19 Free Things to do in Coromandel Peninsula 2023
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through & make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
If you’re looking for an amazing summer getaway, look no further than the Coromandel Peninsula.
This stunning region is located on New Zealand’s North Island and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and landscapes in the country.
What’s more, there are plenty of things to do in Coromandel without spending a cent!
So if you’re looking for an affordable vacation destination, be sure to add the Coromandel Peninsula to your list.
19 free things to do in Coromandel Peninsula
From stunning beaches and bush walks to hot springs and historic towns, there’s plenty to see and do on the Coromandel Peninsula. Here are my top 20 picks for free things to do in the Coromandel Peninsula.
1. Cathedral Cove Walkway
One of the most popular things to do in Coromandel is the Cathedral Cove Walk. Cathedral Cove gets its name from the large limestone caves that can be found in the area.
This stunning coastal walk takes you through native bush, over a boardwalk and down to the idyllic beach at Cathedral Cove. The walk takes around 45 minutes each way and is suitable for all fitness levels.
Be sure to swing by Stingray Bay on the way!
Once you’ve made it down to Cathedral Cove Beach, you can swim in the crystal-clear waters and relax on the sandy beach. If the tide is low enough you can walk through the cave to another beach on the other side.
2. Hot Water Beach
Visiting Hot Water Beach and digging a hole in the sand is definitely a must-do when visiting the Coromandel Peninsula. If you are walking along the beach at low tide, it won’t be too long before you find the sand scoring your feet.
No it’s not because of the summer sun, but because the beach has thermal water bubbling underneath the sand.
The beach gets its name from the nearby geothermal springs, which heat up the sand to a temperature of approximately 64 degrees Celsius.
Here, you can dig your own hot pool in the sand and relax in the natural thermal waters. Perfect on days when the weather isn’t cooperating and you need to warm up a little.
Just be sure to bring a spade and arrive two hours on either side of low tide!
If you haven’t got a spade with you don’t worry, these can be hired at the local shop.
If you get too hot you can jump between your hot pool and the ocean to cool off. Do take care though as the beach is quite rough and there are often rips.
3. Mount Paku Summit Walk
The Mount Paku Summit Walk is a short but stunning walk that takes you up to the summit of Paku. The track starts at the car park on Paku Drive and takes around 30 minutes to complete.
When you reach the top of the summit you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Tairua, Pauanui and the Coromandel Ranges.
The trail is quite steep but there are handrails and steps in the rocks to help with the climb.
If you want a longer walk then it’s possible to start by the jetty and you’ll find a marked path guiding you to the top.
4. Kauri Grove Walk
The Kauri Grove Walk is accessed from the 309 Road and is a 2-hour return walk. It’s a great opportunity to see one of the finest remaining kauri stands in the Coromandel Peninsula.
After about 2 minutes or so, you’ll find where the waterfall streams down into a deep pool. It’s a great spot for a swim if you’re visiting in the summer months!
Continue walking until you find yourself at Kauri Grove. You’ll know you’ve made it because the Kauri Grove consists of a stand of kauri trees that tower over the rest of the forest.
It’s pretty spectacular and these trees are of great significance to the Coromandel Peninsula. There are footbridges and boardwalks which allow you get to up close to the trees.
The walk itself is mostly flat so it isn’t too difficult.
Kauri dieback disease is affecting New Zealand forests quite drastically which means some walks can become permanently closed. For the latest information be sure to visit doc.govt.nz
5. New Chums Beach
New Chums Beach is often ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it’s easy to see why. This secluded beach is located at the end of a 2-kilometre track through native bush, and is well worth the effort!
It takes about half an hour to walk the track and is pretty easy. You’ll start at Whangapoua Beach, which is where you can park your car before making it the rest of the way on foot.
Once you’ve arrived at New Chums Beach, you can relax on the golden sands, go for a swim or walk up to the lookout.
Walking up to the lookout certainly isn’t to be missed as you get some pretty stunning views of the beach!
6. Walk between Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay
Dubbed one of the best coastal walks in New Zealand, the walk between Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay will take you through the remote northern part of the Coromandel Peninsula.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the coastline and of course, Stony Bay and Fletcher Bay are pretty drop-dead gorgeous themselves.
