Looking for things to do on your road trip to New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula? You’ve come to the right place! In this guide, you’ll find heaps of awesome places to visit along a Coromandel road trip, including beaches, walks, camping grounds, and local places to eat, drink and shop.
A road trip along the Coromandel Peninsula has got to be one of the best scenic drives in New Zealand. Between its pristine white sand beaches, turquoise sea, and fern-filled rainforests, the Coromandel is one of the most gorgeous regions on the North Island.
The Coromandel is home to some of our favorite beaches in the entire country, and a couple of our most-loved campgrounds, too. Aucklanders are lucky to have such a paradise only a couple of hours away!
Whether you have two days to explore the Coromandel or a whole week, you won’t run out of things to do. This guide will point you to all of the “must-do” activities you simply can’t miss, along with some hidden gems for off-the-beaten-path road trippers. We’ve thrown in a few different itinerary suggestions, too, to help you make the most out of your trip.
So let’s get to it… read on to discover the best things to do on a Coromandel road trip.
What you’ll find in this Coromandel Road Trip Guide
- Must-see spots on a self-driving Coromandel road trip—some stops are towns, while others are specific attractions. We’ve included popular, well-known places along with lots of hidden gems.
- Things to do for people who love the outdoors, including the best beaches, walks, and campgrounds in the Coromandel.
- Recommendations on places to eat, stay and shop (lots of locally-run spots!).
- A few sample Coromandel road trip itineraries depending on whether you have 2 days, 3 days, or more.
Coromandel Road Trip Travel Tips: Know Before You Go
Best time to visit the Coromandel
- The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most popular summer destinations in New Zealand. If you’re planning do a Coromandel road trip in summer (Dec-Feb), make sure you book your campsites/accommodation in advance wherever possible. In summer, also expect popular Coromandel activities (like Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach) to be crowded.
- We think the best time to visit the Coromandel is the off-season. Go to the Coromandel anytime outside of summer, and you’ll find way fewer crowds and better deals on accommodation. If you can visit during the week (rather than a weekend), it’ll be even less crowded. Do note that some campgrounds and businesses close during winter, so make sure to do some research beforehand if you want to road trip in winter.
Coromandel driving tips
- Some of the major roads in the Coromandel are quite windy and narrow. Make sure you’re a confident driver before hitting the road, especially if you’re driving a campervan. Use turnouts whenever possible to let speedy locals go past you. Check for any road closure alerts on the district council’s website before you set out. The roads regularly get washed out during big rainstorms, and you might need to alter your plans accordingly.
- You may not get cell service in parts of the Coromandel. You’ll want to download your maps (and any playlists, podcasts, etc.) prior to hitting the road. We always download the offline version of Google Maps when traveling to new places in NZ, just in case we lose service.
- Download the Campermate app before your Coromandel road trip! The app will help you find campsites, bathrooms, water refill spots, gas stations, etc. It’s a lifesaver on any NZ road trip.
A note about freedom camping in the Coromandel
- If you’re planning to freedom camp in a campervan along your road trip, make sure you know the rules, including where you can or can’t stay. Always have a backup plan for another campsite nearby in case your desired freedom camping spot is full.
Some general tips for your road trip
- You’ll find supermarkets in some of the bigger towns in the Coromandel, but a lot of places will only have small dairies (convenience stores) or Four Square supermarkets. These can be limited and quite expensive. For the best selection, go to the New World supermarkets in Waihi, Whangamata, or Whitianga, or stock up in Auckland before heading down.
- Since the Coromandel is a peninsula, it has two different oceanfront sides. The west coast of the Coromandel tends to have more pebbly, tidal beaches, whereas the east coast has white sand beaches. You’re probably going to want to spend most of your time on the east coast if you’re after beaches.
- Keep an eye on the tides! Some Coromandel beaches (like Hot Water Beach) are best visited at low tide. You can check the tides for Hot Water Beach in advance and plan out your days accordingly.
- If you like fresh, local produce, make sure to keep some cash on hand. There are heaps of honesty stands in the Coromandel. You can pick up manuka honey, citrus, avocados, and other homegrown fruit and veggies for great prices.
How long is the drive from Auckland to the Coromandel?
From Auckland, it’s under 2.5 hours (by car) to many places in the Coromandel. Here are some driving times for common destinations from Auckland to the Coromandel:
From Auckland to…
- Whangamata: 2 hours
- Waihi Beach: 2 hours
- Hahei: 2 hours and 20 minutes
- Coromandel Town: 2 hours and 20 minutes
Note that the above times are traffic-dependent. You’ll probably run into traffic getting in/out of Auckland at peak times (Friday afternoon leaving Auckland, Sunday afternoon returning to Auckland, and holiday weekends, especially in summer). Make sure to plan your road trip accordingly if you’re traffic-averse like we are!
