The Coromandel is a 100 kilometre (62 mile) long peninsula on the eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island that juts northwards from the Bay of Plenty to the Hauraki Gulf. Its centre is a forested, mountainous region, flanked to the east and west by a series of harbours, inlets and sandy beaches.Captain Cook sighted the Coromandel on his voyage to New Zealand in 1769, and it was he that named Mercury Bay on the eastern coast. Early European settlers extensively milled the kauri forests of the interior. A later gold rush in the 1860s brought wealth to the region and many of the grand buildings of the era remain to this day.
Today, the Coromandel is popular with artists, craftsmen and those seeking an alternative lifestyle. It is the base for New Zealand’s Green Party. The area is also a popular holiday location, thanks to its natural beauty, warm climate and beautiful beaches. The region offers a range of activities including boating, diving, surfing, big game fishing and kayaking. There are also walking tracks in its forested interior, some passing the workings of old gold mines.
The main towns of the Coromandel are Thames in the southwestern corner, Coromandel town north of Thames, and on the eastern coast the towns of Whitianga, Whangamata and Waihi. Thames is the main centre of the region and was its hub during the gold rush. It has numerous historic buildings from the era and is a good base for those wanting to explore the Coromandel Forest Park.
Coromandel is named after HMS Coromandel, which visited the area in 1820 to ship Kauri spars for the British Royal Navy. It is a quiet town and home to artists and crafts people. It too has some splendid buildings from the 1860s gold rush.
Picturesque Whitianga is built on the shores of Mercury Bay. It is a popular spot for fishing, and has a selection of shops and a museum. Nearby, stunning Cathedral Cove and the thermal spas of Hot Water Beach are popular with visitors.
Whangamata has a picturesque golden beach, which is safe for swimming but also has excellent surf. The town has numerous shops, a golf course and there are several walking tracks in its forested hills.
Waihi, originally a gold mining town, still has one operating gold mine. It is also home to the Goldfields Railway and rides can be taken on vintage trains to nearby Waikino. The town also has a popular beach.