New Zealand North Island is an adventurer’s dream. Cast eyes over best things to do in the Coromandel Peninsula and you’ll see why.
Located only two hours from Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula is paradise on earth. In the Coromandel, forested crags meet golden beaches, fringed by palms. Waterfalls and rivers play. Marine life lives in abundance.
The forests boast some of the best hiking trails in New Zealand, catering to every level of fitness. The beaches on the Coromandel Peninsula offer some of the best surfing conditions in the world. Beneath its clear, sapphire surface, marine life abounds. The waters invite scuba divers and big game fishermen to plumb its depths.
Not sure where to start your holiday on the Coromandel Peninsula? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Coromandel Peninsula…
What to see & do in Coromandel Peninsula
Ride along the Driving Creek Railway
Take a ride along the Driving Creek Railway through the hills of Coromandel. It offers some of the best sightseeing in Coromandel Peninsula. The train, the only mountain rail in New Zealand, was built by a local potter who wanted to access the clay around his land. He wanted to make the area an environmentally renewable park.
The working trains take wood and clay to the workshops. As the pine trees are cut for use, indigenous trees replace them. The train meanders over viaducts and spirals up hills. Passengers can view the landscape from all sides.
There are also several lookout platforms along the way. At its peak, Driving Creek Railway is 165 metres above sea level. From here, you’ll catch breathtaking views of the Coromandel Peninsula.
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At the end of the trip you can tour the workshops and brickfields. Be sure to pick up stunning pottery souvenirs at the craft shop.
While you’re here, take the opportunity to zipline your way the base. The train will take you to your destination. Here, eight ziplines zig-zag across 705 meters of pristine forest. Flying over lush indigenous forest, you’ll have the time of your life. It’s an exhilarating experience that you’ll never forget.
Get digging on Hot Water Beach
Ever experienced beach sand warmed from beneath? Go along to Hot Water Beach. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in Coromandel Peninsula. And for good reason.
At Hot Water Beach, you can dig yourself into the warm sand to make your own sandy hot tub. The thermal water running beneath the sands is piping hot. You may have to use your ingenuity to mix cold sea water streams with the hot water from below.
Watch the tides. The experience is only possible two hours on either side of the low tide. If you’ve left your shovel at home, no problem. You can hire one at the beach.
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If you’re a surfer you may want to bring your board to Hot Water Beach. Or you can hire one and sign up at the surfers’ school at the beach.
Get a view of Paradise at Cathedral Cove
The famous Cathedral Cove formed the backdrop for some of the scenes in the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s ensured its place as one of the foremost Coromandel Peninsula attractions. The beach seen through the majestic sandstone arch is a sight to behold.
Enjoy a walk at Cathedral Cove along golden sands lapped by silvery water. Or dive in and cool off. Don your diving gear and you’ll enjoy the abundance of marine life that plies the water in Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. See butterfish, marble fish and red moki in their natural habitat.
Cathedral Cove is a protected area. There’s no road access or any commercial facilities here. You’ll have to walk to the cove and take provisions for the day. You could also approach Cathedral Cove by water on a kayak or SUP or arrive in style in glass bottomed boat. This is one of the best things to see in Coromandel. Don’t miss it.
Cathedral Cove is ten minutes away from the Hot Water Beach. You may want to combine visits to both. Want to explore the area more thoroughly? Kayak tours will take you to other nearby beaches and coves.
Hike the Karangahake Gorge
Wondering what to do in Coromandel? Plan a day or two to hike or cycle through the splendid Karangahake Gorge. The landscapes are both beautiful and varied. The trails weave through the forested lands, touching sides with the Waitawheta River.
Here sparkling waterfalls and derelict gold mining tunnels add interest to the walks. Walk through eerie old mine shafts and across swing bridges that offer views from above. Water holes offer plenty of opportunities to take a dip.
Mining equipment, buildings and tunnels bear silent witness to the enterprising hard work of miners long gone. Information boards tell the story of the long-abandoned mines.
Go surfing on Whangamata Beach
One of the best places to visit in Coromandel is Whangamata Beach. This beach is famed across the world as one of the best surfing beaches in New Zealand. If you’re into surfing, head off to the beach and enjoy the famous left-hand break.
