48 Hours in the Coromandel
By Courtney Jarrett
There’s no denying that the Coromandel Peninsula, located just 2 ½ hours drive from Auckland, is good for your soul. With all its towns and beaches it’s easy to spend a weekend exploring and getting lost, with something to do around every corner. To make the most of your time, we’ve put together the best way to spend 48 hours on the Peninsula, soaking up the sites and the sounds, and realising that The Coromandel is so much more than just its iconic coastlines.
Leave Auckland early evening and take the scenic road south through Kaiaua, stopping for an old fashioned feed of fish and chips at the Kaiaua Fisheries before the journey around the firth of Thames and up to Coromandel Town.
The drive to Coromandel Town is slow and windy, but it’s picturesque views and beaches filled with sleeping Oyster Catchers will keep you amused throughout your drive.
Rest your head at the Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park, a cheerful location with accommodation to suit everyone, from camp and caravan sites, to family-sized motel rooms. Arriving at night isn’t an issue, the red, green and purple glow of the front office will let you know when you’ve arrived.
After a night’s rest, venture in to town and stop off at The Chai Tea House on the main road for a light breakfast and the best coffee Coromandel Town has to offer.
After breakfast, make your way to the Driving Creek Railway, a true gem of the area. The railway was designed and built by local artist Barry Brickell, who built it to bring clay down from the hills for his handcrafted pottery.
New Zealand natives surround the railway, set on 22ha over land; Barry has lovingly planted over 27,000 of them.
The one-hour return ride will wind you up to the top of his property, taking in breathtaking scenic views at the top, and hundreds of Barry’s works of art along the way.
Once you’re off the train, be sure to stop by the shop where you can pick up pieces from local and international artists, all made at the on site pottery.
From here, grab a bite of lunch at the Mussel Kitchen, and make your way along the 309 Road to Whitianga.
There are plenty of stops to make along the way. Be careful with the drive as much of the road is gravel. In particular, watch out for wild pigs wandering across some sections of the road. When you find the pigs, you’ve found Stu’s Wild Pig Farm, where he keeps over 100 wild pigs, along with chickens, peacocks and much more. Watch your step when wandering around, and be sure to wear shoes…
The next stop on your 309 journey is The Waterworks, a water garden turned theme park which uses recycled materials to turn just about anything into a water pump, or a water gun. It’s a great stop on a warm day, but be careful with any non-water proof items, you never know what will happen when you pull a lever.
Just past the Waterworks is the entrance to the Castle Rock walk. The view from the top is breathtaking, but it is a hefty one-hour walk to the top, so be prepared with sturdy footwear, water, and sun protection.
Cool off after your walk with a dip in the pool at the bottom of the Waiau Falls, located a couple of kilometres further down the 309 Road, then follow this up with a quick ten minute walk to the Kauri Grove. Stand amongst these gentle giants and be awed by their size and strength, just be sure to clean your shoes when you leave – New Zealand’s beautiful Kauri are at risk of catching a die-back disease.
The rest of the 309 Road is a cruisy drive to the edge of Whitianga town. Here we suggest staying at the Marlin Apartments. Located right across the road from Whitianga beach, the apartments offer everything from an almost-full-sized family home, to comfortable one-bedroom apartments. Your host, Viv, will make you feel right at home and you’ll fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
With a long day coming to an end it’s time to soak away your stresses at The Lost Spring, a thermal oasis of hot pools ranging from 33-42 degrees Celsius. If you’re feeling decadent, enjoy a pampering session at The Lost Spring Spa, or dine poolside with food from the restaurant.
Grab a bite to eat at The Harbour House Café the next morning, and then head to Whitianga Wharf to meet Justin from Ocean Leopard Tours. He’ll take you on ‘The Full Monty’ tour, a coastal cruise stopping at Cooks Beach, Hahei, the famed Cathedral Cove, and the dark depths of the Orua Cave. Justin spent his childhood exploring the area, and his love for the coast is obvious through his vast knowledge and pride in the area.
If you’re heading back to Auckland after this, you’re best to take the road through Tairua, stopping for a beer and some fries at the Hot Water Brewing Co. If that doesn’t hit the spot, the Tairua Bakery at the southern end of Tairua is sure to fill you up before your drive back.
If you’re driving back two hours either side of high tide, you’ll want to stop at the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, where a 45-minute walk will lead you to the feeding grounds of hundreds of native and immigrant shorebirds.
While you’re there, why not stop for another spot of fish and chips – it is New Zealand after all…
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