The Coromandel is one of those destinations that constantly surprises you with its sheer number of beautiful things to see and do. From hiking through the rugged, mountainous interior, the peaceful, pristine beaches lining the coast, there’s a reason the Coromandel is such a popular go-to destination for locals.
We love to explore the Coromandel and always find new hidden gems and secluded spots. Read on to find out everything you need to do when visiting the Coromandel!
Things to Do in The Coromandel
1. Watch the Sunrise at Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove is located in Hahei and is found at the end of a beautiful coastal walk that winds along the cliff and dips down into multiple bays.
Cathedral Cove is one of these bays, and is one of the best places in Coromandel to watch the sunrise. So much so that it has become extremely popular with photographers. Despite this, if you make your way there before the sun rises, you can expect to have the beach mostly to yourself. It’s a magical experience and well worth foregoing a sleepin.
If you’re not a morning person, it’s still worth doing and the walk is beautiful, but we’ve heard it gets extremely busy!
2. Go on a Glass Bottom Boat Cruise
There’s no better way to explore the beautiful bays around Whitianga in the Coromandel than by boat. Get out on the water and visit coastal islands, hidden beaches and sea caves.
A glass bottom boat cruise is a popular way to explore this stunning, volcanic region. It’s a somewhat gimmick-y, but effective way to see the diverse marine life beneath the ocean’s surface. This stunning tour also includes opportunities to go snorkelling and see dolphins.
3. Hike to the Top of The Pinnacles
We’re confident that The Pinnacles is one of the best Coromandel walks, and there are many to choose from. This challenging hike is almost entirely up hill with significant elevation gain over a few hours.
However, those who dare the climb can expect to be rewarded with commanding views over the entire Coromandel region from the top.
Bear in mind, the hike to the hut is fairly difficult, but the final section to the peak is particularly difficult with some basic rock climbing elements involved. We’d highly recommend spending a night in the hut (remember to book well in advance). The sunrise from the top is one of the best we’ve ever seen.
4. Go Ziplining
Ziplining is the best way to explore the native forests of the Coromandel, from high up in the trees themselves. Coromandel Zipline Tours is a reputable, charitable organisation that offers eight ziplines spanning more than 2,300 feet.
As one of the best adventure activities in Coromandel, a zipline adventure through the area is a must-do. And to top it off, you can feel like you’re doing your part to support conservation in this beautiful area.
5. Dig Your Own Hot Tub at Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is one of the most famous attractions in the Coromandel, with thousands of tourists flocking here during peak periods. As a result, the beach can get crowded and finding a good spot can be difficult.
Despite this, Hot Water Beach is well worth visiting. It’s a fun activity for families, kids, couples and all types of travellers. We just recommend checking the tides to find out the right time to be there, and arriving early to avoid disappointment.
You’ll need to dig around in the sand to find the warm spots (bring a spade) and be prepared to share your water / pool with strangers.
6. Cycle the Hauraki Rail Trail
The Hauraki Rail Trail is a 197km trail through the Coromandel and offers some of the most scenic and impressive views in New Zealand. The trail is divided into five sections, ranging from 23-55km and is a grade 1, easiest, trail.
This means the trail is suitable for anyone who can get on a bike, with options to just cycle for 1-3 hours or 5 days.
7. Relax on New Chums Beach
New Chums Beach is a beautiful, secluded beach located further along the Coromandel coast. It also involves about 1 hour of walking to get to and from the beach which helps to thin the crowds.
This is certainly one of the best free things to do in Coromandel, and frequently makes lists as one of the best beaches in the world (sometimes even topping them). Lonely Planet even named New Chums as one of the best beaches in New Zealand.
It’s usually best to visit at low tide, but if you don’t mind wet feet it can be done at high tide. Also consider going early to catch the sunrise from a popular lookout point along the track.
8. Hike to the top of Mount Paku
The Mount Paku Summit walk is an extremely short but steep walk located near Tairua.
It’s a short walk, but be prepared for a bit of a workout to get to the top. Once you make the summit, you’ll be rewarded with views that far surpass what you’d expect from most other short walks. The reward to effort tradeoff for Mount Paku is huge.
