Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand is famous for its golden sand beaches, marine reserves, forest walks and breathtaking coastlines. Only a couple of hours drive from Auckland Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most popular summer holiday destinations in New Zealand.
Many visitors go to Coromandel on a one day trip from Auckland, just to see its two most popular attractions – Cathedral Cove beach and Hot Water beach. We did it ourselves during our very first trip to Coromandel many-many years ago. However, after years living in New Zealand and many more trips to the peninsula we learned there is much more to see in Coromandel.
We think that 2-3 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Coromandel to see some of its best attractions and experiences. In this post we’d like to share how to see the Best of the Coromandel in two days.
Best of the Coromandel in two days – Day One
Many of the main sights of the Coromandel Peninsula are located around its coastline and off Highway 25. You can choose to drive around the peninsula in the clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. In the itinerary below we chose the anti-clockwise direction, driving from Auckland, onto Highway 25 with the first stop at Mt Paku. But of course you can choose the other way around and start at the Thames.
Mt Paku Summit
Start your day early, drive past Tairua and off Highway 25 to Mt Paku.
Mt Paku is an extinct volcano on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. It overlooks the towns of Tairua and Pauanui and the harbour between them.
Leave the car at the Paku Lookout Parking Lot and walk to the Mt Paku Summit. It’s a steep but relatively short and easy walk (20-25 mins one way) that will take you to the summit with stunning views.
Hot Water Beach
After Mt Paku Summit your next destination will depend on the tides. If it’s a low tide then drive to Hot Water Beach. If it’s a high tide, then it’s better to go to Hahei and Cathedral Cove first, and visit Hot Water Beach after the tide turns low. You can check the tide times online.
Hot Water Beach is famous for its natural hot springs. During low tides you can dig a hole in the sand that will fill up with naturally hot water – making it a mini hot water pool for you to soak in.
If you plan to dig a pool in the sand at Hot Water Beach then make sure to bring a spade! Also expect to find a lot of people there doing the same (digging the holes in the sand). So, it’s not quite a hot water spa – don’t expect relaxation and tranquillity there! 🙂
To be honest, it wouldn’t be at the top of our list of things to see and do in the Coromandel. However, this place is really popular with tourists and if you don’t mind the crowds and the digging it’s still worth visiting.
Next in the ‘Best of the Coromandel in two days’ itinerary is Hahei village and beach.
Hahei has a small village center with few shops and cafes. It’s a good idea to make a stop here for a late breakfast, lunch or just a coffee break.
It is also a starting point for the Cathedral Cove walk, plus a number of boat tours and water taxis.
But don’t rush to leave for the Cathedral Cove. Make sure to visit Hahei Beach – a beautiful gold sand beach with clear waters and stunning views to the surrounding islands.
Picturesque Stingray Bay is full of marine wildlife and is located between Hahei and Cathedral Cove.
Walking to Cathedral Cave (details below) make sure to take a small detour to Stingray Bay. This small beach takes its name from the stingrays that are often seen in the water at low tides. When you visit at low tides you not only have a chance to spot stingrays, but also other marine wildlife. Such as, small fishes, shells and crabs hiding in the rocks by the water.
Cathedral Cove beach is the most popular destination in Coromandel Peninsula. This stunning sandy beach is famous for its tortoise waters, naturally formed rock formations and cathedral-like arch where a scene from The Chronicles of Narnia was filmed.
The beach is not accessible by car, so you have to either walk there or take a water taxi from Hahei beach. The car park by the Cathedral Cove Lookout where the main track to Cathedral Cove starts is closed during summer time (from 1st October to 30th April). You can park your car at Hahei Beach Parking and walk from there (approx 1 hour walk one way). Alternatively, leave the car at the Cathedral Cove Park and Ride (at the entrance to Hahei village on your right) and take a shuttle to the beginning of the track at the Cathedral Cove Lookout. The parking is free and the shuttle is $7 return for adults (check details and up to date info at their website).
If you’re travelling outside of summer time then you can park at the top of the hill at the Cathedral Cove Lookout. Then walk to Cathedral Cove beach from there (approx 45 mins one way).
Note: Cathedral Cove beach was closed a couple of times previously due to landslides, and most recently due to the damage after Cyclone Gabrielle. Check the current status at the DOC website.
Tip: If it’s not too late in the day, you can also visit Shakespeare Cliff Lookout before going to Whitianga. You will be rewarded with stunning views over Mercury Bay and Cooks Beach.
Finish the Day One of the Coromandel itinerary and spend the night at the town of Whitianga – 30 min drive from Hahei.
Whitianga is a very nice town located at the beautiful setting of the Mercury Bay. It has a selection of cafes, shops and accommodation, as well as a quiet beach, esplanade and a big playground for kids. All this makes it an ideal location to relax after a busy day of exploring Coromandel Peninsula.
