Exploring the Coromandel, New Zealand - My Top 5 Photo Spots
Updated: Mar 16
The Coromandel .. a place where a large portion of New Zealand's population spends their summer holidays exploring the vast amount of beaches, caves, bush walks, islands and absolutely breath taking scenery that cover this part of the country.
I have many fond childhood memories of summers spent camping on the Coromandel. My family owned a vintage pop top caravan which we would load up with surfboards, boogie boards, uncles fishing gear, food to last a couple of weeks and then hit the coast.
Situated on the eastern side of the North Island, the Coromandel Peninsula is surrounded by the Hauraki Gulf on one side and Pacific Ocean on the other, with the Coromandel Range (elevation 900m) running down the centre of the peninsula separating the two.
Fast forward 20 years and I still find myself escaping here for summer, nowadays with my own family or with my camera in hand hoping to find places that I haven't visited before, or returning to a few that captured my heart the first time.
I loaded up my Toyota Surf with camping gear and supplies last week to hit a few of my favourite spots to share with you in the hope it might inspire you to find yourself here one day too.
1. Te Whanganui a Hei - Cathedral Cove
Undoubtedly one the more famous of locations in the Coromandel area, Cathedral Cove is a picturesque beach paradise boasting some of the most beautiful coastal scenes you will find in New Zealand.
Not only is it one of New Zealand's few marine reserves, it also forms part of a coast dotted with amazing sea stacks, crystal clear blue water, and it's more well known feature .. the Cave that acts as the entrance to the beach.
A short 45 minute hike (one way) from Hahei with incredible coastal views all the way, it is worth the walk to get to this famous little stretch of beach. It's no wonder they used this location for the entrance into Narnia in the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
2. Wainuiototo - New Chum Beach
Voted one of the worlds top 10 beaches, this semi secluded coastal hideaway is one that should not be missed when visiting the Coromandel. Golden sand beaches, native bush, red flowering Pohutukawa trees in the summer and turquoise blue water where dolphins can be seen playing in the waves all year round .. Utopia is the word the comes to mind when thinking of this place.
Just a 1 hour return walk through native bush from the beach at Whangapoua, this protected and untouched coastal gem serves as a reminder that New Zealand beaches are some of the best in the world and deserve the utmost respect when visiting. Not only so that nature can continue being it's awesome self, but so that we can all go somewhere to get away from reality and enjoy a slice of kiwi paradise.
3. Northern Coromandel
If you haven't explored the northern area of the Coromandel Peninsula, then I 100% urge you to pack up the truck and head away for a few days up the Thames-Coast Road. Carry on through Coromandel town, Colville (which by the way is last stop for decent coffee and supplies), and just keep on driving up. Note the road is gravel and steep in some places.
Pohutukawa trees line this section of coastal road as you drive along the Firth of Thames and the Hauraki Gulf , with many stop the car moments to admire the incredible coastal scenery.
This side of the Coromandel is so diverse with bay upon bay of sandy beaches, rocky outlets, pebbled shores, walking tracks, dense native bush, coastal farm land , fishing, diving, photography, mountain biking .. the list goes on.
There are many places to stop and have some chill time along the way, including absolutely beautiful bays like: Oamaru Bay, Amodeo Bay, Otautu Bay, Fantail Bay, Port Jackson (stunning sandy beach), and last stop Fletcher Bay. Those are just a few .. just take your pick from around any corner pretty much!
4. The Coromandel Coastal Walkway
Since we are on the topic of the Northern Coromandel, at its furthest point is Fletcher Bay. From Fletcher Bay you can start the Coromandel Coastal Walkway, a 20km (return) hike that provides for some of the most spectacular scenery you will find on the Coromandel.
The path runs from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay (or vice versa and can be started at either end) and covers many diverse landscapes such as native bush, secluded coastal bays and farmland. Outlooks along the way include the vast expanse of the pacific ocean, Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel Coastline, and Mount Moehau just to name a few.
The track is relatively easy, however the steep decline and incline out of Poley Bay is not for the faint hearted. But who doesnt love a little challenge!
The photo opportunities are endless along this hike and I have to say it's one of my favourite in the country. If you love the coastline like me, then this is a must do.
There are DOC camp grounds at both Fletcher and Stony Bay if you wish to stay and relax afterwards. If you would like to do the walk one way (10km) there are tourism operators in the area that run pick-ups and can return you to your vehicle.
5. The Pinnacles
What can I say ... if you want THE most breath taking views over the Coromandel and are willing to work for it, then this is it. Although I didn't do the Pinnacles on my most recent trip, I wanted to add it in here as it really is an incredible hike and well worth the effort for the views.
I first completed the Pinnacles track back in 2016 and it's not something I will ever forget. I rate the view from the summit as being the best I have seen in the North Island, mostly because it felt like I had been transported to a different world and had me questioning whether I was actually still in New Zealand or not.
This 8 hour return hike can be completed overnight with a stay at the DOC hut near the summit. This isn't just any DOC hut, its an 80 bedder and pretty lush. You must book though.
The hike itself traverses through native bush including New Zealand's very own Nikau palms and runs across streams and swingbridges. Once you get to the hut, the summit is a further 40 minutes up ... if you are afraid of heights like me , take a friend to help you, but trust me it's worth it.
You won't regret doing this hike and it's a real achievement when you reach the top. Photography wise, an absolute dream and must do.
Thanks so much for reading my blog! There are so many amazing spots along the Coromandel, these just being a few of my favourites. I could go on and on ... maybe in another blog.
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All the photos seen here are available for purchase. Check out my Coromandel Gallery for more stunning spots not mentioned here.
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