Map of Coromandel Road Trip Stops
The Best Places to Visit & Things to Do on a Coromandel Road Trip
1) The Karangahake Gorge
At a glance: Hiking and biking area with natural beauty and gold mining history.
The Karangahake Gorge is a forested wonderland filled with heaps of walks and history. Situated along the Hauraki Rail Trail, the area was once home to a gold mining operation. The remnants of this remain for visitors to enjoy.
The Karangahake Gorge makes for an excellent stop on a drive from Auckland to the Coromandel.
Things to do in and around the Karangahake Gorge
- Take a short hike on the Windows Walk (2.5 km (1.5 miles) / 1-1.5 hours). This walk showcases the gorge’s natural beauty and mining history in one easy loop hike. It’s an excellent walk for all ages. Bring a torch (flashlight) for the tunnels!
- Visit the cute town of Paeroa. Home to the famous lemony New Zealand soft drink (“L&P”), Paeroa is a nice spot for a pitstop if you’re driving from Auckland. You won’t miss the famous L&P statue on your drive through town—it’s huge!
- Check out Owharoa Falls. Don’t miss this waterfall, which is just a quick stop off the highway, about 5 minutes down the road from the Karangahake Gorge carpark.
- Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail. If you’re keen to hit the trails in the gorge via bike, you can check out bike hire options here.
Where to camp/stay near the Karangahake Gorge
- Camping: Campers (in vans or tents) can stay at the DOC-run Dickey Flat campsite—make sure to bring cash as you’ll pay the camp host on-site. First-come, first-served.
- Accommodation: For non-camping accommodation in the area, check out the Falls Retreat, which offers charming cabins in a woodland setting. They have a wonderful bistro on-site (mentioned above).
Alternatively, continue on to Waihi Beach for more accommodation options. See the next entry for more info!
2) Waihi Beach
At a glance: A cafe-and-bach-filled village right on the beach, with options to hike to secret beaches nearby.
Waihi Beach is a seaside village with a long stretch of sandy beach, lots of nice baches (holiday homes), and a sweet little town center with cafes and shops. It’s technically in the Bay of Plenty region, but it’s so close to the Coromandel that we’re including it here.
Things to do in Waihi Beach
- Go for a beach stroll. You can walk for ages along Waihi Beach at low tide—if you don’t get distracted by all the gorgeous shells, that is!
- If it’s a bit chilly out, head to Athenree Hot Springs for a soak in thermal mineral water.
- Hike into Orokawa Bay, a beautiful, hidden beach cove that’s only accessible by foot.
- You’ll find the Orokawa Bay trailhead at the northern end of Waihi Beach. The walk takes about 45 minutes (one way). Why not bring a picnic to enjoy at your beach destination?
- If you want to walk even further, the trail continues for another 1.5 hours to Homunga Bay, another hidden Coromandel Beach (and one of our favorites). Alternatively, you can access Homunga Bay from a shortcut track at the end of Ngatitangata Road. See the next entry for more details on this adventure!
Where to eat and shop in Waihi Beach
- Surf Shack Eatery: Serves up some of NZ’s best burgers.
- Flatwhite Cafe: A great brunch or dinner spot, right on the beach.
- Sunday Homestore: An adorable local shop with a lovely selection of housewares (many of which are NZ-made).
Where to camp/stay in Waihi Beach
- Freedom camping (self-contained vehicles only) – Island View Reserve
- Camping & cabins: There are two great Top 10 Holiday Parks in Waihi Beach—the Waihi Beach Top 10 and Beachaven Top 10. You really can’t go wrong with either one (both are within walking distance to the beach). Choose from campsites or cabins at both locations (we always go with the cabins for more space and privacy).
- Other Accommodation: We recommend checking out Airbnb for accommodation options in Waihi Beach. There are some stunning properties to choose from, including this one.
3) Homunga Bay
At-a-glance: Hike for 45 minutes to a gorgeous, secluded beach cove with a small waterfall.
Homunga Bay is a lesser-known beach cove in the Coromandel, and it’s one of our absolute favorite beaches in NZ.
The catch is that you have to hike in to the beach, as it’s only accessible by foot. The track to get there is absolutely stunning, though, and not many people are willing to make the trek. This means that you won’t see many other people down at this beach!
