When we arrived in New Zealand, we hadn’t heard much about
the Coromandel Peninsula but the friends we were staying with strongly
recommended it as our first adventure and outlined a route for us. Here
are the highlights of our five day excursion:
- Heading to the
West and Coromandel Town
Kayaking and Clam Digging
You know that really uncomfortable scene in romantic comedies where the
star is on a blind-date from hell? The one where the character wonders
in voice-over just what their friend could possibly have been thinking
to set them up with this person? That’s the scene that came
into my mind when our hosts recommended the Coromandel to us.
“Oh, you’re going to love this place!
It’s perfect for you!” They proceeded to describe
it as a perfect family vacation destination- exactly what we
don’t seek for our vacations.
For a variety of reasons we went anyway, hoping to make the best of it.
To our great fortune, they knew us better than we expected and just
didn’t describe it in a way that appealed to us. What we
found was much more than a family vacation area.
is a 2 hour ferry ride, or a 1.5 hour drive from Auckland, and
therefore serves as one of the city’s main weekend
playgrounds. With a smattering of small towns, a few small twisty
roads, dramatic fisherman friendly coastlines and broadly forested and
farmed hills, on first impression it reminded us of Half Moon Bay near
San Francisco. In just a couple hours you can get away from it all into
a beautiful landscape. It’s the kind of place that makes city
dwellers dream of chucking it all in and going back to the land.
It’s not too surprising, then, that the vibe of the
Coromandel is a sometimes awkward blend of genuine commercial
agriculture with back-to-landers and tourism. We didn’t
really know what we were going to get at any given moment. One camping
host or shopkeeper might be living their dream, while the next seemed
to be struggling to adapt to tourism. As we found, though, this somehow
allows space for everyone to create their own dream vacation. That is,
unless they really were looking forward to a Disneyland experience.
The Coromandel Coastline
Our trip started with a drive from Hamilton an hour or so South of
Auckland, so we drove northwest through Te Aroha then north through
Paeroa (somehow missing the giant
L&P bottle, entering the peninsula on the Pacific
Coast Highway. We were advised to stock up on provisions in Thames
as shopping opportunities are scarce deeper into the Coromandel. Since
we would be tent camping, we made sure to get enough food and wine for
the next three days and nights. Then, as it was lunchtime, we pulled
into a seaside park at the end of town and promptly broke into our
On the road again, we congratulated ourselves for choosing a
mid-week day a few weeks before the summer holidays since those small,
tight roads would have been no fun with the crowds. Never the less, we
were occasionally passed by maniacs who felt compelled to drive at the
100kph maximum regardless of the blind turns, one-way bridges, or
one-way bridges on blind turns.