While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
Mention the words Coromandel Peninsula and images of mist laden rainforests and sweeping white sand beaches instantly spring to mind. As do yoga retreats. When alternative lifestyles became fashionable in the 1970s, many hippies moved out of Auckland and headed east to the untamed Coromandel.
They had the right idea. It’s a perfect place to retreat to – especially in the warmer months, when your choice of things to do in Coromandel includes walks in the kauri forests, fishing, or just relaxing on an unspoiled beach.
The peninsula’s population is small and dotted in little pockets around the coastal areas. The main towns are Thames and Coromandel on the west side, and Whitianga on the east.
It’s easy to get around the Coromandel as it’s not that big – and sometimes has surprising shortcuts. The ferry from Cooks Beach to Whitianga takes just 5 minutes, while the road journey takes 40 to 45 minutes. This is all part of the mysterious nature of the place – you never know what you’ll find around the corner or what someone has been inspired to build.
Lost Spring Spa
Case in point is the Lost Spring Spa in Whitianga. Situated in an unassuming street surrounded by houses, lies a tropical geo-thermal paradise complete with luxury hot pools, caves and a steaming volcano – all lovingly hand sculpted!
Lost Spring is the vision of local man Alan Hopping, who decided to dig up his backyard to access the hot water spring flowing beneath and create a Day Spa. A visit here is a perfect retreat for relaxing on your vacation.
Massages and beauty treatments are available here, but you can also just swim in the hot pools or go for a wander through the shady palm-fringed walkways. After a few hours of relaxation in the pools, a massage and perhaps a snack at the café, you’ll be thanking Alan for digging up his backyard and opening it to the public.
Driving Creek Railway
Another alternative thinker is Barry Brickell, a potter near Coromandel township. Barry created the Driving Creek Railway in 1975 so he could collect clay and pine wood fuel for his kiln.
Now, his train ride on New Zealand’s only narrow-gauge railway is one of the most popular train rides in the country.
The hour-long ride is a feat of engineering, winding through native kauri trees, traversing several viaducts and ducking into 3 tunnels. The train ends up at a mountain top lookout, humorously named, the ‘Eyefull Tower.’
From here, passengers certainly get an eye full of stunning scenic views across the Hauraki Gulf. The trains – Possum, Snake and Linx – are custom designed and have special safety features to accommodate the steep twists and turns of the railway – even if it seems a bit hair-raising in parts, it’s all perfectly safe!
Hot Water Beach
One attraction the Coromandel can take credit for that isn’t man-made is the phenomenon of Hot Water Beach.
Situated a 5 minute drive from Hahei on the east coast, this lovely white sand beach is a natural geothermal site – and considered to be one of the top things to do – if your time it right.
Two hours either side of low tide, you can dig your own hot pool or – if you’re feeling really lazy – hop into one that’s already been dug! The trick is to get the pool to the right temperature by letting the cold sea water mix with the hot spring water that bubbles up through the sand.
The beach is definitely one of the Coromandel’s must-dos if you’re in the area, and is always a popular spot with locals and tourists alike.
One of the most popular walks in the Coromandel is to Cathedral Cove, just a 5 minute drive from Hot Water Beach, or accessed via the western end of Hahei Beach.
The beautiful cove and its limestone arch may look familiar. They were featured in the movie Prince Caspian as the place where the Pevensie children magically re-enter into Narnia.
Although it would be nice to be instantly transported, in reality, the Cathedral Cove walk takes about 2 hours round trip so you’ll need to make sure you bring water, snacks and wear good walking shoes.
If you enjoy walking, you’ll find many other easy trails among the things to do in Coromandel. You’ll have your choice of trails that will take you through rivers, kauri forests, marine reserves and other areas of natural interest.
The Coromandel is definitely a place where you can relax and re-energize in natural surroundings. A few days here and you’ll feel like you’ve had a week’s vacation. If you love the outdoors and getting back to basics, then you’ll quickly fall under the spell of this unique and special place.