Review: The Rees Hotel Queenstown
After a long week of making my greatest attempt at work-life-mum balance, a weekend away from it all is the perfect, luxurious southern ...
It’s one of the North Island’s favourite holiday destinations – ringed by golden beaches, blanketed in green valleys and beautiful rainforests, and dotted with quirky, creative and historical towns, The Coromandel is a place perfect for leisure. Kick back in a hot spring (after digging it yourself!), glide through sea caves and marine reserves on a kayak tour, or admire the natural beauty all around on a hike, bike, or train.
Treat yourself to a bit of quality R&R in beautiful surrounds at one of the excellent mineral spas in The Coromandel. The Lost Spring in Whitianga is set in native bush, and the mineral-rich waters range from 32 to 41 degrees. You can also indulge at the tree top day spa with a full menu of treatments to choose from. Athenree Hot Springs & Holiday Park is the perfect place to create memories, surrounded by mature puriri trees and a chorus of native birdsong. And then there’s the classic Coromandel DIY hot pool experience at Hot Water Beach – bring a spade, head down at low tide and dig a hole in the sand until you hit hot water! Bliss.
One of The Coromandel’s most famous sights and the location of a well-known scene from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Cathedral Cove is an absolute must-see. A great way to take in the full majesty of this natural rock archway is on a kayak tour, where you’ll get to appreciate Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve and admire the beauty of the beach and cove from the water. With Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours, you’ll enjoy coffee or hot chocolate and cookies at Cathedral Cove before heading back to the kayaks. You can also walk to Cathedral Cove from Hahei – be sure to take the detour to the viewing platform on the way.
A must-do for any cycling enthusiast and a great laid-back ride for all ages, this gentle trail is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides, taking you through historic towns, idyllic farmland and native forest. It’s broken up into five sections, making it easy to tackle as much or as little of the journey as you want, with plenty of options to explore The Coromandel further. It begins in Kaiaua, heading along the Shorebird Coast to Thames and then down to Paeroa (where you can detour off to Waihi) and Te Aroha before finishing in Matamata, home of Hobbiton.
This one-hour journey on a cute-as-a-button red and green train runs through a lush mountain gorge. At the other end, you’ll enjoy the views from the aptly named Eyefull Tower viewing platform, as well as a wildlife sanctuary, art gallery and café. The journey is accompanied by commentary on the history of Driving Creek, and you might spot some artwork and pottery sculptures along the way.
You’ll traverse streams and swing bridges and get spectacular 360-degree views over the entire Coromandel from the summit of the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail in Coromandel Forest Park. It’s a popular trail that follows an historic early 1900s packhorse route through a stunning kauri valley. The full hike is an overnight adventure with DOC hut accommodation that must be booked in advance, or there are options to walk shorter sections with the Webb Creek Track and Billygoat Track.
The Coromandel is well known for being a creative hub. In the region’s many small towns of this area, you’ll find a wealth of art galleries, studios and workshops showcasing the talents of this artistic community. Try The Little Gallery, with branches in Tairua and Whangamatā, where you’ll find jewellery, paintings, sculptures and more from established Coromandel artists. The Hauraki House Gallery in Coromandel town holds regular exhibitions in the historic school building, while Thames is home to Bounty Store, Carsons Gallery and ArohArt. And you’ll want to fill your entire kitchen with the treasures at Alan Rhodes Pottery in Whitianga and The Laughing Pottery in Waihi.
Admire The Coromandel’s beauty from above and blow away some cobwebs while you’re about it on a zipline tour. Coromandel Zipline Tours shoots you through Driving Creek’s replanted kauri forest and over gullies and streams while giving you some background on the area’s transformation from kauri logging and goldmining to a hand-planted native forest.
Just 7km from Coromandel town, quirky theme park The Waterworks features an array of water-powered inventions to play with, including water cannons, water-pumping bikes and a human-sized hamster wheel, most of which are made from recycled materials. With a large adventure playground, free BBQs and a swimming hole to enjoy in summer, this is the ideal place for a family picnic or day out.
A marine playground like The Coromandel is rife with excellent fishing, and there are lots of ways to explore the ocean bounty of this region. Surfcast from the shore, join a charter and scour the deep, or harvest a bounty from a mussel farm. Mussel Barge Snapper Safaris have full or half day charters available in and around the mussel farms of The Coromandel, while there are several other operators offering charters along the coast and outer islands.
