Coromandel Peninsula – The Ultimate Escape

In New Zealand, Travel Guides
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It has to be said that nothing quite beats a beach holiday.  There’s something about the sun, sand, surf and soul of a beach that resonates with most people around the world.  Why else do people continue to flock to the likes of Thailand, Indonesia, Hawaii, the Mediterranean and so on, to soak up the wonders that are their beautiful beaches?

So often, though, you head along to these ‘hot-spots’ and you are hounded by people trying to make a living by selling rip-off Ray-Bans or Rolex’s, plus you have to pay to get a lounger (and extra if you want some shade), let alone dealing with the hoards of other holiday-makers who have all heard about how great these beaches are.  In addition to that, you may find that they are so built up that the charm of the beach – the reason you are there – is almost lost.

Nice Beach - Tourists enjoying loungers

Nice Beach – Tourists enjoying loungers

So if you, like me, find all of the above to be ok but not really your cup-of-tea then read on and learn about a little slice of this world that is all about providing the real beach experience.

New Zealand, as a country, is famous for its outdoor activities of which their beaches play a big part.  When you are in New Zealand you are never more than 130km to the coastline – a coastline that stretches 15,000-18,000km, which is quite a lot for a small island nation.  The Coromandel Peninsula located in the North-East of the North Island (approximately 2-3 hours drive from Auckland) is privy to some of the most exquisite and remote beaches, not only in New Zealand, but in the world.  Added to this is the immense, lush surrounding native bush that provides activities to do away from the beach should you be looking for some variety to your holiday.

With so many beautiful beaches, bush hikes and activities on offer, the below are just a taste of what you could expect to see and experience

BEACHES

Cathedral Cove, Hahei & Stingray Bay

Cathedral Cove is arguably one of the most famous beaches in New Zealand.  For good reason too – it’s stunning and is an absolute must-see.  But whilst the tourists flock to Cathedral Cove, what they don’t often do is make the effort to visit the lesser -known beaches along the way to Cathedral Cove, and at their loss.    Hahei is the town just before you venture on to see Cathedral Cove and the beach is a just breath-takingly beautiful.  With a grassy bank for picnicking above the golden-sands, and kayaks available to hire to take you out to the many islands dotting the horizon, Hahei is a great destination for families and adventure seekers alike.

View of Hahei and surrounding islands

View of Hahei and surrounding islands

Stingray Bay is named Stingray Bay for good reason. During certain times of the year (particularly in the warmer months) stingrays appear in the shallows and are quite the sight to see when the water is clear.  Stingrays are revered for their stinging barb so this puts a lot of people off getting in the water, but they are quite gentle creatures and how often do you have the opportunity to swim with wild stingrays on a day out at the beach?  Added to this little spectacular feature, this beach is very secluded and quiet with large boulders around the northern end of the beach which create perfect shaded and private picnic spots.  If you are a strong swimmer, you can swim around the headland and end up in Cathedral Cove, avoiding all the tourists on the pathway and keep yourself cool while you’re doing it!

Stingray Bay

Stingray Bay

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The famous Cathedral Cove

View of Stingray Bay through the trees

View of Stingray Bay through the trees

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New Chums

New Chums beach is often referred to as the Jewel of the Coromandel and has been added to the odd ‘Best Beaches in the World’ list but due to its remote location it has been mostly kept off the global radar.  There have been a few attempts to get access to the beach to build resorts and facilities but each time this has come up against strong opposition.  New Chums is simply spectacular and a lot of the reason for this is down to it being preserved in its natural state with little to no influence from humankind.  You have to want to go to New Chums as it is not a quick stroll from the car to the beach but trust me when I say; you do want to go there!  There is a walk from Whangapoua carpark around the headland, over rocks and through a little bushy walkway before you are greeted with the bluest of blue waters, bright golden sand and the grandfather Pohutakawa trees that appear to protect this beach with their twisted branches extending along the sand.  These trees, known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree, create little nooks within their branches that make the perfect place to set up for the day, offering both shade and privacy.  A day away at this beach can often make you feel like the rest of the world just doesn’t exist beyond this 1km slice of paradise due to there being no signs of civilisation within the confines of the bay.  If throughout the day of lazing about and swimming, you feel the need to get some exercise and elevation, there is a short walk on the south headland of the beach which provides you with a spectacular viewpoint of the beach and surrounding islands.  This is the kind of beach that can make all your worries feel a world away.

Lying down enjoying the sand of New Chums Beach

Lying down enjoying the sand of New Chums Beach

Looking down on New Chums Beach

Looking down on New Chums Beach

Kuaotunu & Otama

Kuaotunu and nearby Otama are your more gentle of beaches.  Soft white sand with waves quietly lapping the shores allows you to truly relax in the most serene way.  Kuaotunu has an expansive shoreline as well as a connecting estuary which backs onto the nearby campground so is great to get the kayaks out and kayak following the shore which takes you along scenic rocky areas with plenty of bird and sea-life to entertain.  Otama is a few minutes’ drive away but presents a different feel again.  Otama is flanked with high sea cliffs and Pohutakawa trees clinging on while reaching their branches to the shore line.  Otama shows a little more sign of life with families enjoying the gentler current and couples enjoying the privacy of the Pohutakawa trees but given the length of the beach, you could be fooled into thinking you have the place to yourself.  A real highlight when travelling between the two beaches is Luke’s Kitchen.  This little place has grown immensely in popularity so it’s often difficult to nab a seat during peak season but it’s so worth it if you do.  Offering up simple, but delicious, wood-fired pizzas as well as a myriad of other amazing but simple dishes, what makes it so brilliant is its simplicity – which is all that you are looking for on a beach holiday.  The beer is cold, the music good and the staff are your best mates, add to that a stunning sunset and good company, you really can’t go wrong.  It is an absolute must when travelling through this part of the Coromandel.

Kuaotunu Beach

Kuaotunu Beach

Otama Beach

Otama Beach

These are just a mere taste of what is on offer on the Coromandel Peninsular.  There really are so many beaches, coves, nooks, headlands all around this small slice of the North Island– visitors to the area are really spoilt for choice.  Added to that the various hiking trails, quirky towns with their antique stores, historical sites, scuba sites, whale & dolphin watching, it is truly a brilliant holiday destination.  January and February are the peak months for travelling but from experience, it makes for a great escape from the rat race that is life, any time of year.

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