The estuaries on either side of the beach offer kayakers and SUP boarders the perfect tranquil waters. When the wind is up, windsurfers come out to play.
Paddle out to Whenua Kura, also known as Donut Island. The truly beautiful island is a wildlife sanctuary. You can only see its wonders from the sea. Only kayaks and paddleboards can get through the entrance to view its splendours.
The island is actually an old volcano. The crater is at the centre of the island and is filled with water.
Take a hike up the Pinnacles
The Pinnacles Walk, also called the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, is one of the top Coromandel attractions. It’s a full day hike, but why rush it? Take your time and spend the night at the Pinnacles Hut. It’s clean, comfortable and well-maintained. Or you can take a tent and rough it up at the Dancing Camp campsite. If you stay overnight you won’t miss out on the stunning sunset.
At the start of the hike, you’ll cross a swing bridge over the river and follow a packhorse trail that goes back to the 1920s. The view from the top of the Pinnacles at 759 metres is spectacular.
Spend the day at New Chums Beach
Ever walked a beach with no signs of development or civilization? New Chums Beach is one of the best places to see in Coromandel Peninsula for just that. Climb the steep incline to get a perfect view of the alcove from the saddle. The beach is a mile long and crescent-shaped.
Although there are almost always people on the beach, there are no shops or tearooms. Pack a lunch and enjoy a day in the sun & surf.
Walk to Wentworth Valley Waterfalls
Enjoy a brisk walk in natural surroundings? The Wentworth Valley Waterfalls makes for excellent Coromandel Peninsula sightseeing.
The roundtrip to the falls will take you two hours. The beautiful falls are well worth the effort. Watch as the water plunges twenty metres, surrounded by lush vegetation. Close by you’ll also find a couple of abandoned mineshafts worth exploring.
Relax at the Lost Spring
Soak away your stresses in the natural warm waters of the Lost Spring. It’s one of the most relaxing places to go on the Coromandel Peninsula.
The resort lies above the ancient warm waters of a geothermal spa. The temperatures vary from between 32° and 40° Celsius. The mineral water filling the pool claims to be about 16,000 years old, springing from 644 metres underground.
While you’re here you can indulge in a variety of beauty and massage therapies. You can also enjoy a meal or a cocktail in the pools or at the on-site restaurant.
Enjoy stargazing in Whitianga
Just north of Whitianga, where the night skies are dark enough, you’ll find a research-grade telescope. It offers visitors a full 360° view of the southern skies above New Zealand.
The tour starts with deck views of the skies. Here, knowledgeable guides will help you to identify the constellations above.
Inside, you can touch meteorites older than the earth. There are also dinosaur fossils and mineral samples on show. The star of the show, though, is the view of the stars and galaxies above.
Walk the Coromandel Coastal Walkway
No visit is complete without walking the Coromandel Coastal Walkway. The walkway stretches 10 kilometres between Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay. It’s located in the remote northern fringes of the peninsula.
The Coromandel Coastal Walkway traverses farmland and native forest. On the coastal forest trail, you’ll catch views of the Pinnacles. As you approach the coastline, you’ll also witness the majesty of the Hauraki Gulf. To the north, you’ll see as far as Great Barrier Island; in the east, to Cuvier Island (Repanga Island).
Most of walkway is relatively easy. The only exceptions are the descents into the coastal bays. You’ll want to watch your footing if you decide to scale down to the remote beaches.
Take a boat trip to the Aldermen Islands
Wondering where to go in Coromandel? A boating trip to the Aldermen Islands is a must. These volcanic formations teem with fish beneath the water. The islands are known as a Hauraki Gulf fishing mecca.
These islands are known as the vanishing volcanoes. They’re growing smaller over time. Endangered wildlife calls the Aldermen Islands home, giving the islands protected status. Nonetheless, the waters around them offer the best fishing and diving available in the area.
Visit the Mill Creek Bird Park and Animal Encounter
Travelling with children and wondering what to see in Coromandel? The Mill Creek Bird Park and Animal Encounters is a great place for the entire family.
The park boasts more than 400 birds. Children can also pet and feed the donkeys and other farm animals.