The 20-kilometre track will take 7 hours return or 3.5 hours one way. Classified as an easy track with not too much gradient, you’ll walk through farmland and native bush
To access the track drive 31 kilometres along Colville Road, and then you have the choice to take Port Charles Road for 20 kilometres to Stony Bay or Port Jackson Road for 30 kilometres to Fletcher Bay.
What one you take will depend on what bay you want to start (and end) the walk from.
7. Hahei Beach
Hahei Beach is one of my favourite beaches in the Coromandel Peninsula and has been for a long time! This beautiful beach is located just a short drive from Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
It’s the perfect place to cool down for another swim if you’ve just completed the Cathedral Cove walkway. If you visit on a calm day it’s an amazing swim spot as you can just float over the gentle waves and the water in incredibly clear.
At Hahei Beach, you can go for a swim, relax on the sand or grab an ice cream from the local dairy.
Hahei Beach Resort is located nearby if you need some affordable accommodation in the area. They’ve got a range of campsites, cabins and holiday homes.
8. Swim at Owharoa Falls
Owharoa Falls is a beautiful spot for a refreshing swim and is located in the Karangahake Gorge. The staircase-looking falls flow into a large pool which is the perfect place to cool down on a hot day.
When driving through the Gorge on SH2 keep an eye out for the ‘Owharoa Falls’ sign and that’s when you’ll know to turn right into Waitawheta Road. To get to Owharoa Falls, follow the track that starts from the car park on Waitawheta Road.
It’s very easy and only takes about 5 minutes. There are some stairs though so it isn’t suitable for prams or wheelchairs.
There are no toilet facilities here so just make sure you’re prepared and plan ahead.
9. Find the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout
The Shakespeare Cliff lookout is an awesome free activity to do in the Coromandel Peninsula. From here, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the coastline and the nearby islands.
To get to the Shakespeare Cliff lookout, turn right from Flaxmill and continue along the footpath till you reach the end of Flaxmill Bay. From here you’ll follow the track which will take you through a grassy reserve.
The track is approximately 3 kilometres long and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. You can also walk down to the secluded Lonely Bay if you wish.
The walk is rated as medium difficulty with some steep areas with stairs.
10. Swim at Opito Bay
Opito Bay is a beautiful spot for a refreshing swim and is located just a short drive from Kuaotunu. It’s off the beaten track and even in the summer months it still won’t feel that busy.
It really is a hidden gem! The bay has crystal-clear water and is very calm due to it being quite sheltered so it’s very relaxing just floating in the ocean.
If you’ve got a paddleboard or a kayak with you it’s a great spot for that. You could easily spend the whole day here, it’s one of my favourite spots in the Coromandel.
There aren’t any shops around though so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared and have a packed lunch with you.
11. Explore Crayfish Bay
Located a short walk away from Opito Bay, it’s easy to tick Crayfish Bay off in the same day. It’s a pretty unique spot and well worth a visit!
Again it’s a bit of a hidden gem as not that many people know about it. It takes just 10 minutes to walk across from Opito Bay to Crayfish Bay, easy peasy.
The water is just as blue and clear but instead of sand, the bay is made up of rocks, which is what makes it so unique. It reminds me of somewhere you’d see in Europe, not New Zealand!
12. Visit Whangamata Beach
Whangamata is a popular surf town in the Coromandel Peninsula and for good reason! The beach is gorgeous and when the conditions are right, it’s a great surf spot (one of New Zealand’s most famous in fact).
It’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. Overall the beach is very safe and is patrolled by lifeguards in the summer months. The wharf is great for jumping off too when it’s high tide.
It’s not far to walk to the town once you decide you need a break from the sun and want to browse the cool surf shops.
13. Watch the sunset in Kuaotunu
Kuaotunu is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset and is located just a short drive from Whitianga. From here, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the sun setting over the water and of course the beach is gorgeous too.
Head here in the afternoon to soak up a bit of sunshine before it disappears for the evening. There isn’t much in Kuaotunu so expect a very chilled and laid-back vibe.
14. Enjoy the view from Matarangi Wharf
Not far from Kuaotunu is where you’ll find Matarangi Wharf. It’s the perfect place to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area. It’s a nice photo spot too with the wharf stretching out above the water.
You also get spectacular sunsets from Matarangi Wharf so try make the most of those! You can take a stroll along the sand if you wish as well.
15. Find the Otama Beach Swing
Also in the Kuaotunu area is where you’ll find Otama Beach, another stunning stretch of coastline and I mean STUNNING.