9. Explore The Waterworks
If you’re on the hunt for neat places in Coromandel, then The Waterworks is for you. Set in 5-acres of native, Coromandel bush, The Waterworks is a water-driven amusement park with over 70 attractions.
It’s a classic example of kiwi ingenuity and a fun place to visit in Coromandel with kids. Adult tickets are $25 and kids are $20 – a bargain if it keeps the kids busy.
10. Go Fishing
The Coromandel is somewhat famous for its impressive fishing spots. No matter where you are, you’ll never be far from the water in the Coromandel, however, with spots like Amodeo Bay and Whangapoua, you can expect to catch some big ones.
Of course, your best bet is to bring a boat or charter one. Otherwise, rent a kayak and head out to a quiet bay. There are some great bays near land with good opportunities, but your best bet is to ask at the local bait shop.
11. Eat a Burger in Hahei
Hahei is our favourite town in the Coromandel and the best place to stay and set up base to explore many activities in the region. The town, however, is very small and despite the surging popularity doesn’t have a lot of dining options.
Well, when we discovered Serial Griller in the holiday park we felt saved. Saved from the average fish ‘n chips, Tip Top ice creams and Big Ben Pies. The smashed patty burgers here are next level and they earned a well deserved spot on this list.
12. Explore Whitianga
Whitianga is a beach town located on the eastern side of the Coromandel. It’s a bit more developed than smaller towns like Hahei which means you can expect a lot more shops, restaurants, bars and amenities to explore.
Consider staying here (although we prefer Hahei or quieter campgrounds) or spend a few hours wandering around. You’ll find that the best things to do in Whitianga actually lie in the surrounding areas and involve escaping the town, but it’s still a decent town.
13. Go on a Unique Train Ride at Driving Creek Railway
Driving Creek Railway is one of the Coromandel’s most popular attractions. For $37, you can ride through native forests of regenerating kauri, rimu and ferns on a colourful, narrow-gauge mountain train.
The driver tells interesting stories and shares the history of the region over 1 hour and 15 minutes. Along the way you can spot scenic views, native plants and quirky artworks.
14. Hike the Windows Walk in the Karangahake Gorge
Wander through historic gold mining tunnels and along tracks as you walk the short Windows Walk in the Karangahake Gorge. This historic walkway takes you through mining heritage sites with impressive views.
The track starts in a carpark in the stunning Karangahake Gorge, before winding up into the cliff of a valley, with windows looking out to the gorge below. The entire track takes up to 1-hour and is a good option for the drive back to Auckland.
15. Eat a Pie in Thames
This might not be one of the most romantic things to do in Coromandel, but eating pies is one of our favourite activities no matter where we are, and Thames is home to a lot of bakeries and cafes selling these delicious pockets of yum.
We tried a few, and our pick was Food for Thought Cafe on the main street. The pies are impressive. It’s weird, but the best pies in New Zealand always seem to be in random, little towns like Thames or Fairlie.
16. Climb to Shakespeare Cliff Lookout
The hike to the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout begins at the Ferry Landing, you can get here by taking the ferry from Whitianga. The walk itself takes about 1.5-hours and includes some incredible views.
The viewpoint itself at the top of Shakespeare Cliff offers majestic views out over the harbour. An easier option, which we took, is to drive straight to the lookout. The views are well worth a drive and a short walk, whichever way you choose to get there.
17. Stop at the Square Kauri Tree
A square kauri tree is one of the most unusual and unique things to do in the Coromandel, yet it’s a popular spot for tourists due to its location on the road that crosses from one side of the Coromandel to the other.
The square kauri tree is one of the oldest kauri trees in the Coromandel, estimated at around 1,200 years old. It has an unusual square trunk and is literally huge.
The track here is short and takes less than 20-minutes, it’s worth a stop off but perhaps don’t go too far out of your way to visit.
18. Visit Coromandel Town & Coromandel Beach
Coromandel town is a cool little town on the western coast of the Coromandel. In general, our preference is the eastern coast, but the beaches along the western side are known for some incredible sunsets and tend to be nicer in the evenings.
