Coromandel, the gem of New Zealand

I only had one day in the Coromandel Peninsula, but I was astounded by the natural beauty I found in my short time there.

Due East of Auckland, it’s a popular weekend getaway for those living in the city, and a great place to find isolation, tropical weather and alluring beaches.

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It’s where the famous Cathedral Cove is located as well as Hot Water Beach, just spending the day driving around the area was enticing in itself.

We left from Wellington at 4am with a full car of mostly Kiwis to tackle the 8+ hour drive and to still have enough daylight to see what we wanted to see for the day.

We were dropping off a couple of friends in Whitianga, and therefore had a local guide to tell us a bit about the area and where to go. It was superb.

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From personal experience, if you’re short on time and only have about 5 hours in Coromandel, this is how I would spend a half day in the gem of New Zealand.

Paeroa

A small town at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula, it was put on the map with the popular L&P drinks found and loved everywhere in New Zealand.

L&P stands for Lemon & Paeroa, and combines lemon juice with the carbonated mineral water from the town. Paeroa is where the huge L&P bottle is located, a perfect photo opportunity for the start of your road trip up through the Peninsula.

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Somehow even with the amount of time I’ve spent in New Zealand, I still hadn’t tried L&P until I reached Paeroa. I made sure to take my first sip in front of the iconic bottle just to make it that much more special.

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove, also known as Te Whanganui-a-hei Marine Reserve, has become a major tourist attraction, and especially in the high season and during holidays, it gets very busy.

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There’s a reason for all of this attention, of course, it’s perhaps one of the most picturesque spots in New Zealand, and that’s saying a lot when you’re talking about New Zealand.

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Cathedral Cove is inaccessible by car. There’s a 30 minute trail to get down to the cove from the nearest carpark, or you’ll have to take a boat or kayak in from the sea.

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During high season, you usually have to park at the bottom of a huge hill to take a shuttle up to the start of the trail, because the carpark at the top of the hill is tiny and fills up fast.

Luckily, since we had a local in the car, she was able to talk a ritzy family into letting us park on their lawn right near the top of the hill.

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We spent an hour swimming and exploring the charming cove, and I know at least for me, it was a perfect way to start my 3 weeks traveling around the country.

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But enough about what I thought of the cove, I think the pictures speak for themselves.

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Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach is located just 10 minutes form Cathedral Cove, and is just as beautiful and touristy as the latter. During low tide, hoards of tourists come to essentially dig their own hot tubs from the natural hot pools found underneath the sandy surface.

It’s important to find the right balance between the cold ocean water and the scalding temperatures of the hot pools (sometimes as high as 147°F). Visitors dig their own pools with spade and shovel and add in ocean water to lower the temperature to their comfort.

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Not realizing just how hot these hot pools are, I ended up burning my feet a couple of times while walking between other pools, so exercise caution when walking around.

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Make sure to enjoy your time at Hot Water Beach to the fullest by arriving at the beach two hours on either side of low tide times, and probably a bit earlier during the high season because it fills up quickly. There’s only a small section at the southern part of the beach that has the natural hot pools, so space is a minimum.

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I personally enjoyed simply walking along the long abandoned stretches of the beach that were devoid of tourists. That to me, having the picturesque beach to myself, was an attraction in itself.

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Hot Water Brewing

Never one to pass up trying a taste of the local craft beer, when we saw a sign for a place called Hot Water Brewing on our way back to the start of the peninsula, we made a pit stop and bought some takeaway cans for the remainder of the drive.

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Crisp, refreshing, and perfect on a hot summer’s day, we were impressed with the local brews.

My boyfriend liked them so much he even ordered some in stock for the bar we work at back in Wellington, so now I get to recommend a relatively unheard of brewery to customers and enjoy them myself.

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Honestly, I wrote this piece as a general overview of an area I was very much impressed with, but of course, this only brushes the surface. There are countless beaches, rugged forests abound, kauri trees, hiking trails, and bountiful snorkeling and kayaking on hand in the peninsula, and I can’t wait to go back to the region to explore it more in depth someday, I hope you will too.

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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