Updated: May 11
As you may have read in our previous blog post, Waikato is such a big region in New Zealand, so we decided to split it. This will cover the east side including the all-famous Coromandel.
Hot Water Beach
Hobbiton Movie Set
The whole peninsula is named solely from this one very small town. Its a super cool one though, with some free camping spots and great opportunities to get out on the water should you wish to. There's lots of cafes and bar/restaurants to take your fancy and the drive to the town alone will take your breath away as you drive through numerous of gorgeous settlements along the coast.
Now, this is one of the most stunning coastlines in the whole of the north island in our opinion. The name comes from the shear size of the cove that leads to the beach. Be warned, you cannot drive directly to this beach and cove. The journey there will take you to a walking track that will take up to an hour to get there, winding around the coast with fabulous views over the bay before getting to the stairs leading down to the beach itself. You will also go past Gemstone and Stingray Bay on the way. Both of these are stops you shouldn't miss, with lots of stingray to snorkel with and crystal clear water! There is a car park at the start of the walk but this is only available to the public during winter. During the summer, due to its massive popularity, you will have to park in the town of Hahei at the park & ride (which is free) and either walk (an extra 45 minutes) or catch the bus to the start of the walk for $5 per person return.
HOT WATER BEACH
Thankfully, if you are visiting Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach is extremely close! Only 6km south of Hahei town you will find this completely natural attraction - packed full of people if you visit in the summer months. Take a spade or rent one from the local stores for $15 so you too can head onto the beach and dig your own little hot pool. Just watch your toes if you are near someone else digging! Also thankfully, you won't need to do any searching, with the thermal area being clearly signposted, and again, if you visit in summer, the other people will lead the way! If you are looking for somewhere to freedom camp, unfortunately there are no sites near here, so we chose to park 30 minutes away in Tairua - which is also a super town you should visit if you have time with a great little peak to climb too.
Whitianga is just such a beautiful little town nestled on the coast of Mercury Bay. It's biggest attraction is The Lost Spring - a geo-thermal oasis with thermal pools and its own spa retreat. One of the more glamourous sites in New Zealand. Prices start from $45 for a thermal pool experience. Although, if you haven't already, check out the blog post on NORTHLAND Where you will find some super cheap hot pools! There are plenty of freedom camping spots both in the town and on the coast which makes this the perfect town to relax for a while.
The drive alone through this breathtaking town is beautiful, but if you're staying in the area, we cannot stress enough, just how many walks and trails are available. It is part of the Hauraki Rail Trail - a 197km easy, family-friendly cycle trail showcasing some of the best scenery in the north island. Walking trails are also plentiful with walks ranging from 15 minutes to 3 hours. The Historic Walkway, the 1.1km Rail Tunnel, and Owharoa Falls are the must do stops.
HOBBITON MOVIE SET
New Zealand, home of The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit. Now personally, I (Kirsty) have never watched these films! I KNOW SHOCK! However, a lot of people dream of coming to New Zealand for that very reason. The scenery truly is magical, and if you are a fan of the films, or even if you're not, you HAVE to visit Hobbiton Movie Set. Even though I hadn't seen the films I still fell in love with The Shire and the 44 hobbit holes it is home to. As soon as we got off the bus, there's a 'magical' feeling to it. The 2 hour tour takes you around all the holes with a trusty guide to tell you in depth about each one. You can go inside one of them too! And even stop by The Green Dragon - the hobbit Pub for a craft beer or cider! This tour will set you back about $84pp which we understand seems expensive for a short tour, however well worth it in our opinion. There are also many other options including a lunch or dinner banquet tour which is a whole other experience. Check out our Hobbiton vlog on the video links page!
IF YOU ALSO HAVE TIME THERE ARE MANY OTHER STOPS WORTH A VISIT:
Waihi & Waihi Beach - a gorgeous little seaside town with a white sandy beach.
New Chums Beach - probably the Coromandel's most stunning bay.
Whangamata - Another beautiful beach with access to Donut Island.
Thames - The gateway to the Coromandel and its biggest town.
Paeroa - The home of the 'World Famous in New Zealand' L&P!