Three Days: New Zealand's Coromandel Peninsula
The promise of sleepy beach towns, pristine and secluded beaches, geothermal features, and misty rainforests drew us to visit The Coromandel Peninsula (The Coro, for short) toward the end of our latest visit to New Zealand. The Coro is located on the North Island, an hour and a half drive or a ferry ride east across the Firth of Thames of Auckland, yet it is the world away from the hustle and bustle of the country’s largest city. With no agenda and a limited list of places we had to see, we kept our two days planned for the area open to exploring anything that caught our fancy.
Driving northwest into The Coro from Tauranga, our Toyota Fortuner eased us through the non-stop windy roads up through dense forests and rugged landscape that used to be gold mining territory. We first bailed out of the Fortuner to watch the surfers brave the crashing waves in Whangamata. In the Māori language, the Wh is pronounced like an F; Whangamata and Whitianga roll off the tongue fairly easily, but town names such as Whakapapa sound a bit off to our English ear at first.
There is a peace that only comes to me when near the water, so frequent stops along the shore for this current in-lander were a necessity. Continuing to head north through the mountains, our next stop was Whitanga (Whiti, for short). Whiti sits along the pristine waters of Te-Whanganui-o-Hei; this area was inhabited by the Māori for nearly 1,000 years before it was discovered by Captain Cook and coined it Mercury Bay. The air of the region’s timber exporting and boat building past could be felt while walking along timber sidewalks and maritime vibe. Visiting Whiti in March (the equivalent to early fall in the Northern Hemisphere) made this sometimes-busy beach town of 5,000 residents seem sleepy and quite inviting. Almost every hotel, motel, and B&B had a vacancy, so we chose a modestly priced motel just a few steps from the beach as our base camp.
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