Your Guide to Coromandels' Beaches
I missed a few of the best beaches in the Coromandel purely because I hadn't pre-planned our drive and the beaches aren't well signposted, which I don't want you to do too! So here's your guide to getting around, and making sure you make the most of what this fabulous region has to offer :)
You will need some form of transport here - for backpackers and other tourists, you may want to rent a car as most of the beaches are fairly spread out! In Thames or Waihi (depending which way you are approaching the Coromandel) pick up a map and booklet in the info center - waaaay more detailed than your normal map. We traveled from Thames to Waihi, so that's the way I'll explain it!
Thames to Coromandel Town
From Thames, the first bay you will reach is Thornton Bay. A pretty little settlement and the beach is lined with stunning Pohutakawa trees - visit in December and you will see why they are called New Zealands' Christmas Tree! This is just a small part of the 'Pacific Coast Highway' and it is all very photogenic. For some picturesque blue-bay shots, stop off at Te Kouma Bay, Manaia Harbour or for a snack in Coromandel Town. This small town is well renowned for it's art scene - check out the local galleries if you think of yourself as a bit of an art buff! Only a few kilometers up the road is Oamaru Bay, and at low tide you can walk across the sand flats to Long Bay or Shelley Beach. From Coromandel Town you have the choice of taking the shortcut to Whitianga, or take the scenic drive around the top of the Peninsula (tip - take the scenic route!)
Off the beaten track - go for a drive to these remote but superb beaches
Keeping on the road north, you will come to some fantastic walking tracks that include the aptly named Stony Bay and Sandy Bay, and Fletcher Bay. Sandy Bay is only reachable by foot, so pack some good shoes as well as your towel. On the other side of the Peninsula, and a wee drive out is Kennedy Bay and New Chum Beach, the latter of which was voted as one of the top twenty beaches in the world! It is one of the last completely undeveloped beaches on the Peninsula, and it's another to pack your shoes for since access is limited to walkers and boaties. Still hungry for more? Otama and Opito Bay are both are stunning white sand, low population beaches ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
Use Whitianga as your base
This is a great little town, and is a great place to stay for a few days. From here you can relax on Buffalo Beach (the main beach in Mercury Bay) or take the ferry across the river and explore the walkways to Flaxmill Bay, Shakespeare Cliffs, Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach. The Shakespeare Cliffs walk gives a great 360 degree view of Mercury Bay and the above beaches. How about learning how to paddleboard in Flaxmill Bay? Or a sailing trip around the bays? A sunrise kayak trip to Cathedral Cove? The sailing trip will give you great views and information about the Cove, Te Hoho Rock, Stingray and Gemstone Bay, and a greater appreciation for the beautiful marine reserve and its' inhabitants.
Day trips to the beaches further down are great - make sure you stop off and do the iconic Cathedral Cove walk and see beautiful Hahei Beach, and visit famous Hot Water Beach. To enjoy the hot water you need to go within 2 hours either side of low tide, otherwise the hot spring is under the sea and you can't dig a pool (this is what we found out the hard way). However, if you do mess up the times, you can still feel the heat under the sand (it was overcast!) and get lukewarm water if you dig down a few inches.
Tairua, Pauanui, Whangamata & Waihi
These places all have one thing in common - surfing! The beaches range from one of New Zealands' safest beaches, to breaks only for the experienced. But they all have a good rep for good surf, and draw lots of surfies from the nearby towns and cities (so you could always just pack your sunnies and have a sneaky perve!). If you aren't into surfing, Tairua has towering Mount Paku which offers 360 degree views of the nearby towns and beaches - great for photography. For more stunning photography opportunities, Whangamata and Whiritoa beaches are both beautiful. I want to head back to Tairua for the diving - I've heard that the Poor Knights Islands Marine Reserve is the best for diving in NZ! Another for the to-do list..... Any who! For bird enthusiasts, head to Opoutere beach, where more than 49 different migratory species congregate after their journeys from afar. If you want a low-key and relaxed family holiday, head to Onemana for a gentle and safe beach, fishing, walks and and many rock pools to explore.
There's a lot of beauty in this small region of New Zealand - in it's scenery, and it's people. The relaxed lifestyle of the locals means that they are habitually happy and can't wait to show you around their pride and joy - their special part of the country. If you have a soft spot for nature, sea and sand or intriguing local history, the Coromandel will keep you busy until you leave and wanting to come straight back!
Have you visited any of these places? Or maybe you have your own favorite places in the world.... Where's your favorite beach? Or region of great beaches?