How to get to Homunga Bay
While you can hike to Homunga Bay from Waihi Beach (see entry above), we like to take the steep track from the end of Ngatitangata Road. There is a carpark at the beginning of the track. The track takes you through private farmland, past lots of cows who have possibly the best view in the world.
As you make your way down, down, down to Homunga Bay (remembering that you’ll have to walk UP again at some point—gah!), you’ll be enchanted by the epic ocean views along the way. After about 45 minutes, you’ll reach the beach. Hopefully you packed a swimsuit, as you’re definitely going to want to go for a swim!
Bring snacks, water, etc. with you, and find a nice shaded spot under a Pohutukawa tree to spend a few hours.
The hike back up to your car will be steep, but it’s over with quicker than you might think—and the adventure is so worth the effort (in our opinion)!
At a glance: a popular and charming beach town known for its famous surf break, cute cafes, and beautiful beach.
In Whangamata, you’ll find a cute beach town right next to one of NZ’s most popular beaches. While Whangamata is somewhat sleepy during ¾ of the year, its population swells in the summertime, when Aucklanders head to their baches for summer holidays.
Whangamata makes an awesome stop along a Coromandel road trip. Go for a leisurely beach walk and grab coffee or food at one of the local cafes. If you’d like to linger awhile in Whangamata, you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.
Things to do in Whangamata
- Hang at the beach, of course! It’s also worth noting that Whangamata Beach is a hugely popular surf spot when the swell is right. Even if you don’t surf, it’s fun to watch the action on a big surf day.
- On a calm-weather day, try kayaking to Donut Island (Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary). Here, you can paddle into a turquoise lagoon within a hollowed-out island cave. Make sure to follow the rules and don’t actually step foot on the island; it’s a fragile and sacred place. For kayak hire, check Peddle and Paddle.
- Hike to Wentworth Valley Falls (3 km (1.8 miles) / 2-2.5 hours return)
- Grab a bite at Port Road Project, which serves up Scandi-inspired fare in a chic, airy space. Their “Pytti Panna” (Swedish bubble & squeak) is next-level good, as are their waffle fries. Actually, everything is amazing here—just go and you’ll see!
- If a burger is calling your name, head to Soul Burger. They have hearty, yum burgers for carnivores and plant-based eaters alike.
Where to camp/stay in Whangamata
- Campers can head to Wentworth Valley Campground, a DOC-run campground set in the bush, and only a 5-minute drive from Whangamata. This is also the starting point for the Wentworth Valley Falls hike. This is a lovely place to stay, but to be honest, we always head to nearby Opoutere Beach Camping. You can find more details two sections down!
5) Onemana Beach / Octopus Bay (Pokohino Beach)
At a glance: A beautiful white sand beach with a secret hike-in beach nearby.
If you’re after both an adventure and a stunning beach, then head on over to Onemana. This sleepy, lovely little village is home to a beautiful beach of the same name. You could easily spend an afternoon hanging out on the beach here.
Pokohino Beach (Octopus Bay)
The best part about Onemana, though, is that it also has a secret beach nearby: Pokohino Beach (aka Octopus Bay). Pokohino Beach is hike-in only along a steep, forested path. If you’re up for an adventure then it’s well worth the effort to get there.
There’s a forestry road you can apparently take to get to the carpark for Pokohino Beach. What we do, however, is park at Onemana Beach and walk from there. If you walk to the southernmost point of Onemana Beach, you’ll spot a faint trail that leads you up into the forest. Take the trail, and you’ll eventually emerge at Pokohino Beach after about 45 minutes (you’ll get some epic glimpses of the sea along the way). Remember that you’ll need to hike back up the same way you came down—and it’s a steep trail.
Important note: Please, please remember to pack out anything you bring into Pokohino Beach. We’ve been disappointed to see a big pile of bottles and remnants of a bonfire left on the beach from partiers the night before. Please leave this beautiful beach as unspoiled as you found it!
6) Opoutere Beach / Opoutere Coastal Camping
At a glance: pristine white sand beach with an excellent camping ground.
If you like the beach, and you like camping, then you’ve got to get yourself to Opoutere Coastal Camping!
This is one of our top campgrounds in the entire country.
For a few quick details as to why we love this spot so much, here goes:
- This is Kiwi camping at its finest. It’s a small, independently-run campground with heaps of grassy sites, amidst a bird-filled pine forest, and right next to the beach (a five-minute walk through the pines).
- The beach at Opoutere is one of the best you’ll ever see. It has white sand, sparkling blue water, and no houses/structures in sight—just pines, sand, and water for days.
- While the campground does get crowded (for good reason), the beach itself is not busy at all. If you walk down the beach for just a few minutes, you can get a whole patch of sand all to yourself.