For an easy walk with maximum reward, head up to Shakespeare Cliff, where you can enjoy sweeping views across the bay, including Whitianga, Mercury Bay and Cooks Beach. The lookout is a great spot for a picnic, with a large grassy area to relax on, or if it’s warm you can take the steep path down to Lonely Bay Beach for a dip.
As the first place in New Zealand to uncover gold, The Coromandel is rich (pun intended) with goldmining history. Some of the best places to learn about this fascinating part of New Zealand’s past are Coromandel town and Thames, which were the first goldfields in the area, and Waihi, which was home to the richest mine in the country. In the Broken Hills gorge you can still see old railway tracks and two mine tunnels, one of which is still being worked today.
It’d be rude not to pay a visit to the little town of Paeroa, it’s ‘world famous in New Zealand’! This is the home of what many consider to be our national drink, L&P, AKA Lemon & Paeroa. Take a photo with the giant L&P bottle and grab a bottle of the good stuff while you browse the many antique stores, or cruise the river on a historic kauri paddleboat.
This seven-ish-hour walk covers some of the more remote parts of The Coromandel Peninsula between Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay. The varied landscape passes through farmland, native bush, along the coastline and beneath Mount Moehau, providing views to gape at the entire way.
You can visit Orua, one of New Zealand’s largest sea caves, on a boat tour, snorkelling adventure or cruise. Sea Cave Adventures’ Orua Tour takes you to Cathedral Cove and through Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve as well as Orua Sea Cave and the other caves and blowholes of the Orua coastline, while the local guides impart knowledge of the marine life and Māori history of the area.
Whenuakura (Donut Island) is shaped like a donut, with a 12-metre-high cave giving access from the sea to the internal lagoon. As a protected wildlife sanctuary, the only way to appreciate the island is from the water, so kayak or SUP tours are the perfect way to explore it. Several operators out of Whangamatā offer guided tours and hire of both kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.
This is another excellent place to discover more of The Coromandel’s goldmining history, with the old mine tunnels on the Windows Walk a major highlight – the windows in question were once used to tip tailings down into the gorge and now provide stunning views out over the valley. You’ll see plenty of concrete and steel mining relics in the gorge, including an old tram trolley and the remnants of a massive stamper battery processing plant, where 50 stampers crushed rocks all day long back in the 1890s.
Explore the jaw-dropping volcanic coastline and see the world that exists beneath the water on a tour with Glass Bottom Boat Whitianga. You’ll see iconic attractions like Cathedral Cove and Orua Sea Cave from a different perspective, and spot a huge variety of sea life including red snapper, blue mau mau, crayfish, octopus and stingrays. If you keep your eyes out, you might also see blue penguins, seals, dolphins and orca breaking the surface, while the team of marine scientists teach you about the animals you’re seeing and the precious eco system they are part of.
If there’s one beach you visit while in The Coromandel, Wainuiototo New Chum should be it. With its picture-perfect stretch of golden sand fringed by pōhutukawa trees and native bush, turquoise water and complete lack of buildings, roads or populace, it’s easy to see why this was voted one of the top ten beaches in the world. You might even see dotterels trotting along the sand and orca or dolphins cruising in the water. There’s a bit of a walk over the headland to access the beach, which is why you’ll always find it free of the teeming Coromandel crowds.
Admire a sight you can only get when you leave the big cities with Stargazers Bed & Breakfast. The astronomy tour takes place on an elevated observation deck where you can admire the magic of a southern night sky under dark sky conditions, and your guides will teach you how to recognise certain constellations and discuss how early Māori and Polynesian voyagers used the stars to navigate by. You’ll get the chance to look through the telescope in the astronomy dome and even handle real meteorites.
One of The Coromandel’s most biggest waterfalls can be found on the Wentworth Falls walk, an easy track alongside the Wentworth River with two bridged crossings before you head uphill to get the best view of the falls. They’re in two drops of 20 metres each, and if you choose, you can then take the steeper track up to the basin at the top. The Mines Walk takes you through peaceful kauri forest past two mine shafts.