Best of the Coromandel in two days – Day Two
Start Day Two with a good breakfast at Whitianga and then head to Matarangi Beach. It’s only a half an hour drive in the general direction of New Chums Beach and is totally worth a visit.
Beautiful white sand beach of Matarangi stretches for 4.5 km and is a great place to swim, surf, bodyboard or walk.
New Chums Beach
Next, drive to New Chums Beach (or to be precise – to the New Chums Beach car park at Whangapoua, from where the walk to the beach starts). This secluded beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Depending on the weather you can swim there, have walk or just relax in the sun or in the shade under the trees on the beach.
New Chums beach is accessible during low tides only, so make sure to check the tide before going there. Take the water with you and use the toilet at the car park before starting the walk as there are no facilities at the beach.
To get to New Chums Beach start from the car park at Whangapoua and follow the stream. Cross the stream and continue along the shore to the start of New Chums Beach Walkway. You will have to walk over some rocks and boulders, so sturdy shoes are preferable.
We went there in summer and were wearing jandals (that’s what flip-flops are called in New Zealand). It helped to cross the stream barefoot, but it wasn’t too convenient when it came to walking on the slippery boulders along the shore. We made it, of course, but I wish we had sport shoes on.
Once you reach the start of the track, it gets much easier – just follow the track until you get to New Chums beach. In total, it takes about 40 minutes one way from the car park to the beach.
Almost at the end of the walk the track will fork to the right. Don’t miss it – it’s the way to the scenic New Chums Lookout. Track to the lookout is very steep and not that well formed – I wouldn’t recommend it with small kids.
Our kids were old enough when we went there. So, apart from the inconvenience of climbing in jandals and the dirty clothes due to sliding on our bottoms on the way back, we managed just fine 🙂 The views from the New Chums Lookout are stunning and climbing there was totally worth it!
Driving Creek – Railway, Zipline and Kauri trees
Big part of Coromandel Peninsula is covered by hills and native forests. One of the great ways to see and experience it is by taking a scenic mountain train ride. We rode the Driving Creek Railway when our kids were little, but it’s a great experience for any age.
The train takes you on a 1h 15min return journey through the forest, over the hills and to a scenic lookout – Eyefull Tower.
If you want a more adventurous experience in Driving Creek, go ziplining instead. See details about Driving Creek Zipline Tours and Railway on the website.
For more native kauri tree experience, take a short walk in Waiau Kauri Grove – just a 20 min drive from the Driving Creek. It’s a pleasant 30 min return walk through the forest.
Thames Goldmine Experience
Last on our ‘Best of the Coromandel in two days’ list is Gold Mining Experience in Thames.
Thames is the biggest town of Coromandel Peninsula and is known for its gold mining history. Take a guided tour through the old gold mine, visit the onsite museum and try your luck at gold panning at the Gold Mining Experience in Thames.
That was our sample itinerary for the Best of the Coromandel in two days.
How to get to Coromandel Peninsula?
There are a couple of options of how to get to the Coromandel Peninsula.
We, personally, prefer travelling by car in New Zealand. It gives you the freedom of where to stop, how much time to spend at any location, and travel times are usually much better compared to public transport. Also, it is the only viable option if you want to travel further than the most popular places in the Coromandel.
It takes 1.5 hr to drive from Auckland to Thames (the base of Coromandel peninsula) and about 2.5 hr – from Auckland to Hahei (one of the beach resorts of Coromandel).
There is an option to travel to the Coromandel from Auckland by ferry. However, last time I checked, the service was temporarily cancelled. We have never taken a ferry to Coromandel ourselves, so can not really give an advice based on our experience.
But if you want to explore this option, check Fullers ferry company website. Keep in mind that the ferry will get you to the west coast of the Coromandel, and then you will have to take a bus to Coromandel Town (10 mins) or to Whitianga (50 mins).
With a Tour
Alternatively, you can take a guided tour from Auckland to Coromandel Peninsula:
Are two days enough for the Coromandel?
We think that 2-3 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in the Coromandel Peninsula. It will allow you to visit all the main attractions of the peninsula without rushing too much through them.
Of course, as with any place – the longer you stay the more you see and experience. You can easily spend 3-4 days travelling around the Coromandel Peninsula. Especially in summer – with all the swimming and sunbathing at the beaches.
But it’s also possible to see the most popular places in the Coromandel in just one day.
It really depends on how many places you plan to see in the Coromandel, how long you want to spend at each of them and how much time you have.
Next, why not visit Karangahake Gorge located just south of the Coromandel Peninsula? Read our dedicated blog here – Karangahake Gorge – gold mining and scenic walks.
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