Note that the campground is seasonal—it’s open from October to May, and closes during the winter months.
Even if you don’t want to go camping, we recommend a visit to Opoutere if you’re at all a “beach person.” Prepare to be wowed!
To get to the public/day use carpark, see these Google map directions. The beach is a 20-ish minute walk from the carpark, all through the lovely pine forest.
7) Mount Paku, Tairua
At a glance: take a short hike to see epic views from the summit of a dormant volcano.
If you’re looking to stretch your legs along your Coromandel road trip, you should take a walk up Mount Paku in Tairua.
The summit of this dormant volcano offers a stunning view over the estuary, wild surf beach, and nearby Paunui. It’s a steep climb to the top, but only takes about 15 minutes (each way), and it’s well worth the effort.
Driving directions and a trail guide can be found here.
At a glance: quaint, lovely coastal village close to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
Hahei is a beautiful little town in an excellent seaside location. It’s the perfect place to base yourself in if you want to explore two of the Coromandel’s most famous attractions: Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
No matter where you are in Hahei, you won’t be far from the beach—and a gorgeous one at that!
Things to do in and around Hahei
- Visit Cathedral Cove, one of NZ’s most beautiful beaches (see more info in the entry below)
- Dig your own hot pool in the sand at Hot Water Beach (more info two entries down)
- Take the short walk up to the Hahei Pa for 360-degree views over the sea and surrounding land. This is a hidden gem that’s so worth the visit.
- Sample delicious macadamia products and tour the farm at Cathedral Cove macadamias.
Where to eat and drink in Hahei
- Hot Water Brewing Co. / Purangi Winery: Hot Water Beach Brewing is located in nearby Whenuakite, and it’s a great spot for a drink and meal. They currently have guest pours by the proprietor of Purangi Winery, who is an absolute legend with an endless supply of good jokes and banter. Wash down one of the delicious wood-fired pizzas with a glass of the home-brewed feijoa cider or liqueurs.
- Side tip: This brewery sits within a holiday park, so if you’re planning to have more than a couple, you could always decide to stay put for the night.
- Pour House: Another great place for pizzas and house-brewed craft beer. They have an excellent outdoor seating area with a fire pit for cold days.
Where to camp/stay in Hahei
- For camping and/or cabins: stay at Hahei Holiday Park. It’s right on the beach, has excellent facilities, and is within walking distance to Cathedral Cove and Hahei’s cafes.
- For other accommodation: we highly recommend The Church for accommodation in Hahei. The property is built around a reconstructed early-1900s church and specializes in private cottages amidst lush gardens. It’s a little slice of paradise!
9) Cathedral Cove (Te Whanganui-A-Hei)
A Must Do!
At a glance: Walk to a world-famous beach known for its rock formations and Instagram-worthy photo-ops.
Arguably one of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches, Cathedral Cove sure is a stunner. This is an absolute must-do when in the Coromandel!
With its grandiose rock formations, bright blue water, and impeccable sands, this is one beach you won’t want to miss on your Coromandel road trip.
It’s about a 45-minute moderately lung-busting walk to get here, but the path is a beautiful paved trail with sweeping views and is well worth the effort!
This beach is so special that it was actually used as a filming site in the Chronicles of Narnia films. It was featured in the scene showing the discovery of the Cair Paravel ruins.
Where to park at Cathedral Cove
- If you visit Cathedral Cove in winter—1 May to 30 September—you can drive up to the main carpark at the top of Grange Road, and walk from there. Note that parking costs $15 per car for 4 hours. Spaces are limited so you’ll want to arrive early in the day.
- If you visit Cathedral Cove from 1 October to 30 April, note that the main Grange Road carpark will be closed off. You have 3 options for parking at Cathedral Cove:
- Take a shuttle from the Hahei visitor carpark,
- Walk from the Hahei beach carpark (our favorite option), or
- Park at the privately-owned Lees Road carpark.
Other things to know before visiting Cathedral Cove
- As this is one of the Coromandel’s main attractions, don’t expect to find solitude – there will be other people there. That being said, if you go early in the morning, there will be way fewer people here than during the day. Sunrises at Cathedral Cove are pretty unbeatable!
- Along the Cathedral Cove walkway, there are a couple of sidetracks to two other beaches: Stingray Beach and Gemstone Bay. Both are excellent spots for snorkeling (Gemstone Bay even has a snorkel trail). Bring your snorkel if you’re keen, or hire gear from Cathedral Cove Dive.
