Driving Creek Railway, Coromandel Peninsula — Image courtesy of nzonline.org.nz
Top attractions on the Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula offers a choice of must-see attractions, including:
Once a vibrant timber and gold mining centre, the township is now one of New Zealand's main arts and craft centres. Browse the handicraft shops packed with a wide selection of locally produced wares including pottery, sculpture, woodcarvings, paintings, printmaking and jewellery.
Take the country’s only narrow-gauge railway (known as Driving Creek Railway and built by a local potter) through replanted kauri forests to an old logging station, with panoramic views across the scenic Hauraki Gulf.
For an insight into the gold mining days, take a guided tour around the Coromandel Gold Stamper Battery, New Zealand's last functional gold-processing plant. Try some gold panning, stroll through the bush to a scenic lookout and examine the huge working waterwheel, claimed to be New Zealand's largest.
Don’t miss visiting the Coromandel Museum for a fascinating insight into the town's gold, kauri and farming history.
The Coromandel Walkway
Discover the far north of the peninsula from Fletcher Bay to Stony Bay along the 11km-long Coromandel Walkway, an easy three-hour walk along a well-marked path over gentle hills through pasture and bush, with outstanding sea views overlooking tiny bays.
Organise a pick-up and ride back on the local shuttle bus that runs between Coromandel town and Fletcher Bay, a distance of around 57km.
Enthusiastic mountain bikers can take a longer, more challenging route that takes one further inland, but which starts and finishes at the same points as the walkway.
Take a two-hour hike or bike ride into the Coromandel’s gold mining past. The 7km-long Karangahake Gorge Historical Walkway follows the historic railway line along the Ohinemuri River Valley past old battery sites and mining relics, offering the chance to explore a 1km-long mining tunnel with 'windows' – once blasted by the miners through the mine shaft walls – now providing views over the Waitewheta River.
The scenic Karangahake Gorge is riddled with walkways and old tunnels and was the site of steam-operated mining batteries used to process ore in the 1890s. Picnic on the banks of the Ohinemuri River or at Owharoa Falls; enjoy an afternoon swim or simply admire the tumbling cascades.
Walk in the footsteps of miners and loggers who cut the original trail and stone stairs, allowing access for packhorses carrying supplies for kauri loggers, gum diggers and gold miners in the early 1900s.
The three-hour hike to the base of the craggy Pinnacles follows the Kauaeranga River along the Kauaeranga Valley, traversing streams and swing bridges and passing groves of nikau palms and tall rata trees. Overnight in the 80-bed Department of Conservation hut and at first light clamber up steep rock faces and several ladders to reach the narrow ledge on top of the peak.
Be rewarded with early morning rays of sunlight reflecting off the Pacific Ocean and be inspired by the 360-degree panoramic views of the Coromandel Peninsula, the Hauraki Gulf, the Bay of Plenty and Hauraki Plains. Located around 16km upriver from Thames.
Explore this 26ha valley in the Coromandel Ranges featuring a range of man-made scenic streams, waterfalls, fountains and ponds. Watch fish and ducks swim among colourful water lilies and listen to song birds overhead.
Wander paths crammed with collections of native grasses, flaxes, gunneras, rhododendrons and camellias. Walk beneath giant tree ferns, rimu, rata and kauri trees and look out for birdlife including tuis, fantails, silver eyes and wood pigeons.