A one-day road trip to Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Coromandel peninsula

Ever since from arriving to Auckland, we wanted to visit the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. So, when our dear friend Carolina informed us that she’ll be visiting Auckland in the beginning of November and would like to do something fun together, we made an executive decision to schedule our road trip according to her visit.

On the weekend that we had planned to do the road trip, the weather made a 360 degree turn and went from windy and rainy weather to being absolutely gorgeous sunny and hot.

As we had already previous plans for Sunday, we needed to do the road trip within one day. To do so, we needed to get up bright and early to have enough time for all the sightseeing we wanted to experience. We planned to hit the road around 9 am and be back in Auckland by 10pm.


Our first stop was in the historical town of Thames (1.5 hours’ drive from Auckland). It is a crafty town with lots of historical buildings and friendly people. It’s a great place to buy anything that you forgot to pack (snacks, water, maybe a bathing suit or a spade/shovel for the Hot Water Beach experience). If you make it to the town on a Saturday morning, make sure to take some time to visit the Saturday Market to buy some local produce, art and pastry.

After gearing up in Thames, we started our drive along the scenic western coast of the Coromandel peninsula.

Rapaura Water Gardens

Between the Thames and Coromandel Town, you will find Rapaura Water Gardens. Recommended by international travel guidebooks, Rapaura is a 64-acre private estate with a walking trail along man made gardens, duck ponds and native bush with beautiful flora and fauna. The 1km long walk (one way) will take you up to a cascade waterfall where visitor are allowed to tip in and cool down.

Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Rapaura Water Garden

If you would like to experience the water gardens then from the town of Tapu, take a 5,8 km long forested road, leading east to the Raupara Water Gardens. A walk at the park will take around 1 hour and cost you $15 NZD (Adult). Make sure to get some duck food from the counter too as it’s fun to feed them and run around the park with loads of ducks chasing you like you are their new leader 🙂

Manaia Road Lookout

A perfect place to make some magnificent pictures, while stretching from the long drive, is on the Manaia Road lookout. As you reach to the top of the Manaia Road hill there is a small reserve and parking area where you can stop to take a break while enjoying the view over Kirita Bay and Hauraki Gulf.

Manaia Rd Lookout

Also depending on a day, you might see a little coffee van parked up there, that sells great coffee (accepts both eftpos & cash).

Coromandel Town

By noon you should be arriving to the Coromandel Town, also knowns as the walker’s paradise. With a range of walking trails, you could spend here all day. Beside all the walking trails, there are heaps of other activities to take apart. Most well-known been the Driving Creek Railway.

Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
Driving Creek Railway

With lots of cafes and restaurants (like Coromandel Oyster Company and Pepper Tree Restaurant), Coromandel town is also a good place to have your lunch before heading to your next destination.

Before you continue your trip from Coromandel town, you have the option of either taking the long coastal drive to the east coast or going straight across the peninsula. Because we only had one day for this road trip, we chose the second option.

The Lost Spring, Whitianga

A trip to Coromandel would not be complete without a visit to the 16,000 year old Geo-Thermal pools, in The Lost Spring. The pools are filled with mineral rich water that rises from 667m below the surface through a small crack in the bedrock. With over 400 minerals in the water it and has numerous therapeutic qualities.

The setup of The Lost Spring, looks like out of this world. It is an oasis surrounded with native bush, different pools, hot steam and nature sounds. With few different pools and water temperatures ranging from 32°C to 41°C there’s a perfect bath for everyone.

Coromandel Peninsula
The Lost Spring in Whitianga

In addition to their Geo-Thermal pools they also have a great spa where you can indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment. Treatments are been carried out in their treetop huts and therapy rooms that are surrounded with the sounds of flowing water and birdsongs. I mean what else can one want…right?? 😊

Well, there is actually more. The Lost Spring also has their own restaurant where you can enjoy all day dining in their historic school house restaurant, beach deck or poolside.

The Lost Spring truly is one of the best things to do while discovering the beautiful Coromandel peninsula. A 90 minute soak ($45 NZD) in the mineral-rich water left our skin feeling so soft, our mind relaxed and body completely renewed. This certainly is an amazing place is well worth the visit.