- You can also access Cathedral Cove via the water, by boat, or kayak. You can book a boat or kayak tour from one of the many operators in Hahei—see more here. We always hike into Cathedral Cove and have not done one of these tours, but it’s worth noting that these options exist.
10) Hot Water Beach
A Must Do!
At a glance: Dig your own hot pool at the beach at one of the Coromandel’s most popular attractions.
Hot Water Beach is a picturesque beach with golden-white sand. The main attraction here, though, is the hot geothermal mineral water that lies beneath the beach: you can dig your own beachside spa tub at low tide!
Understandably, this unique attraction is a must-do on many travelers’ itineraries, so expect to see other people here (sometimes in masses). Even if you don’t want to join in on the fun, you’ve got to go see Hot Water Beach on your Coromandel road trip—it’s such a unique place.
Some tips for enjoying Hot Water Beach to its fullest
- Check a tide chart and plan your trip accordingly – you’ll only be able to access the hot water within 2 hours each side of low tide.
- There is a relatively small portion of the beach that contains the hot water. When we first went to Hot Water Beach years ago, we thought the whole beach contained the hot water and we could start digging anywhere! The prime area is where the most prominent rocks are sticking out of the sand – about 200 meters down the beach from the main carpark (the one with Hotties café). You’ll cross a shallow stream and it’s just beyond that.
- Bring a couple of spades (shovels)—you’ll need them to dig your spa pool. You can hire spades from Hotties Cafe (which also has yum food and drinks) or the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park (there’s more info on this holiday park in the camping section below).
- Watch out, as the water can get REALLY hot – best to dig a small section in a hot part, then continue to dig in a cooler section and allow the hot water to seep into your tub.
- The ocean is super inviting, especially after a hot tub soak—but be careful at this beach, as there are a lot of rip currents here.
How to avoid the crowds at Hot Water Beach
- For fewer crowds, go first thing in the morning, if you can time it with an early low tide! Wake up before dawn, bring some headlamps to be able to see while digging, and watch the sunrise from your own personal hot tub.
- Alternatively, go at night – it will be busier than the morning but still less busy than mid-day.
Where to park at Hot Water Beach
There are 3 carparks (parking lots) at Hot Water Beach, and only one of them is free.
As you drive from Hahei, the carparks will all be on your left, on the beachside. Here they are in order from Hahei to Hot Water Beach:
- Domain Road (FREE)
- Taiwawe Carpark (PAID)
- Hot Water Beach Main Carpark (PAID)
If we’re not staying at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 and walking from there, we always park in the free Domain Road carpark.
From the Domain Road carpark, it’s just a 5-minute walk to the hot pool section of the beach. Head to the right when you get to the beach from the free carpark, walk for 5 minutes, and voila…you’re there.
Where to camp/stay near Hot Water Beach
- You can either stay in nearby Hahei (see more info two entries above), OR stay in the excellent Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.
- The Hot Water Beach Top 10 offers excellent options for camping, and they also have luxe cabins crafted from NZ timber. There are BBQs and pizza ovens for guests to use, and a trail from the holiday park will get you to Hot Water Beach in 15-minutes of easy walking.
- Note: This holiday park gets very busy in the height of summer (24 December to mid-February), so do keep that in mind. Check their website for some excellent accommodation deals in autumn and winter!
11) Cook’s Beach & Lonely Bay
At a glance: off-the-beaten-path beaches worth exploring.
Cook’s Beach is a lovely stretch of white sand flanked by baches, and it’s a nice place for a long beach stroll.
If you’re looking for a real hidden gem of a beach, though, head over to nearby Lonely Bay.
Lonely Bay has stunning rock formations, gorgeous swimmable waters, and crushed-shell sand. There are plenty of pohutukawas looming overhead, too, which means there are lots of shaded spots for post-swim naps.
Lonely Bay requires a 10-minute walk to access the beach from the upper carpark (or you can walk there from Flaxmill Bay, too).
Where to camp/stay near Cooks Beach & Lonely Bay
We tend to stay in Hahei and just drive to Cooks Beach/Lonely Bay from there. However, there are some great camping and accommodation options in this area, too…
- Freedom camping: For road trippers with self-contained vans, you’ll be happy to know that there’s an excellent freedom camping site at the southeast end of Cook’s Beach, near the boat ramp. Make sure to follow the signs, though, and only park where you’re allowed to.
- Other camping/accommodation: Flaxmill Bay offers a range of accommodation and camping options. They’ve got everything from tent and van sites to budget-friendly sleeper cabins to larger holiday homes. Note that the campground is seasonal, open from 1 October – 30 April.
At a glance: The biggest town on the east side of the Coromandel.
