From the tropical rainforests and white-sand beaches of the far north to the glacier-strewn coasts and soaring mountains of the south, New Zealand’s landscapes leave little to be desired for any traveller. The Coromandel is a beautiful region among endlessly beautiful regions and is just one of many incredible places to spend a day (or a few) admiring the verdant greenery that mother nature has blessed upon New Zealand.
The Coromandel truly is nature’s playground, with natural gorges, rainforests, and beaches all on the table for adventures. There’s so much to see it would be impossible to get through it all in a day, let alone a week if you’re really an intrepid explorer, but here’s where to start.
Karangahake, south of the Coromandel Forest Park, isn’t technically in the Coromandel but with suspension bridges over the river and a disused gold mine to clamber around – not to mention the eerie kilometre-long tunnel – it is one of the area’s most fabulous sights. Take the shortest route, the Karangahake Tunnel loop (45 minutes), which will take you along the river gorge’s sublime surrounds, past trickling waterfalls and through the tunnel itself, bringing you out onto an iron bridge after a long walk through the almost pitch-black tunnel (bring a torch!).
Whangamata Beach and Whenuakura
Voted New Zealand’s best beach in 2018, Whangamata is a veritable playground for watersports of all kinds, from surfing to stand-up paddleboarding. Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as Donut Island) is an absolute must-see – once one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets, this lush paradise is now rife for exploring. Find a local company who run paddleboard or kayak tours and head out into this idyllic island group – you’ll enter through a 40-foot cave and emerge into the centre of the ‘donut’, an emerald lagoon surrounded by swaying flora. The castaway vibes combined with the spiritual aura of the place – it is the ancestral home of the first Polynesians to occupy the area – make this quite the experience.
Wentworth Valley Waterfall
Not far from Whangamata is the Wentworth Valley, a native forest with picturesque walks and several waterfalls to gaze at. During the easy hour round-trip walk from the Wentworth Campsite, tree-lined tracks take you past two disused mine shafts and right to the edge of the cascading Wentworth Falls. If the weather is kind to you, a refreshing (read: chilly) dip in the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls might be in order before you head back.
For the serious hikers among you (a.k.a., the person I dream of being), reaching the peak of The Pinnacles will be a worthwhile triumph, made all the more rewarding by the panoramic vistas it affords; all the way out to the Firth of Thames and the Bay of Plenty. If you’re fit enough, the eight-hour loop can be done in one day, but staying overnight in the Pinnacles Hut might make the experience even more magical, allowing you to wake up in the high-altitude mist surrounded by the call of native kiwi birds.
Hot Water Beach
A spot which seriously shouldn’t be missed, for four hours a day Hot Water Beach turns from a normal – though still beautiful, this is New Zealand after all – beach, to your own personal spa. Head here with a spade during the two hours either side of low tide and dig yourself a hot tub; soon enough thermal waters will bubble up from the ground, filling your DIY Jacuzzi. Be sure to get here early though – only a 20-square-metre area of the beach has these magical properties, so get there sharpish and claim your space.
Accessible only on foot or by kayak, Cathedral Cove sits north of Hot Water Beach, near the town of Hahei. The Cove is a two-hour round trip walk from the main car park, which is stunning in itself, winding through pines towards the cove. Gaze up at the arch’s smooth rock above you while the waters of the pacific lap at your toes, with Te Hoho Rock making quite the spectacle further along the beach. Take your time to enjoy this lovely sight – heading here for sunset makes it all the more spectacular – before walking back with the sea lapping at the cliffs alongside you.