Mini Itinerary: 3 Days In The Coromandel

The Coromandel is where Kiwis holiday. There’s so much to see and do in the region that Kiwis return regularly to enjoy the beautiful beaches, stunning bushwalks, historic sites, and fun family activities.

Stretching up a bush-covered peninsula beside the Firth of Thames and Hauraki Gulf on the east coast of the North Island, The Coromandel is an area that’s rich in natural beauty as well as historic sites including gold mines and kauri dams.

Whether you’re escaping on a mini-break for a long weekend or looking for a getaway during the school holidays, our itinerary will give you inspiration for an amazing family trip. We’ve created an itinerary which starts and ends in Thames but as it’s a circular route you can pick it up at any point on the way. Do as many or as few of the suggestions as you please.

Refer to The Coromandel Destination Guide for more information on many of the attractions and activities.

Please note: Venue information was correct at the time of publication. Please check with individual venues for the latest opening dates, times, prices, etc, before making plans.

Getting there

The area known as The Coromandel encompasses both the 110km long Coromandel peninsula where you will find Thames, Whitianga, Pauanui, Tairua, and Coromandel Town, plus an area to the south including Whangamatā, Waihi, and Paeroa. Thames is approximately 1.5 hours drive from either Auckland or Hamilton and Coromandel Town is an additional hour from Thames.

The nearest airports are at Auckland and Hamilton. Or for a more relaxed way to travel, take the Fullers360 ferry from Downtown Auckland to Coromandel Town with a complimentary shuttle from the wharf to Coromandel Town. The ferry journey takes approximately 2 hours.

Getting around

There are several tour and shuttle operators running connections to The Coromandel, predominantly from Auckland. Car or campervan is the preferred method of travel to enable you to see many of the sights and activities that the region has to offer. Some of the roads are windy and others are unsealed so care is required but you won’t have to travel far to find somewhere new to explore. If you’re hiring transport, check your rental agreement regarding unsealed roads before planning your route.

Day 1

Your first day takes you into the heart of The Coromandel for some unique attractions and natural beauty.

Beginning in Thames, drive around an hour north along the stunning Thames Coast Road to Coromandel Town. Five minutes out of town is the Driving Creek Railway, a spectacular train ride on a narrow guage railway that winds its way up to the Eyeful Tower (geddit?) for amazing views of the Hauraki Gulf.

Head back down through Coromandel Town and pick up any supplies you need for your onward journey. Then travel five minutes south on State Highway 25 before turning off to the left on to the locally famous 309 Road. Immediately after the turning, stop at the Coromandel Mussel Kitchen for a lunch of fresh mussels and other seafood plus burgers, pizzas and selections for the kids.

Back on the 309 Road, drive on for around 5 minutes before you reach The Waterworks. This quirky theme park has an eco-friendly difference and offers super soaking fun for all with 70+ water-driven attractions and activities. Remember to pack the togs!

If you can drag the family away, it’s less than 5 minutes drive to the Waiau Falls Scenic Reserve with parking on the side of the road. Here you can see the beautiful Waiau Falls in a stunning bush setting and, if the weather is warm, it’s a great spot for a swim. Only a minute or two further along the road is the carpark for the Waiau Kauri Grove. The easy 30 minute return walk takes you through a towering grove of kauri trees.

Complete your 309 Road adventure by travelling just 30 minutes more to Whitianga, your stop for the night. Head down to the waterfront for dinner at Stoked Restaurant & Bar for pizzas, burgers, mouth-watering mains and fresh seafood dishes with a view of Mercury Bay.

Day 2

Your second day in The Coromandel explores the stunning coastline.

Start your day with breakfast at Cafe Coghill House and bring a selection of sweet and savoury baked treats along for the day’s adventures.

First up today is a never-to-be-forgotten 2 hour tour with Glass Bottom Boat Whitianga. Take in all the sights including marine life under the water through the glass viewing panels and stunning sights above water including the famous Cathedral Cove.

On your return, pop down the road to Espy Cafe for lunch and either chill out in the lounge/kids area or explore the waterfront playground over the road.

Leaving Whitianga, take State Highway 25 south and stop at Whiti Farm Park (just over 10 minutes drive). Here the kids (young and old) can hand-feed, cuddle and interact with over 40 farmyard and exotic animals, birds, and reptiles.

After saying goodbye to the farmyard friends, drive through Coroglen and then turn off onto Hot Water Beach Road. Follow the road to the beach parking areas. For two hours either side of low-tide you can join the other beachgoers on Hot Water Beach and dig your very own hot water pool! Be sure to bring a beach spade or two. If the timing isn’t right, see if the tide time works in the morning.