Whitianga is a good place to stop for fuel and supplies on your Coromandel road trip, particularly if you’re traveling from Hahei to New Chums Beach (see below) or vice versa.
We don’t usually stay long in Whitianga as we like other parts of the Coromandel even better, but one stop worth mentioning is the Lost Spring—this adults-only hot spring experience is set amidst a lush, tropical backdrop, and is a worthy splurge for couples or friends looking to indulge in some pampering. Bookings are recommended, as this spot is popular.
13) Otama Beach & Opito Bay
At-a-glance: beautiful, empty beaches well worth exploring.
Looking for a long beach stroll on pristine sands? Or want a beach day without the crowds? How about an off-the-beaten-track walk to an epic coastal lookout?
If so, get yourself on over to Otama Beach and Opito Bay!
These remote beaches are perfect for visitors looking for solitude. While there are baches (holiday homes) around both beaches, you won’t find much else out this way. So if you plan to spend the day exploring, make sure to bring everything you need (food, water, etc).
You can access both beaches after driving through the adorable town of Kuaotunu, which is also right next to a stunning beach. From Kuaotunu, you’ll drive over the hill on Black Jack Road—the drive itself feels like a bit of an adventure, as it’s quite steep and windy. You’ll get gorgeous ocean views along much of the drive.
First up is Otama Beach, a 2km stretch of pristine sand. The beach is backed by a protected wetland area and sand dunes, which are home to endangered dotterels. Go for a swim and beach stroll, and find the scenic beach swing!
Another 6km down the road is Opito Bay, which is equally gorgeous and remote. The sand is often peppered with heaps of scallop shells, and there’s an excellent short walk here: the Opito Bay Pa walk (20-30 minutes return).
You’ll find the Opito Bay Pa walk at the eastern end of the beach. Take the steep staircase up the headland and walk out to the top. Up on the headland, you’ll see remains of the pa site, including defensive ditches, pits, and terraces. The views over the sea and Mercury Islands are incredible, too—and if you luck out, you may spot some dolphins in the clear water below.
Tip: When you drive through Kuaotunu, make sure to grab a bite to eat at Luke’s Kitchen. They have great cafe food, coffee, and woodfired pizzas, and are located in a chilled-out spot right by the beach. Check their website for live music gigs, too.
14) New Chums Beach
A Must Do!
At a glance: Take a 30-minute hike into one of the most beautiful beaches in New Zealand.
The uber-gorgeous New Chums Beach is something you can’t miss on a Coromandel road trip.
You’ll need to walk for about 30 minutes along a coastal path. There’s a bit of rock-hopping involved, but it’s a fairly straightforward trail, and soon enough you’ll enter a gorgeous Nikau forest before reaching the beach.
Your walking efforts will be well-rewarded when you reach New Chums: this white-sand crescent is framed by a jungly forest, and there’s not a house or development in sight.
While not as crowded as Cathedral Cove, the word is out about New Chums, and it’s a popular spot. Luckily, the walk does help keep the masses from venturing out to this beach, and even if it’s busy, there’s plenty of space for everyone. All you’ll need to do is walk 5-10 minutes down the beach to have your own solitary paradise.
Pack a lunch, drinking water, a beach towel, and your swimsuit, of course! Once you get to the beach, you won’t want to leave. Note that there are no bathrooms at New Chums, so plan accordingly. There are toilets at Whangapoua Beach, where the walk starts and ends.
Where to camp /stay near New Chums Beach
- Camping: Whangapoua Holiday Park is the closest campground to New Chums (less than 10 minutes away by car). Choose from campsites or basic holiday cabins. They do seem to close during winter, so ensure to check their website before heading there.
- Other accommodation: We recommend checking Airbnb for accommodation in Kuaotunu, which is 20 minutes south of New Chums. We highly recommend this “treehouse” for a couple, solo traveler, or small family—it’s so wonderful that we’ve written a whole post about the treehouse.
15) 309 Road
At a glance: Scenic bush road between Whitianga and Coromandel Town with several worthwhile attractions.
There are two ways to drive from Whitianga to Coromandel Town (and vice versa), the two biggest towns you’ll encounter on your Coromandel road trip. You can either take Highway 25, which is the main route; OR, if you’re feeling adventurous, take the 309 Road!
The 309 Road is the infamous “shortcut” road between Whitianga and Coromandel Town. This scenic drive is an adventure in of itself: the unpaved, winding road takes you through bush-clad valley, and there are some stops worth exploring along the way.
Things to do on the 309 Road
(These are in order from Whitianga to Coromandel Town.)
