Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

coromadel1.jpg A feast for the eyes, the Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most magical spots in New Zealand…

Location: On the North Island of New Zealand. The southern tip of the peninsula is an approximately one-hour drive from Auckland.

Why? Rugged forests, spectacular beaches, beautiful public gardens,
New Zealand has countless pockets of beauty that are not included in standard itineraries. One of the most accessible is the Coromandel Peninsula, which juts out like a hitchhiker’s thumb east of Auckland. The locale offers beautiful hiking in semi-tropical rain forests, glowworm caves, and gorgeous coastlines and beaches. Kiwi Dundee Adventures is an eco-tour operator that runs informative and entertaining guided trips around the peninsula.

Tasty treats: Oysters and mussels harvested in the Firth of Thames.

Top outings: Take the easy-to-follow trail to the summit of Mt. Maunganui. A little more challenging is the climb up the steel ladder to the peak of the Pinnacles in Kauaeranga Valley Forest Park. Off the coast of Whakatane lies White Island, the country’s only live marine volcano. A stunning sight.

Where to stay: The Buffalo Lodge, which is perched on a hillside and looks across Hauraki Gulf toward Auckland. The dining room’s prix-fixe dinner is excellent and usually showcases New Zealand specialties like venison, king salmon, and fresh fish.

coromandel2.jpg Don’t miss: Digging a hole at Hot Water Beach, where the deeper you dig, the hotter the water becomes.

Suggested sights & activities:

Driving Creek Railway, a narrow-gauge rail line, built by a Coromandel potter, that travels a 50-minute route through the bush and back.

A drive along Tapu-Coroglen Road, where 80-ft tree ferns grow out of the roadside hills. Climb the 178 steps to the 1,200-year-old Square Kauri tree, which stands 133 ft tall and measures 30 ft around.

How to get here: InterCity Coachlines and Go Kiwi Shuttles link Whitianga and Thames, the major cities along the Coromandel Peninsula, with Auckland. The trip is two hours from Auckland and just over three from Whitianga. If you’re driving, take the Southern Motorway from Auckland to Thames. Highway 25A is a quick way to reach the east-coast beaches of Cathedral Cove.