Kiwi Experience

By Hostelling International

New Zealand Tourist Attractions That Offer a Different Kind of New Zealand

New Zealand has many towns and settlements that have retained their old school charm, and offer a taste of a simpler life. One area that typifies this quiet and beauty is the Coromandel Peninsula, on the North Island. A favourite vacation spot among locals, it has managed to keep off the proverbial tourist radar.

I was first introduced to the Coromandel Peninsula by my aunt who has lived in New Zealand for over 40 years. I was on a backpacking trip through Australia and New Zealand, and had stopped at my aunt’s place in Waihi, an old gold mining town at the foot of the Coromandel Peninsula. Ten years later I was back in New Zealand working in Auckland, which gave me the opportunity to rediscover this beautiful part of the world. Just a few hours drive south of Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula became my regular weekend retreat. Even though ten years had passed since my last visit, it still boasted the same idyllic peace.

Mostly known to locals in New Zealand, it has less of a touristy feel than the popular Bay of Islands; yet it is just as beautiful, if not more so.

Rustic buildings house modern restaurants and cafés that rival those found in Auckland and Wellington. In place of cheap souvenirs are paintings, pottery and jewellery all created by local New Zealand artists. The major attractions on the peninsula are Coromandel Town, Whitianga, Hot Water Beach, Tairua and Pauanui, Whangamata and Waihi. The Coromandel is the kind of place where you can spend a weekend or a whole month touring. The key is just to chill, visit beaches, tramp through the bush, or just hang out at the towns dotted around the peninsula.

One of my favourite spots is Opoutere, located between Pauanui and Whangamata. What touristy attractions can you find here? Well, nothing really—which is just why I like it! Drive down the road signposted for Opoutere, past the YHA , and then to a parking lot at the end of the road. From here, take a short walk through a little forest that opens onto a pristine, often deserted beach. My Kiwi uncle tells me this is one of his favourite spots too, and he has fond memories of fishing here with his sons.

A more on-the-beaten track sight is Hot Water Beach. Head here at low tide, dig a hole in the sand, and lie in the natural hot spring water that rises to the surface. Be careful though, it can get pretty hot!

Cathedral Cove is also not to be missed. This pretty beach was featured in the film, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” Located close to Hahei, you have to walk a 40-minute trail to get to the cove, but it is well worth the effort.

I have visited the Coromandel Peninsula more times than I can count, yet each time I go, I still stumble across something new.

My main travel tip for this region is just to drive and walk around. If you see a little road heading into the bush, turn down it. Who knows what surprise lies ahead? If you’re lucky, it will be a secluded beach.

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