- Waiau Kauri Walk: This 1km (.6 mile) easy walk takes just 30 minutes and leads you to two different groves of majestic kauris (some of the last remaining kauri groves in the Coromandel). Ensure to clean your shoes at the foot cleaning stations before and after your walk, to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.
- Waiau Falls: Hop back in the car after the kauri walk, and drive a few more minutes down the road to Waiau Falls.
- The falls are easily accesible from the signed roadside turnout. A two-minute walk through the bush takes you to a beautiful waterfall with a crystalline pool at its base (a great swimming hole for a hot day!).
- The Waterworks: A quirky and fun attraction for all ages (especially kids, though!), with water-powered inventions, BBQs, a swimming hole, and an onsite cafe. ($25 per adult, $20 per child; free entry for kids under 3).
- Stu’s Wild Pig Farm: A kind, eccentric local, Stu, has amassed heaps of wild pigs that roam around his property and spill out onto the 309 Road. You’ll know you’ve reached this spot as soon as you see little piggies darting across the road (ensure you go slowly so you don’t hit them!).
- If Stu is around, he might let you get up close to the pigs; otherwise, you can admire them from your car. It’s definitely an alternative lifestyle, and this quite an interesting sight to see.
- Coromandel Mussel Kitchen: Indulge in some local green-lipped mussels and a house-brewed beer at this popular seafood joint.
Accommodation near the 309 Road
While you might simply choose to use the 309 Road as a route to get from A to B, there is an incredible accommodation option close by: Wairua Lodge.
This rainforest retreat is a destination in of itself, set amidst beautiful bush with amenities like a night sky spa, river swimming holes, and walking trails. This is a great place for a romantic getaway, or just a relaxing time away with friends or family.
16) Coromandel Coastal Walkway
At a glance: take in epic coastal views on one of the North Island’s best day hikes.
Located at the northernmost tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, the Coromandel Coastal Walkway is one of the best day hikes on the North Island.
This is a real edge-of-the-world kind of place, and it feels wild and magical. Visiting this area will add some time to your Coromandel road trip, but if you’ve got the time and you love hiking, then it’s well worth it.
The track undulates over rolling green farmland and coastal headlands and offers some of the best views you could ask for. You’ll see dramatic cliffsides that drop into the crashing sea below, walk through native bush filled with birdsong, and spot Great Barrier Island in the not-too-far-off distance.
You can either start this walk from Fletcher Bay or Stony Bay, which are both DOC-run campgrounds. While this hike is technically an out-and-back walk, you do have a few different options, which we’ll outline below.
How to hike the Coromandel Coastal Walkway
1) Return walk option
Distance: 20 km/12.4 miles round-trip
Time: Approx. 7 hours round-trip
For this return walk option, you’ll hike from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay (or vice versa). Then walk back to the start via the same route. This will be an all-day affair, so make sure to pack plenty of snacks, water, sunblock, etc.
2) Overnight option
Hike from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay (or vice versa), and take your backpacking gear! You could camp at either end, then wake up the next morning and return to your car via the same route.
3) Shuttle option
Arrange a shuttle to drop you off at Stony Bay and pick you up at Fletcher Bay. Contact Hike and Bike Coromandel for this option.
4) Easiest option (shorten the hike!)
Distance: 11 km (6.8 miles) round-trip
Time: Approx. 3 hours round-trip
The easiest option, and our personal favorite, is to do just part of the Coromandel Coastal Walkway, rather than the whole thing.
We recommend starting Fletcher Bay and walking to the lookout, which is about 5.5 km (3.4 miles) south of Fletcher Bay.
This should take you about 1.5 hours (one-way), and you’ll get awesome views the entire walk, culminating in the most epic views from the lookout. Then simply walk back to your car/Fletcher Bay camp via the same route, for an 11 km (6.8 mile) round-trip walk. This is the option we like best, as it makes for a completely doable day walk without having to organize a shuttle, etc.
Things to note about the Coromandel Coastal Walkway
- This is a remote and rugged place. Make sure to pack all of the supplies you need, especially if you’re planning to camp!
- Note that your last chance for supplies is Colville. Colville General Store sells organic food and has a petrol station, while Hereford ‘n’ a Pickle offers good coffee, homemade preserves, and high-quality meat and produce from their family farm.
- The road is unsealed (gravel) from Colville onwards. While most cars should be just fine on the road, do take care and take it slow! The views on this drive are so good anyways… so you’ll want to take your time and enjoy the scenery.
- We’d avoid this road during a period of heavy rain, as there’s a ford between Port Jackson and Fletcher Bay and it can be difficult to cross after a rainy spell.
