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An Ace road trip: Cruising the Coromandel

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The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the most popular places for North Islanders to go on an adventure holiday. Not just for its convenient proximity, though, but because in this small area, there are enough tourist attractions to fill your itinerary planner to the brim, blow the bottom off the list and then keep on going for a few pages more.

Interested? We thought you might be. Follow this handy guide to know where to go and which ones to stop at.

Begin your journey in Thames

No, you’re not in London. Thames is a lovely little town at the beginning of the Coromandel Peninsula, found around an hour and a half from Auckland’s CBD following State Highway (SH) 1 south, turning off at SH2. You’ll find plenty of stores both big and small to service your picnic needs, as well as a wonderful Saturday market for homemade, hand-crafted goodies.

Plus, there’s accommodation here if you need it, whether you intend to camp beneath the stars or would prefer something with a solid roof. Talk to our friends at Dickson Holiday Park to find out more, and make sure you ask about their Tropical Butterfly and Orchid Garden – the only attraction of its kind in NZ!

Hit the road, Jack

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Let’s go! It’s time to start seeing some of the sights we’ve talked up. The drive north gently winds along pristine coastal roads, lined with lush flora on one side and the lapping waves on the other. You’ll also see loads of the nation’s native Pohutukawa tree, which grows in abundance in these parts and flowers a luminous crimson every summer, heralding the coming of Christmas.

Approximately 40 minutes north of Thames, turning right for a brief detour at Tapu, is a short walk that’s perfect for a selfie. The Square Kauri Tree track will last about 20 minutes, and takes you to one of the largest kauri trees in the region that just so happens to be a rather square-like shape. Weird but cool!

Next up on the holiday plan, Coromandel
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Coromandel is the must-visit township of its namesake peninsula. The drive here is a Kiwi icon, and a genuine spectacle when the sun is out and there’s barely a cloud in the sky (though it’s not too shabby on a cloudy either, we must admit). This historic place is a self-described haven for artistic people, leading to its plethora of galleries and craft stores.

If your feet are still itching to move, the Department of Conservation has created an awesome little walking track called the Kauri Block, which should take around an hour and a half. You’ll find an old Maori fortress (called a pa) up the hill here, which gives you a 360-degree vista of the township, Coromandel mountain range and all the many glittering bays in the surrounds.

Heat things up
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As you continue your trip, you’ll pass through the township of Whitianga en route to two internationally renowned natural landmarks. Start with Cathedral Cove, which is a vast archway of stone towering over the beach, and easily accessible on foot or by kayak.

Next you’ll want to relax at Hot Water Beach, which is hands down one of our favourite places on the peninsula. Two hours either side of low tide, you can access a piece of the shore that sits atop a bubbling underground river. If you dig a hole, this steamy water rises to the surface and creates your very own natural spa pool!

When night falls on your big trip, stay over at Seabreeze Holiday Park, just 10 minutes from the beach. Not only can you sleep here, but also grab a free spade for Hot Water Beach, and sample products from the park’s own craft brewery over dinner.

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