The Coromandel Peninsula is an 85 km long natural barrier between the Pacific Ocean and the Firth of Thames. Up to 40 kms wide, it is generally a narrow strip of rugged hill country with beautiful beaches and a number of resort towns. Several large Kauri trees can be seen in the forests of the Coromandel and plenty of mining relics remain there.
Thames was originally two small Gold towns that have combined, and the golden heritage can be checked out at the local Thames Museum, and the School of Mines & Mineralogical Museum. An underground goldmine experience is offered in the town at Goldmine Experience. Hikers and campers seek out the magnificent Kauaeranga Valley (aka Pinnacles Walk) behind the town for outings, while cyclists follow the Hauraki Rail Trail, an old converted rail line. This 173 km easy-grade ride goes through Paeroa to Te Aroha and Matamata or Waihi. Heading nor-west it accesses Miranda and Kaiaua around the coast of the Firth of Thames.
2. Coromandel Town
Named after the ship HMS Coromandel that transported Kauri spars from this area in 1820 for use by the British Navy, this town has been through a Gold Rush and all the associated boom of population explosion and gold fever. The last stamper battery in the country is still functional and working daily in Coromandel today. The remaining Victorian homes are treasured by the large artisan people who live in Coromandel today. Just out of town is Waterworks, a theme park with water-powered attractions and loads of fun. Just north of Coromandel Town, the Driving Creek Railway is a great way to see inland Coromandel with a scenic rail journey through the forested mountains and sea views.
3. Whitianga & Mercury Bay
The biggest town on the Coromandel after Thames, Whitianga is the base for all types of water sports and activities. Mercury Bay Museum is a compact, but informative museum featuring the History of Fishing, and other local information. Originally a timber town when trees, particularly Kauri, were the prime crop of the area, today seafood is the product of choice. In September, the Scallop Festival is a seafood and wine extravaganza not to be missed. The beautiful waters and marine life off the coast can be viewed by Glass Bottom Boat. A hidden gem in the area is the Mill Creek Bird & Animal Encounters, an attraction that is a morphed zoo, wildlife park and farm, with, among other animals, over 400 birds.
The Old Stone Wharf here is believed to be the oldest wharf still in use in the country. It was built in 1837 using large chunks of stone without mortar, and have stood the test of time in the tidal currents for 180 years. Nearby is the Shakespeare Cliff Reserve, an area of amazing scenery and rock formations, with plenty of walking trails and picnic spots. Cooks Beach itself is a lovely spot.
5. Hahei / Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is one of the go-to places in the Coromandel, and it is reached from Hahei Beach. Fringed by Pohutukawa, like many Coromandel beaches, this shore is sheltered and suitable for swimming and fishing. Photographer's favourite, Cathedral Cove is considered to be one of the most beautiful spots on the Coromandel, with the eye-catching rock formations, coves and natural arches. Boating and other water activities are popular in the area, particularly at Gemstone Beach, with marine life being plentiful and glorious to observe while snorkelling or diving. As much of the area is Marine Reserve be careful exactly where you try fishing.
6. Hot Water Beach
Appropriately named, Hot Water Beach has the novelty of hot water not far beneath the surface of the sand. By digging in the exposed sand during the time around low tide, you can make yourself a natural warm bath or spa. Glow-worms can often be seen on the walkway to the beach in night-time hours.
7. Tairua / Pauanui
A quiet harbour and a wild surf beach, both handy, and the option of offshore deep-sea fishing and diving means that this area gives you the choice of all sort of seashore activities. Ashore there are walking trails and several mountains to climb for amazing views if you desire the challenge. Both Mt Paku and Mt Pauanui have trails to the summits.
Heading back south, the beach resort of Whangamata is a base for swimming and surfing, as well as tramping in the Coromandel Forest Park. What about taking a kayak to Hauturu Island, or wading out at low tide to explore rock pools? Alternate beaches can be found at Opoutere, Onemana and Whiritoa. Nearby Broken Hills is a former gold town, now overgrown with bushland, and with plenty of walking tracks and old mines, and the Luck at Last Mine Walk is a great way to view old mining relics.
At the base of the Coromandel Peninsula, the gold town of Waihi is still producing gold, so visit the Waihi Gold Discovery Centre to find out about the town's history. Descend into a mine and watch the workings and walk the rim of the Martha Mine, a fully operational silver and gold mine. The Karangahake Gorge is a spectacular drive through the gold-bearing area with numerous walkways allowing close looks at the ruins of the gold mining region. Old tunnels, swing-bridges, battery sites and other relics are waiting to be discovered. Another way of viewing the Gorge is the Goldfields Vintage Railway, a trip from Waihi to Waikino.
Paeroa is easily identified by the giant 7m Lemon & Paeroa bottle in the main street. L & P is a favourite soda drink in New Zealand, made with water from the Paeroa area since 1907. Take a 'selfie' with the bottle and try the real thing. This town is also home to the Maritime Museum, with the history of this inland port which was active during the gold rush era, and the PS Kopu is moored here for visitors to enjoy.
Thames Museum Adult $5 Child $2
Thames School of Mines & Mineralogy Museum Adult $10 Child $3.50
Goldmine Experience Adult $15 Child $5
Waterworks Adult $22 Child $18
Driving Creek Railway Adult $35 Child $13
Mercury Bay Museum Adult $7.50 Child $6
Glass Bottom Boat, Whitianga Adult $95 Child $60
Mill Creek Bird & Animal Encounters Adult $10 Child $3
Waihi Gold Discovery Adult $25 Child $13
Mine Tours Adult $36 Child $18
Goldfields Vintage Railway Adult one way $15 return $20 child one way $10 return $12
Paeroa Maritime Museum Adult $5 Child $2
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