Where to camp/stay near the Coromandel Coastal Walkway
- Camping: There are 2 excellent DOC-run camping sites at either end of the Coromandel Coastal Walkway: Fletcher Bay Campsite, and Stony Bay Campsite. We love Fletcher Bay campground as it’s grassy and lovely, with heaps of space—it’s also located right at the start of our favorite section of the hike.
- Make sure to book either campsite ahead of time on the DOC website, and note that both campsites have a “pack it in, pack it out” policy—aka you’ll need to remove any rubbish and recycling you bring in.
- Other accommodation: If you’re not up for camping, we recommend staying in Coromandel Town, which is an hour and 40 minutes south of Fletcher Bay. Yeah, it’s a bit far from the hike—but if you get an early start on your day, you can definitely day trip up to Fletcher Bay from Coromandel Town.
- Hush Boutique Accommodation is an excellent accommodation option in Coromandel Town, with cozy cabins set amidst the bush.
Tip: If you stay in Coromandel Town, don’t miss Wharf Road Cafe for a delicious brekkie or lunch, and consider booking a tour at Driving Creek Railway during your visit, too—it’s one of the best things to do in Coromandel Town!
17) Pinnacles Walk
At a glance: strenuous hike up to a picturesque mountain hut and lookout with gorgeous views
Distance: 8 hours return (round trip) | Difficulty: hard (lots of stairs on this one!)
If you’re fit, up for a full day of hiking (or an overnighter), and want to experience one of the Coromandel’s best hikes, then the Pinnacles Walk might be just the adventure for you!
The Pinnacles Walk takes you through the beautiful Kauaeranga Valley, past regenerating kauri forest and cascading waterfalls, and up to a popular hut and stunning viewpoint.
The Pinnacles Hut is one of New Zealand’s largest and (nicest) mountain huts—it has 80 bunks, plus amenities like cold showers and solar lighting. If you plan to stay at the hut, make sure to book ahead on the DOC website—bookings are required at all times, and there’s an on-site warden who will check your booking on arrival.
Whether or not you choose to stay in the hut, however, you’ll want to make your way up to the pinnacles viewpoint. The viewpoint is about another 40 minutes past the hut and sits at 759m. At the viewpoint, you’ll see jagged rock formations and amazing views over the Coromandel Peninsula.
Tip: If you stay in the Pinnacles Hut, make sure to head to the pinnacles viewpoint for sunrise and/or sunset, for a real treat of a view with incredible golden hour lighting.
Sample Coromandel Road Trip Itineraries
- 2-3 Days on a Coromandel road trip: Stay in Hahei or Hot Water Beach. Day trip to Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach, Lonely Bay, and/or New Chums Beach.
- 5 Days on a Coromandel road trip: Spend 2 nights in Waihi Beach or Whangamata/Opoutere and 3 nights in Hahei or Hot Water Beach.
- 7 Days on a Coromandel road trip: Spend 2 nights in Waihi Beach, 2 nights in Whangamata/Opoutere, and 3 nights in Hahei or Hot Water Beach.
- 10 Days on a Coromandel road trip: Do everything in this guide! (Give or take the Pinnacles track, depending on if you want an overnight hike or not)
If you’re wanting to…
- See the “must-do” Coromandel attractions: Go to Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove, and New Chum’s Beach. Base yourself in Hahei.
- Camp and relax by the beach: Head straight to Opoutere Coastal Camping, and spend your time there.
- Visit off-the-beaten-path beaches: Check out Homunga Bay, Pokohino Beach, and/or Lonely Bay Beach.
- Go walking/hiking: Visit the Karangahake Gorge, Coromandel Coastal Walkway, and/or Pinnacles Walk.
We hope this guide has helped you plan your road trip to the Coromandel Peninsula. Whether you visit all of the places on this list or just one of them, you’re sure to have a great time exploring the Coromandel.
Happy road tripping!
Where to Adventure Next?
- If you can’t get enough of white sand beaches, head down to Mount Maunganui. Don’t miss the climb up to the top of Mauo!
- Did you enjoy soaking in geothermal waters at Hot Water Beach? Then the hot pools around Taupo and Rotorua may be calling your name.
- For more turquoise water—this time of the river variety—make your way to the Te Waihou Walkway (Putaruru Blue Springs) for a magical little hike. Hobbiton isn’t too far away, either, so why not pay a visit to the Shire while you’re at it?
- If you loved the Coromandel and are also planning to visit the South Island, consider visiting Golden Bay and Abel Tasman National Park. Here, you’ll find more stunning beaches with crystal-clear waters and lush native forest.