Tonight’s accommodation is in either Hot Water Beach or nearby Hahei (10 minutes drive). If you’re staying in Hot Water Beach, grab a Kiwi favourite from FNC’s Fish & Chips at the Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park. In Hahei, the The Pour House serves fish and chips too, plus pizzas, ribs and burgers in a family-owned craft brewery and restaurant.

Day 3

Today we head to the southern end of The Coromandel to enjoy more family-friendly attractions.

After breakfast at your accommodation, rejoin State Highway 25 and head 1.5 hours south to the gold mining town of Waihi. Whangamatā and Whiritoa Beaches are great places to stop along the way if you need to stretch the legs or take in some sea air. In Waihi, make your way to the Gold Discovery Centre, opposite the iconic Cornish Pumphouse. This interactive centre shares the history of gold mining in the area with cool activities. A walkway from the Cornish Pumphouse takes you up to the Martha Mine Lookout for an astonishing view (and a jumbo-sized mining truck!).

Travel west on State Highway 2 for around 10 minutes to the Waikino Station Cafe for lunch in the historic train station with displays of the gold mining from days gone by. Back on State Highway 2, travel just a few minutes west and turn off on to Waitawheta Road over the Ohinemuri River. Just a few metres up the road on the right is a short path to the stunning Owharoa Falls.


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From there it’s another short hop along State Highway 2 to the Karangahake Reserve. There are several tracks in the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway but the favourite is the Windows Walk, a one hour loop track that takes you over suspension bridges and through old gold mining ruins to the tunnels dug by gold miners which afford astounding views from the “windows” of the gorge below. Or there’s also the Karangahake Tunnel Walk, a 45 minute loop that includes a section over 1km long in the old rail tunnel. Torches are essential for both walks.

The next stop is at Bullswool Farm Heritage Park, a fascinating rural experience for all ages. Handfeed the many farmyard and rare-breed animals, explore the farming, gold mining, and kauri historic exhibits, and take the bush discovery walk to see native birds, a replica miner’s camp and eel pond. You could easily spend an entire day here!

Ten minutes further down the road takes you to Paeroa (be sure to get your photo at the giant L&P bottle as you enter town). Dinner tonight is at the L&P Cafe, a popular spot that celebrates the famous-in-New-Zealand drink formerly known as Lemon & Paeroa.

Either stay the night in Paeroa or head half an hour up the road to your tour’s starting point at Thames.

Where to stay in The Coromandel

For family friendly stays, we recommend checking out the below.

Beachside Resort Whitianga

Beachside Resort, Whitianga – a stone’s throw from Whitianga’s Buffalo Beach, these one and two bedroom apartments with modern kitchens sleep up to five people and enjoy awe-inspiring ocean views. The family will love the heated swimming pool, tennis court and playground.

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Mercury Bay Holiday Park

Mercury Bay Holiday Park, Whitianga – explore Whitianga and The Coromandel from this great holiday park with accommodation sleeping up to six people in a range of chalets, cabins, kitchen units and camp sites. Facilities include BBQs, free spades for Hot Water Beach, playground, seasonal swimming pool, TV room and herb garden.

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Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park

Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park – located just 700 metres from the famous hot pools, there’s a range of accommodation to suit everyone including self-contained apartments, villas, and motel units plus cabins, glamping tents and powered and non-powered sites. Book a deluxe family villa for a touch of unique luxury. The park has an onsite grocery store and takeaway plus laundry, BBQ, bouncing pillow plus go-kart, surfobard and bodyboard hire.

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Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort

Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort, Hahei – the lush gardens and wood interiors give this Hahei Beach accommodation a real resort feel. Two bedroom apartments sleep up to five while the cottage and villa in their own grounds sleep up to six. Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi, Sky TV, complimentary beverages on arrival, plus complimentary use of beach towels and spades for Hot Water Beach.

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Pedlars Motel

Pedlars Motel, Paeroa – perfectly located for the Hauraki Rail Trail and next to the town pool, this motel offers serviced units with en-suite facilities, kitchenette in studios, and full kitchen in the two bedroom family units which sleep up to six. Free WiFi, Sky TV, air-conditioning, secure lockup for bikes, plus guest laundry and continental breakfast available.

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Dickson Holiday Park

Dickson Holiday Park, Thames – a great place to make happy family memories, there’s a range of accommodation including self-contained flats, family cabins, on-site caravans, plus powered and non-powered sites for campers and campervans. Just north of Thames at Tararu, the park has extensive facilities including a heated pool, games rooms, mini golf, petanque and kitchen and dining facilities for campers.

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Main photo credit: Matt Crawford

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Written by Kidspot New Zealand in partnership with Destination Coromandel.

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