New Zealander’s, affectionately known as Kiwi’s have always taken a no frills approach to vacation time. A beachfront patch, caravan or tent is more than enough for a fantastic getaway.
The great kiwi escape usually takes place once a year between Christmas and the 20th January. Easter, especially if it falls during school holidays is also a popular time and the weather is still agreeable.
So, with such a stunning country and so many spots to choose from, what is the favoured Kiwi destination in the upper North Island? With the convenience of its close proximity to Auckland, we’ve narrowed it down. You won’t find many tourists here and that’s what makes it so attractive:
Welcome to the Coromandel Peninsular
Ideal destination for: Nature lovers or those who need a slow-paced holiday.
Travel length: Minimum 10 days
Best time to travel: Late spring, November to early autumn –March.
Accommodation: An RV/motorhome is highly recommended with easy pick up from Auckland airport. Book well in advance for the high season of Nov–February.
A microcosm of the country’s best offerings
It’s tempting when visiting New Zealand to travel the whole country, which is understandable. But if peace and quiet is on the agenda, you’re probably better off plonking yourself in one spot and taking day trips as necessary, and the Coromandel is perfect for this. You’ll experience a microcosm of the country’s best offerings: fresh seafood, secluded beaches, temperate rainforests for all grades of hiking plus engaging and helpful locals.
Remote but reachable
Although considerably remote, the Coromandel is located only one and a half hours drive from the major centres of Auckland and Hamilton. You can reach here by road, sea or air. We highly recommend seeing the region by motorhome/RV. There are so many secluded beachfront spots, its beats a hotel any day, as long as you’re happy to do some basic waste water maintenance.
Cost: Approximately $200-$300 NZD per night for a basic motorhome
Budget Motorhomes/RV’s: www.mightycampers.co.nz/
Deluxe Motorhomes/RV’s: www.maui.co.nz/
Note: There are freedom camping restrictions in certain areas please visit www.tcdc.govt.nz/camping
Sparsely populated and off the tourist route
The Coromandel is thankfully, sparsely populated and has managed to stay off the main tourist route of Auckland-Rotorua-Taupo-Wellington. This has also kept the big shopping brands at bay. The region is largely unaffected by the modern world; there’s no advertising and not much seems to have changed since the Gold mining days, especially on the west side. Think artisans and the unhurried, organic lifestyle.
Eastside vs west side of the Coromandel?
If a morning visit to the local café or an evening helping of sharp cheese and sauvignon blanc is your preference, you’ll love the east coast towns of Whitanga, Paunaui and Whangamata. With plenty of luxury holiday homes, manicured gardens, European cars, boats and taut, spray-tanned bodies, this is the place for you.
If fishing, pig hunting or just wandering about taking it all in is your thing, you’ll love the west coast. Visit the Seabird Coast, Miranda hot pools, Thames and Coromandel townships. This area boasts a bohemian vibe, with rustic beaches, a rugged windswept coastline and laid back locals. Wear what you want here, no one will bat an eyelid.
Where to go
We’ve chosen to focus on the West Side of the Coromandel, these are our recommend spots.
The Sea Bird Coast
The Seabird Coast is home to 20,000 migratory birds who have come from Siberia and Alaska to rest for the Southern winter season.Visitor species include Godwits, Sandpipers and Plovers. There are also many New Zealand species among the flock. The easy contour of the shore in a sheltered bay provides an ample pantry of shoreline food. Shorebirds are here all year round but the highest numbers are present from January to March. The best time to view the birds is two hours either side of high tide. The tide is similar to the Thames high tide which you can find in the link below. The Seabird coast is not only a fantastic spot for bird watchers but also nature lovers and photographers with uninterrupted 180 degree water views.
Learn more about the Seabirds: http://www.miranda-shorebird.org.nz
Miranda Hot Springs
Miranda Hot Springs is heaven sent after a long-haul flight or drive. Soak in 100% thermally heated mineral water in the big communal pool or opt for quietude in one of the private spas. Although the pools probably haven’t been upgraded since they were first built close to 50 years ago, the water quality is good with minimal use of chemicals.
Thames is the quintessential kiwi town featuring everything you need for the adventures ahead. Nestled at the base of a bush-clad coastline, this former gold mining town provides a service hub for the region, with everything from camping supplies, fresh organic food and other, tasty little extras for the journey. Be sure to stock up before heading further up the coast where the abundance of shops dwindles. It also has a tourist bureau where you can find maps, visitors guides and friendly recommendations for day trips. Be sure to pick up a flyer for the famous 309 Rd. See more about the 309 Road below.
Thames i-Site Information Centre
200 Mary St, Thames 3500, New Zealand
The Thames-Coromandel coastline is postcard perfect, especially in summer with the red flowering Pohutukawa trees. The journey offers a trip back in time with its quaint cottages and classic old dairies (corner convenience stores). Included here are plenty of picnic spots, rocky beaches, and bush walks so take your time winding up this stunning coastline.
Crafts people and talented artists call this small dot of a town home. Set in stunning natural surrounds life here has its own pace. The village cafes extend a unique, character-filled ambience and serve up plenty of fresh, locally-caught seafood. For those who dare (the tar sealed roads end at Colville) it is also gateway to North Coromandel’s diverse beaches and forests.
For the promise of the best fish and chips ever, visit:
Coromandel Takeaways, 124 Wharf St, Coromandel.
Get a feel for the real New Zealand by taking a slow drive up the 309 Road. It’s a 20km scenic journey that criss-crosses through farmland, pine forests and native bush. Along the mostly unsealed road are a number of quirky attractions including Stuart and his wild pigs (a must see), the Water Works – an inimitable, Kiwi-ingenuity game park suitable for kids from 3 to 83, Wet your Whistle Cafe, Castle Rock, Waiau waterfalls, the nearby “Siamese” Kauri trees and Egan Park – a swimming and picnic spot.
Memories made on the Coromandel Peninsular will be enduring. If you’re due to slow down and aren’t we all, then this is your place to ‘just be.’
For more information on the Coromandel visit: www.thecoromandel.com/