On the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island lies the Coromandel Peninsula, the base of which is roughly a two-hour drive from away Auckland (traffic dependent!). This area is lush and green, with fern trees galore – and some of the best white sand beaches in the country. It feels like a semi-tropical paradise here, with the sky and sea contending for the most perfect shade of aquamarine blue. Here are some of our picks for a couple of nights on the lower part of the Coromandel Peninsula:
Hot Water Beach Holiday Park: book one of the New Zealand timber cabins; there are options for ensuite units or more affordable ones with shared bathrooms. There are also campsites available if you want to pitch a tent or park your campervan for the night. This holiday park is within walking distance to Hot Water Beach, and you can hire shovels (for digging your hot pool) from the front desk for $5 each.
Tatahi Lodge: This laid-back hostel has great vibes and beautiful grounds – the gardens here are just lovely. There are plenty of different options here, from shared hostel dorm-bed rooms to private units. Within walking distance to Hahei beach and a couple of good places to eat.
The Church: For a bit more of a splurge, stay at this cool spot, built around a reconstructed early-1900s church and specialising in private cottages amidst native bush. While we haven’t had the chance to try their on-site restaurant, we’ve heard great things about it.
EAT + DRINK //
There is almost a mini “brew trail” of sorts in this area – there are at least three awesome spots we know of that are crafting excellent beers & ciders along with great food (and other beverages of course!). Here are our picks:
Purangi Winery: Wash down one of the delicious wood-fired pizzas with a glass of their home-brewed feijoa cider or liqueurs – the proprietor of this establishment is also an absolute legend with an endless supply of good jokes and banter. (Currently under reconstruction – watch their space as they are soon moving to a beautiful new location promising epic views!)
Pour House: Another great place for pizzas and in-house-brewed craft beer. They have an excellent outdoor seating area with a fire pit for cold days.
Hot Water Brewing Co: Grab a burger and one of their delicious beers – best enjoyed while playing a game of jenga. 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.
There are so many incredible outdoor places just packed into this small area!
Hot Water Beach: This is an absolutely stunning beach in of itself – but the main attraction here is the geothermal water which lies beneath the beach’s white sands, which allows you to literally dig your own beachside spa tub at low tide. Understandably, this is a must-do on many travellers’ itineraries, so expect to see other people here (sometimes in masses). Here are a few tips for enjoying this place 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 which contains the hot water. When we first went to Hot Water Beach, 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 ocean – about 200 metres 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 big shovels (AKA spades) – you’ll need them to make your spa pool.
- Go in the morning, when low tide is super early! 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.
- 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.
Cathedral Cove: Arguably one of New Zealand’s most beautiful beaches, Cathedral Cove sure is a stunner, with its grandiose rock formations, bright blue water and impeccable sands. As with Hot Water Beach, don’t expect to find solitude – there will be other people there. That being said, if you go early in the morning (i.e. for sunrise), there will be way less people here than during the day. It’s a 40-60-minute moderately lung-busting walk to get here, but it’s a beautiful paved trail with sweeping views and is so well worth it!
Lonely Bay: After the hustle and bustle of Hot Water Beach & Cathedral Cove, this beach is a hidden slice of happiness. This is a great place to bring a picnic, a couple of beers, and lots of time to chill, swim, and admire the heaps of shells that seem to wash up here. There are rarely many other people here, so finding a peaceful patch of sand should be no problem. It takes 5-10 minutes to walk down to the beach along a staircase set in the bush.
Hahei Pā walk: This is a great 15-minute walk up to a historic Ngati Hei pā (a fortified Māori settlement where warriors could keep an eye out for invaders). At the top of the hill you’ll be met with sweeping ocean views dotted with all of the little islands that characterise this area.
- We recommend grabbing any groceries on your way in to the Hahei area – there are just a couple of small convenience stores in the area with a small and expensive selection.
- There is a great park in Tirau, which is a small town you’ll pass on the way if you’re coming from or going to Auckland. It is an exercise park and has some seriously fun equipment – a great place to stretch your legs after being in the car for a while (and to pretend like you’re a kid again!).
- If you love roadside produce stands like we do, be sure to stop at the sweet little honesty stand in Whenuakite. It’s just before you pass Hot Water Brewing Co (on the right side of the road if driving north).