The Shakespeare Cliff Lookout

After soaking away all our worries (not that we had any) in The Lost Spring thermal pools we continued our journey toward the Shakespeare Cliff that btw is also a typhoon escape point for those living the area.

A view from Shakespear Cliff overlooking Cooks Beach and Lonely Bay

This scenic lookout offers stunning views over Mercury Bay, with crystal blue water and white sandy beaches. Shakespeare Cliff Reserve also offers picnic areas and walking/hiking trails for those who have more time to explore. As we were on a one day road trip and didn’t have much time to spare we took few quick pictures and continued our trip toward the Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove

One of the most scenic beaches in the east coast of Coromandel Peninsula is Cathedral Cove Beach. A white sand beach with natural rock archway, rocky islands on the distance and clean clear waters of the marine reserve will surely please anyone’s eye.

Cathedral Cove Archway

That said, you need to know that this beach is only accessible on foot or by boat/kayak. The hiking trail, with access to Gemstone and Stingray Bays along the way, takes around 2 hours return. The hike down to the beach is quite easy, but coming back up will most definitely make your bodyfat cry (sweat). That said, it’s good to push yourself and we promise, that once you reach the beach, you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Coromandel Peninsula
Simon climbing on a fallen branch on Cathedral Cave Beach

For this hike we recommend to DEFINATELY wear comfortable walking shoes and have some water with you for those hot summer days. It would also be a perfect picnic spot for those who like dining outdoors while enjoying magnificent views over the ocean.

Cathedral Cove Viewing Deck

As Estralians have previously, back in 2014, already conqured the Cathedral Cove Beach, we decided to skip the hike this time. An alternative option for the hike is to enjoy similar views over the eastern shore from the Cathedral Cove Viewing Deck. (Although you won’t be able to see the rock arch and the beach). Accessible by car, this deck is a great option for those not prepared for a hike, running late or with some other challenges.

Cathedral Cove View Deck

After enjoying the beautiful views, we thought that because we didn’t make it to the beach, we will make a short stop in the close by Hahei Beach.

Hahei Beach

A great alternative for those who don’t have the time to hike down to the Cathedral Cove beach, but still want to tip in to the ocean or just put their feet in the sand, is Hahei Beach. Located in the City of Hahei, this beach hosts magnificent views and has beautiful, soft white sand.

Hahei Beach in Coromandel Peninsula
Our always sparkling friend, Carol

After a quick stop and few pictures at the Hahei Beach we continued our road-trip toward another destination.

Hot Water Beach

One of the most well-known beaches in North Island of New Zealand is the Hot Water Beach. Thousands of tourists visit this place each year to experience natural warm water springs. In there you can dig a hole/pool in the sand, wait for the pool to fill with water from the ground and then soak in the hot waters of a natural hot springs.

We decided to skip The Hot Water beach. We had already soaked in The Lost Spring thermal pools for nearly 2 hours so this was not something we wanted to do.

Besides during our 2014 trip to North Island, New Zealand we already previously visited Hot Water Beach back then. I remember that back then we visited the area during winter (July) so the outdoor temperature was quite cold. As we dig a hole (with a spade we had bought from Bunnings in the city of Whangamata) the hot water started to surface. We then used a bottle to mix the water with some cold water from the ocean, making the temperature in the pool perfect for a quick afternoon bath 😊 The best part of doing this during winter was that there was nobody else around and we had the whole beach to ourselves.

Make sure to plan your trip during low tide to be able to dig the hot water pool 😉

Mt Paku

For our last stop we had planned to drive up to Mt Paku Summit. We wanted to reach this point just before the sunset to enjoy the magnificent Coromandel Peninsula one more time before heading back to Auckland City.

To access the short walk to Mt Paku summit you have to drive all the way up to Tirinui Crescent. From there the climb to the top is short but steep. Once you reach the top of Mt Paku, you will experience stunning 360-degree views of the Tairau town as well as close by beaches, islands, ocean and beautiful landscape.

Coromandel Peninsula

Finally, to finish of your road trip, we recommend having dinner or coffee at the Paku Bay Kitchen. It is a bit pricey but they have great service and even better food 😊

Road Trip more. Stop worrying about the #potholes in the #road and #enjoy the #scenicViews and #experiences you can encounter during a #roadtrip

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