Road Trip: Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula Itinerary for 3-days (Return)

Monday, August 10, 2020

A road trip to the Coromandel Peninsula is a must-do for anyone looking for beautiful beaches, dense misty rain forests with stunning waterfalls, and possibly finding a wild Kiwi bird. Discover the stunning Coromandel Peninsula, including the iconic Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and New Chums Beach. It takes roughly one and a half hours of non-stop travel to drive to the closest town in Coromandel from Auckland, which is approximately 115km.

Day 1: Auckland to Whangamata

Karangahake Gorge

Drive time from Auckland: 1 hr 40 min (130 km)

First of all, just driving through Karanahake Gorge is already breathtaking. This is a great spot to stop to stretch your legs and go for a short walk within the walkways and old tunnels. There are multiple options for walks:

  • Rail Tunnel Loop – 45 mins return 2.5 km
  • Windows Walk loop - 1 hr return 2.5 km
  • Historic Walkway – 45 mins 2.5 km or 4 hrs return 7 km


Waihi & Waihi Beach

Drive time from Karangahake Gorge: 20 min (20 km)

Waihi Beach is a town in the Bay of Planty, just south of the Coromandel Peninsula. Soak up the green farmland and native New Zealand bush. Before driving north to the Coromandel Peninsula, the place offers several exciting stops.

  • Visit Gold Discovery Centre and learn more about active gold mining in the area, or book a guided tour of the nearby working goldmine.
  • Train enthusiasts and history buffs can go back in time on the Goldfields Historic Railway.



Drive time from Waihi Beach: 45 min (40 km)

This area’s population booms during summer, and gazing at the stunning blues of sea and sky as you drive, you’ll understand why.

Whangamata is a chilled-out surf town. Big enough to have great coffee, small enough to be friendly. Get involved with a surf lesson, or book a tour to Whenuakura/Donut Island for something exceptional. Access is only by kayak or paddleboard but when you’ve made it through the narrow entrance, the island’s wildlife sanctuary and the beautiful lagoon are out of this world.

There is plenty of accommodation to choose from whether you’re planning on a hostel or motel. Campers can try Opoutere Coastal Camping, fifteen minutes up the coast.

Day 2: Whangamata to Whitianga


Drive time from Whangamata: 30 min (34 km)

Continuing up the coast the following day to Pauanui on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. A purpose-built holiday community, there are some lovely boutiques for the shoppers and good eateries for breakfast or lunch. Some exciting things to do is:

  • Take a tour to Slipper, Shoe or Aldermen Islande. Sometimes during the tour, you may see dolphins on the way as an extra excitement to the trip.
  • Hire a bike and eat fish and chips on the beach for lunch.

Hot Water Beach

Drive time from Paunui: 45 min (46 km)

Hot Water Beach is a beautiful long white sand beach framed in cliffs between Tairua and Whitianga, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Castle Island. This slight detour off the beaten track is worth it to dig your own thermal spa in the sand.

Hire a spade when you have lunch at Hotties Café or Hot Waves Café. Or pick one up at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.

Cathedral Cove

Drive time from Hot Water Beach: 15 min (9.5 km)

Cathedral Cove is of the most visited and astonishing places in the Coromandel Peninsula and New Zealand. It is accessible by foot, boat or kayak. We recommend taking the Cathedral Cove Walk, which is 2.5 km long and will take around 1 hr 30 min.


Drive time from Cathedral Cave car park: 40 min (36.5 km)

You’ll catch the last sun rays on the beach at Mercury Bay before a well-deserved glass of something special and turning in for the night. Right on the main road, looking out over the sea you can take your pick of accommodation, including Baileys at the Beach motel. An unmissable dinner treat is a stacked gourmet burger at Hangry Burger, topped off with one of their delicious chocolate brownies.

The beach is the main attraction, but those with children will love Whiti Farm Park.

For travellers wanting something more sophisticated, The Lost Springs is within reach with hot pools, a day spa and a restaurant.


Day 3: Whitianga to Auckland

New Chums Beach

Drive time from Whitianga: 40 min (38 km)

Today’s itinerary is a visit to New Chums, voted one of the top ten beaches in the world and another incredible Instagram-worthy vista. Yes, it really is that special! Enjoy the stunning scenery on the way to Whangapoua and park at the north end of the beach. The walk to New Chums involves a stream crossing and some climbing, but the views out over the coastline far outweigh the cost of any effort. Time stands still here. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life. Wear good shoes and allow an hour for the walk.


Thames Township

Drive times from New Chums Beach: 1 hr 20 min (72 km)

From Whangapoua, head across the top of the peninsula, past Coromandel Town and take the famous pohutukawa-lined Thames Coast Road south. It’s an hour and a half to Thames township while enjoying the views on the west coast of Coromanded Peninsula. The brightly coloured Waiomu Beach café makes a great lunch stop.

The main street in Thames is home to the Saturday morning market, showcasing the area’s produce and people.


Pūkorokoro / Miranda

Drive times from Thames: 30 min (36 km)

Pūkorokoro / Miranda is a historical fort and small village that is known for the Pūkorokoro Miranda Naturalists’ Trust to encourage people to visit the coastline and appreciate its wide range of flora and fauna. Those curious about New Zealand birdlife can stop for a walk at Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre before the easy hour’s trip back to Auckland City.


Returning to Auckland

Depending on your availability, you may take the fastest route back to Auckland using the Highway, or through Kawakawa Bay you will need extra 20 minutes on the road where you have a chance to see another part of New Zealand’s nature and beaches while overlooking Coromandel’s west coast over the Firth Of Themes.

If you’re looking for epic North Island road trip ideas, this one needs to be on the list as one of the best 3-day itineraries. From all of us at Mode Rentals, happy travels!

Updated on August 30, 2022.

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