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

Coromandel peninsula

The first time we visited Coromandel Peninsula was in 2014. Back then, we only had 4 hours to look around on this beautiful peninsula and frankly this was not enough. So, when 5 years later we found ourselves in Auckland, New Zealand again, we couldn’t wait to revisit Coromandel Peninsula.

Below, is a list of all the exciting things that Estralians have managed to see and do while visiting Coromandel Peninsula.


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, a powerful hilltop War Memorial Monument (at the end of Monument Rd) and a Goldmine that offers unique hands-on learning experience.

Things to do in Coromandel
Thames Goldmine

As Thames has The Warehouse and PAK’sSAVE , it’s also 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 also take some time to visit the Saturday Market to buy some local produce, art and pastry.

Things to do in Coromandel Peninsula
Western Coast of Coromandel – Te Puru Beach

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. If you would like to discover more of the west coast of Coromandel Peninsula we recommend reading CamperMate blog post.

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.

Best things to do in Coromandel Peninsula
Lost Spring Coromandel

The Lost Spring truly is one of the best things to do while discovering the beautiful Coromandel peninsula.

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 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. If you choose to do it by foot, then we recommend to use the park and ride services that will pick you up from Hahei Beach parking lot and take you up to the lookout carpark. (Parking at the lookout carpark in not allowed from 1 October – 30 April.)

Once you are at the top of the lookout, the hiking trail, with access to Gemstone and Stingray Bays along the way, takes around 1.5 hours return. (+40 min if you choose to walk from Hahei Beach). 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. Bringing your snorkeling gear wouldn’t hurt either as the marine reserve is absolutely gorgeous.

For those who prefer to visit Cathedral Cave by boat, kayak or water taxy, you can rent a kayak, join a tour or take the water taxy from Hahei Beach and launch your boat from nearby boat ramps.

Cathedral Cove Viewing Deck

As Estralians have previously, back in 2014, already conquered the Cathedral Cove Beach, we decided to skip the hike this time. Instead, we enjoy similar views over the eastern shore from the Cathedral Cove Viewing Deck. (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 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 time for Cathedral Cove Beach, but still want to tip in to the ocean, 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 this time. 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 Coromandel we already visited Hot Water Beach. I remember that back then we visited the area during winter (July) so the outdoor temperature was quite cold.

Hot Water Beach in Winter

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 mixed 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 for sunset. 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 360-degree views of the Tairau town, coastline and landscape.

Mt Paku Summit

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 😊

–》Updated 2021

The Pinnacles

Two years after our awesome one-day trip to Coromandel, we found ourselves in Coromandel again. This time we stayed for a week and had heaps of time to rediscover and adventure. With so much time to spare, we decided to do something that we had never done before, take an 8 hour long hike.

Must do things in Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
At the top of The Pinnacles

I mean, yes we have hiked mountains before, like Mt Arayat in The Philippenes, but never before has the journey been soo long and tough. The Pinnacles is a 15km return hike, that takes about 6-8 hours.

Must do things in New Zealand
Magnificent views from The Pinnacles

If you are interested in hiking The Pinnacles, read about our struggles and recommendations from Hiking The Pinnacles blog post 😉

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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