The Coromandel town is more-or-less a single street with a range of quirky and eclectic shops, as well as some decent restaurants, bars and cafes – Wharf Road is our favourite.
19. Swim in Waiau Falls
Waiau falls is an impressive waterfall found along the 309 road across the Coromandel. If you’re driving this road, a visit to these walls must be on your agenda. The walk from the carpark only takes about 3-minutes so you don’t really have an excuse.
The spot is beautiful and tucked away from the road amongst native bush and is a perfect spot for a picnic. It’s also deep enough to swim in, if you’re feeling brave. We dipped our feet in but changed our minds pretty quickly.
22. Visit Paeroa
Paeroa is a world-famous town acting as a gateway to the Coromandel and the entry point to the Karangahake gorge.
Paeroa has a lot going for it, not only having a rich history in gold mining, it’s also popular for walks, rock climbing, fishing and wine. But perhaps most well known, is the giant L&P bottle in the middle of town.
Paeroa is the town for which the popular kiwi drink, L&P (or Lemon & Paeroa is named after). This iconic drink has cult-like status in New Zealand and is enough a reason to stop off in Paeroa for cold one in itself.
21. Hike the Coromandel Coastal Walkway
The Coromandel is packed with some breathtaking walks, and one of our top ones is the Coromandel Coastal Walkway. One of New Zealand’s best coastal walks, the Coromandel Coastal Walkway weaves along mountain tops, carving a pathway between Stony Bay and Fletchers Bay in Northern Coromandel.
We recommend arranging transport to drop you off at the start and pick you up at the end as the track is one way. It will take around 3.5 hours with an easy gradient. Without transport at the end, you will need to either return along the same track or via the steep Coromandel mountain bike track.
22. Go Camping
Going camping is one of the best things to do in the Coromandel in summer. Thousands of Kiwis, especially Aucklanders, make their way to the numerous campsites dotted along the Coromandel’s stunning coastline to pitch their tent, set up a barbie and relax over a long weekend.
There’s really so many campsites to choose from. If you’re looking for some extra facilities, or if you’re travelling with kids, then picking a holiday park such as one of the Top 10 Holiday Parks is a great idea.
Conversely, if you’re willing to forego some luxuries in exchange for ditching the crowds, then the many DOC sites are likely to be your best bet. Stony Bay, Fletcher Bay and Port Jackson campsites on the northern tip are incredible options.
23. Make Your Way Out to Donut Island
Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary, more commonly called Donut Island, is a beautifully photogenic island with a famous emerald lagoon in the centre – hence the name.
Getting here is achieved by kayak and your best bet is to go with a certified guide through a tour operator. It’s important to ensure the conditions are suitable and that you have an adequate level of fitness to complete the paddle to and from Donut Island safely.
It’s important to remember that you must stay in the water and not touch, step on or disrupt the island.
The Coromandel is a popular tourist destination and as such has a wide variety of accommodation options, as well as places to stay.
In terms of where to stay in the Coromandel, our favourite place (especially for first timers) is Hahei. This side of the coast is much nicer and is closer to a lot of the best attractions.
In Hahei, we stayed at a cute accommodation called Tatahi Lodge. This place has a range of rooms to suit all budgets, as well as dorm rooms for backpackers. The location was absolutely perfect and the hosts were extremely helpful and lovely people.
Budget: Tatahi Cove
Mid-Range: Tatahi Lodge
Luxury: Pacific Views Holiday Home
How to Get to the Coromandel
Getting to the Coromandel is easy as, but you’ll of course need a car! Most people visit from Auckland, the drive from Auckland to Coromandel is about 2.5 hours, depending where in the Coromandel you are heading. If you are visiting from Tauranga, then the drive is also about 2.5 hours.
The Coromandel is a much larger place than it can appear on a map, with long windy roads making travel around the region slower than you might expect, especially if you’re heading to the northern tip. The drive from Coromandel to the tip is about 1.5 hours itself, so this can add quite a lot to your journey.