the road, free and offers plenty of space.
Off the beaten track
If you have enough time, I would suggest to:
- Walk the Pinnacles Path, also known as Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, in Coromandel Forest Park.
- Bike the Stony Bay Mountain Bike Track (8km) or Coromandel Coastal Walkway (20km return) between Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay, or the shorter Muriwai Walk.
- Drive the whole Highway 25 around the peninsula; for example the western part between Thames and Coromandel town is simply gorgeous!
- Visit Waiau Falls for a refreshing dive inland.
Where to stay at Coromandel Peninsula
Hahei is a great base for your stay at Coromandel Peninsula. I would strongly recommend booking Tatahi Backpackers before it is too late! With both dorm and private rooms, located at 100m from the village center and 400m to the closest beach, this cute hostel is the best affordable option in Hahei on an ideal location.
If you prefer staying at a bit bigger complex with more facilities and luxury rooms, the neighboring Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort is a great option.
Map Coromandel Peninsula
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select categories/areas to customize the map to your needs. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
How to get to Coromandel Peninsula
From Auckland’s CBC to Hahei on Coromandel Peninsula takes about 2.5 hours to drive (175 km), depending on the traffic it may take an hour or so longer. The Coromandel Peninsula is located east of Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand and can be reached via Highway 25. Distances:
- Auckland Airport – Hahei 165 km (±2 hours 15 min)
- Hahei – Rotorua 215 km (±3 hours)
- Hahei – Taupo 265 km (±3.5 hours)
- Hahei – Waitomo 225 km (±3 hours)
Especially the last part of the drive from Auckland to Coromandel is gorgeous with lots of exotic vegetation along the road. Take in to account that New Zealand has many hilly, narrow and winding roads, meaning the journey may take longer than you would expect initially. Traffic towards Coromandel Peninsula tends to be busy around the weekends and holidays, particularly around the single lane bridge of Tairua, which can give a delay.
A rental car gives a lot or freedom and flexibility. I always book my rental cars with Sunny Cars since they have fair prices and never unpleasant, expensive surprises upon pick up or drop off of the car because it is an all-inclusive concept with great insurance coverage.
I would suggest to pick up your rental car from Auckland Airport after your visit to Auckland city, unless you stay at a hotel with parking in Auckland for a few days only. Keep in mind that in New Zealand, you must drive on the left side of the road! Also please bring your international driver’s license.
Backpackers may prefer to take the bus to Coromandel Peninsula. There are InterCity busses between Auckland, Thames and further to Coromandel town (on the west side of the peninsula) that goes once a day, takes about 3.5 hours and costs NZ$ 41-54.
Should you lack a rental car, want to make it a bit more comfortable for yourself and would like to join a group, you could consider taking a guided tour to Coromandel Peninsula. Easy peasy! All you have to do is pick one.
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Would you like to visit Coromandel Peninsula? Have you ever heard of Hot Water Beach? I hope this article was helpful for you. Please feel free to share your comments or questions below.