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What to Know Before You Visit the Coromandel Peninsula

Who loves a beach vacation? I sure do! Each winter, my husband Steve and I take a summery trip to get a break from the cold and gray days. This time around we picked the Coromandel Peninsula, a beautiful region on New Zealand’s North Island. And since my home base of D.C. got nearly a foot of snow while we were on our last adventure, I’d say we made the right choice!

As excited as we were to be there, however, there are a few things we wish we’d known in advance. Lucky for you, I love telling my secrets! Here are the top things to know before you visit the Coromandel Peninsula.

Coromandel Views
Need to Know

Okay, so the first thing you need to know is to bring allergy medicine with you. Check to make absolutely sure your favorite allergy medication is legal there, but if you’re usually reaching for the Claritin in the springtime, bring it with you in spring and summer. I was having terrible seasonal allergies our first afternoon there, and thankfully Claritin was easy to find at the local pharmacy.

Unfortunately, I also had Claritin sitting in my bathroom drawer at home! Oh well. It will all get used this spring in D.C.!

Terminology

#1: “Wh” makes an “F” sound. Crazy, right? I had no idea! So, the town of Whitianga, where we stayed, was actually supposed to be pronounced “Fitianga”! Now you know.

#2: It’s pronounced “Coro-MAN-dul” Peninsula. I tried to pronounce it a different way and was kindly corrected! If someone’s going to correct you, let it be nice Kiwis!

The Coromandel Peninsula is circled in red!
Getting Around

#1: There are no car ferries from Auckland to the Coromandel, and very few car ferries connecting parts of the Peninsula.

#2: You will want to rent a car. If you’re like us and fly into Auckland, you will want to rent a car. Hitch hiking is popular here (and safe, or so I’m told), but it’s not exactly reliable and rarely is it direct. The bus service will add time to your journey, and a taxi service will charge more than the cost of renting a car! The places you’ll want to see are quite spread out, so a car is your best bet if you want to do more than walk around town.

The Cathedral Cove hike was definitely worth the drive to get there!

#3: Uber does not exist here. Sorry, folks!

#4: Passenger ferries can get you to some popular locations, but not all. Definitely use them, but know that they shouldn’t be relied upon for all your transportation needs!

#5: The roads are very windy. Think Road to Hana windy. And the roads are almost exclusively two-lane only. I have no idea how many sharps curves and turns there are, but it’s a lot! Please take your time, be courteous, and by all means, pull over to let others pass if you see a line forming behind you! You will find more helpful tips here: Road Tripping New Zealand’s South Island.

Take it slow and enjoy the views!

#6. Look out for cyclists. You are supposed to give cyclists a 1.5 meter (about 5 feet) distance between them and your car when you pass them. However, it’s difficult to pass them when the roads wind around like they do. Do not be in a hurry, do not take chances, just wait until you can see far enough in front of you to pass safely. And sometimes you get a really nice cyclist who will help you out by waving you on when it’s safe!

Etiquette

#1: Be kind. The people all over New Zealand are so nice! Everyone we met here has been kind, welcoming, helpful, and glad to have visitors. So be kind back, strike up a conversation, and ask about them, too! Locals always know the best hidden gems, after all!

#2: Take off your shoes. Like other cultures in and around Polynesia, it’s customary to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home. This doesn’t necessarily extend to hotels, but it is kind to do so in a vacation rental. It’ll keep the sand out as well!

You’ll be spending a lot of time with your toes in the sand!
Visiting Hot Water Beach

One of the most popular activities on the Coromandel is digging your own hot tub filled with steaming ocean water at Hot Water Beach! It’s quite the unique experience, but there are definitely some things to know before you go:

#1: Visit at low tide. Low tide happens twice a day, and the timing moves around each day. You will have about two hours on either side of the low tide to dig in; otherwise the hot portions of the beach are covered and you will not be able to dig! Check out the tide times here: Low Tide at Hot Water Beach.

#2: Bring your own spade! Or as we call it in America, a shovel. You can certain dig with your hands, but a spade will make the digging far easier and faster. You can rent one from a local at the beach for about 10 NZD, or if your accommodation is like mine, you can use one of theirs for free or for a much smaller fee.

#3: When parking, go to the second parking lot. The first one you come to is quite a walk from the hot water!

So steamy!
Visiting Cathedral Cove

This is one of the most stunning natural wonders I’ve ever seen. Don’t miss it!

#1: You can only visit by boat or by hiking. There are car parks (parking lots) that will shorten the walk, but you will still need to wear your good walking shoes if you choose to drive and walk. There are many boat options to choose from, so take your pick!

Be prepared for some stairs!

#2: The round-trip hike takes anywhere from 2.5-3 hours, depending on how many off-shoots you take. There are other coves to explore, as well as a lovely lookout platform off the path, so plan to take your time and really see all the beauty!

#3: Most of the path is paved. But not all. We started from Hahei Beach, and we had to walk through some sand, but for the most part, the terrain is paved. You will also encounter stairs, however, so be ready for those, too!

#4: There are bathrooms at Cathedral Cove, and they have the best view.

#5. Visit at low tide to walk through the arch. You can definitely visit at high tide, but the arch will be off-limits due to the water. It’s still beautiful, though! And you will not feel like you’re missing out either way. See low tide times here!

View of Cathedral Cove through the Arch; worth the walk!

What do you think? Are you ready for your trip to the Coromandel?

Not sure what to pack? Check out my post all about Summer Travel Gear!

Need more New Zealand in your life? Check out my New Zealand Page!

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