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The Coromandel Peninsula labels itself as the place New Zealanders go on vacation… They’re not wrong. The pristine beaches, sub-tropical climate, lush forests and heritage sites, not to mention proximity to urban centres like Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga, make this a wildly popular destination among domestic and international visitors alike.
The area is especially known for its abundance of eco-tourism. The peninsula’s residents seem to value their environment and have protected it well, resulting in swathes of untouched land ready to be explored.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages about a third of the land on the Coromandel, so outdoors enthusiasts are sure to find excellent something to do on this finger of land.
To make the most of the Coromandel’s great outdoors, take advantage of some of the infrastructure DOC has installed and managed. Most of these trips are free of charge, and the activities that do cost (such as overnights and the Pinnacle Hut) are extremely affordable, leaving you with no excuse not to go.
The Pinnacle WalkOne of New Zealand’s most popular tracks, this trail will take you up the craggy hills of the Coromandel’s Kaueranga Valley. Before it was tamed by DOC, the trail was a packhorse route used by loggers in the 1920s.
To reach the top of the Pinnacles takes about 4 hours from the car park, but you can stay at the 80-bunk Pinnacles Hut for the night and make it into a two-day journey. For a special treat, save the peak for the next morning and climb it in time to watch as the sun rises over the Pacific Ocean.
Karangahake GorgeWhile technically located in the Bay of Plenty Region, the Karangahake Gorge is convenient to the Coromandel and easily incorporated into most itineraries.
The Karangahake Gorge was the site of a lucrative gold rush in 1875, and relics of this era remain.
Take a walk along the historic railway line and peak into the ‘windows’ that have been cut into the old mine walls. The walkway is only 4.5 kilometres long, and follows an easy grade.
Coromandel WalkwayThis walking trail is an easy track that makes a great day trip (the entire journey takes 7 hours). The track will take you through native bush, past scenic bays. Between Stony Bay and Fletchers Bay, you’ll be able to see glimpse of the Pinnacles, Great Barrier Island and Cuvier Island.
Wentworth Valley TrackThis 2.5 hour return journey will take you along the banks of the Wentworth River, across several bridges, and finally to Wentworth Falls. The falls is made up of two sections, about 20 metres tall each. The track will take you all the way up to the top of the falls.
Te Whanganui A Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine ReserveFor a different kind of trail, pay a visit to Te Whanganui A Hei Marine Reserve, where DOC has set up a clever snorkelling trail. The trail features panels on buoys along the way, designed to teach you a little about the reserve and the wildlife that calls it home.
You can see an abundance of fish and plant life living in the cove, which is protected from recreational and commercial fishing. But while you’re here, don’t forget to take a moment to explore the stunning beaches nearby.