Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Coromandel: A Road Tripper's Delight

New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula is a mecca for holidaymakers, thanks to its lengthy coastline, varied beaches and friendly small towns. Here is a leisurely trip from Auckland which will take in the wonders of this special place.


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Day 1: Auckland to Thames

This is an easy 2-3 hour drive which will ease you into your road trip. Head south out of Auckland on State Highway 1, and turn off onto State Highway 2 then 25 which will bring you to the Kopu Bridge. Although recently rebuilt as two lanes, this bridge is a tradition amongst holidaymakers. It was previously a one-lane affair which meant long queues in rush hour friday nights and sunday afternoons, but is nonetheless beloved as the gateway to the Peninsula!

Once over the bridge, it is about 10 minutes to Thames. This little community is an ex-gold rush town which peaked in the late 1860s. Now it is a lovely town with plenty of shops and eating places, as well as a lot of history! You can take a guided tour of a mine at the Thames Goldmine Experience, and also visit the museum there which tells the history of gold mining in the area. The Rapaura Water Gardens is a beautiful spot to visit, and every Saturday there is a market in the town. There are great walking tracks in the Kauaeranga Valley behind the township which are great for experiencing a bit of the natural beauty of the Coromandel.

Thames
by Eli Duke Flickr Creative Commons


There are several places to stay in Thames- for example, the Dickson Holiday Park.

Day 2: Thames to Otama Beach

From Thames, head up the coast on SH25, along the tidal coast that borders the Firth of Thames, separating the peninsula from Auckland. This pohutakawa-filled coast makes for a very scenic drive! A great way to do it would be to do some shopping in Thames before leaving and make a picnic lunch so you can stop and enjoy the views- try Te Mata Bay, or somewhere overlooking the Manaia or Te Kouma Harbours. Take the morning to explore!

Thames Coast
by Sally Flickr Creative Commons

 Coromandel is the next major town you will come across. It is quite charming and home to many artisans, so have a look in the many arts and crafts stores. You can also take a look at the unspoilt and remote northern part of the Peninsula with Coromandel as a starting point.

From Coromandel, turn right and continue on SH25. This will take you over the hills to the eastern coast of the Peninsula and the towns of Matarangi and Kuaotunu. Matarangi has a picture-perfect white sand beach and is somewhat of a high-end holiday resort complete with golf course, and Kuaotunu is a beautiful coastal village with a white beach, several shops and amenities and great opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and diving.

Kuaotunu Beach
by Rosino Flickr Creative Commons


For Otama Beach, turn onto Black Jack Road in Kuaotunu. This road is not for the fainthearted as it is not sealed all the way, so probably shouldn't be attempted with a large motorhome! Otama is a stunning long beach backed by grassy dunes, with camping sites and cabins protected from breezes behind the dunes. The camp is quite remote and therefore has limited facilities, but there is water, toilets, a rubbish drop and a freezer for freezer pads only.

Otama Beach
by travelwayoflife Flickr Creative Commons


Day 3: Otama Beach to Hahei

As with the previous days, this one does not require a lot of driving, but there are lots of things to see and do along the way! From the Otama Beach campground, backtrack to Kuaotunu and head south on SH25. You will soon coma across Whitianga, one of the Peninsula's bigger towns, so take the opportunity to visit the supermarket or department store if need be! There is a lot happening here- boat cruises in Mercury Bay, diving, fishing, restaurants and more.

After skirting the Whitianga harbour, a side-trip is recommended to check out Cook's Beach. Turn off left onto Hot Water Beach Road then Purangi road to find this lovely little beachside town with a great fish and chip shop and a lovely estuary where the Purangi River meets the beach.

Cooks Beach

Instead of getting back on the highway, you can go from Purangi road straight onto Hahei Road and get to the beautiful Hahei. Before you get there you will come across Hot Water Beach, a major drawcard for visitors and holidaymakers. It is a surf beach with natural hot springs bubbling up through the sand, These are only reachable at low tide, so come back when the tide is down and bring a spade to dig your own spa pool!

Hot Water Beach
by The Energy Flickr Creative Commons

Hahei has a wonderful beach itself, but is also where you will find the beginning of the path to Cathedral Cove, a hidden paradise which was used as a set in one of the Chronicles of Narnia movies. A few minutes drive from the town is a carpark where the 25-40 minute walk to the cove starts. It is well worth the short hike!

Hahei


Hahei Holiday Resort is a great place to stay right on the beach, with sites for motorhomes!

Day 4: Hahei- Auckland

See a few more places on the Peninsula before heading back to the Big Smoke! Heading south on SH25, you will come across the township of Tairua and it's sister community Pauanui which is just across the harbour- or a 20 minute drive around. Tairua has shops and restaurants, and a surf beach to the north of the harbour heads. In summer at high tide you are likely to see kids jumping off the bridge into the river!

Pauanui as seen from Paku Hill in Tairua
by Joshua Eckert Flickr Creative Commons


To head back to Auckland, get on SH25A shortly after Tairua and head back across the Peninsula to Thames and the Kopu Bridge. A great pit-stop on the return trip is Pokeno, which requires a small dogleg south when you hit State Highway 1. It is famous for huge icecreams!

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