Otama Beach just about takes the cake for my favourite beach in the Coromandel Peninsula, it’s that gorgeous.
Spend a day (or two) here just soaking up the peace and quiet, the beach is big enough that you’ll have plenty of space to yourself and again it’s not that well known.
There are pohutukawa trees scattered along the edge of the beach which provide a bit of much-needed shade.
To find the swing, you’ll want to walk to the southern end of the beach. The swing even has its own location on google maps so it’s pretty easy to find. Enjoy relaxing down this end of the beach as well, you probably won’t bump into too many people!
16. Walk the Karangahake Gorge Railway
The Karangahake Gorge Railway Walk is located in the Karangahake Gorge and it’s a great way to spend an hour or four.
When it comes to walking the track that follows the old railway line between Waihi and Paroa you’ve got two options. A 2.5-kilometre Rail Tunnel loop walk will take you under an hour or a 7-kilometre Historic Walkway to Waikino which will take 4 hours return.
The track is easy and dogs are allowed if they’re on a leash.
You’ll be treated to some stunning views along the way, especially when you stop for a break at the Ohinemuri River. This is one of the highlights along with getting to walk through the old railway tunnel which is 1100 metres long.
Remember to take a torch with you for the tunnel or you can use your phone.
17. Swim at Pokohino Beach
No trip to the Coromandel Peninsula would be complete without a visit to Pokohino Beach. It’s a great spot for swimming and it’s also incredibly picturesque. At low tide, you’ll find exposed rock pools to explore.
Pokohino is only a 10-minute drive from Onemana and it’s a 20-minute walk down to the beach. The sand here is golden, the water is crystal blue and the beach is surrounded by bush.
Due to only being accessible on foot, this beach feels pretty remote. The walk down is rather steep so be prepared for a bit of a tough climb on the way back.
18. Hike the Pinnacles
The Pinnacles Walk is a great way to spend a day in the Coromandel Peninsula, it’s also possible to do the walk as an overnight hike if you want to take it at a slower pace.
The track is quite steep and can be strenuous at times but it rewards you with stunning 360-degree views as you make your way to the top of the summit. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see for miles.
The track is well-marked and it is a very popular New Zealand hike. It should take an average hiker around 8 hours to complete so it’s a pretty big day.
If you want to make this an overnight hike instead, you’ll need to book a bed in the Pinnacles Hut. Make sure you do this in advance as even though there are 80 beds available this walk does get very popular on weekends.
19. Do the Pauanui Trig Track
If you’re looking for an awesome walk to do in the Pauanaui area you should definitely check out Pauanui Trig Track.
The 3-hour loop track is 3.8 kilometres long and will lead you up to the trig station, 387 metres above sea level which means you can expect some pretty spectacular views!
You’ll pass through native bush and as the ground is uneven in some places and can be steep, this walk is recommended for people with reasonable fitness.
How to get from Auckland to Coromandel
There are a few different ways to get from Auckland to Coromandel, depending on your budget and how much time you have.
The cheapest and easiest way to get from Auckland to Coromandel is to take the InterCity bus. The journey takes approximately 4 hours.
You can also take a scenic ferry cruise from Auckland to the Coromandel – a pretty great way to travel in the summer months and escape the traffic! The journey takes just under 2 hours.
Otherwise, the most popular way to get from Auckland to Coromandel is by car. The journey takes around 2.5 hours and is a great way to see some of New Zealand’s stunning scenery.
Driving by car is also the option that gives you the most flexibility as the Coromandel Peninsula is quite large so you will need some kind of transport to get you from place to place. Some of the best places can be quite remote and a little tricky to get to with public transport alone.
Best time to visit the Coromandel
The best time to visit the Coromandel Peninsula is from December to February when the weather is at its warmest. However, as the North Island tends to have rather long summers you can visit anywhere from October through to April.
In the shoulder season, of course, the weather will be a bit milder and if you happen to get an overcast day it may not be swimming weather, especially pre-summer but it’s an opportunity to escape the crowds and visit some of these unique places potentially by yourself.
I’ve been swimming in the Coromandel as early as October. Luckily it was a beautiful day. The water felt pretty fresh but it was lots of fun.
Where to stay in the Coromandel
Accommodation in the Coromandel is plentiful and you’ll find lots of options depending on your budget.
If you’re looking for something more affordable you can choose from camping grounds, backpacker hostels and holiday parks. Some of the more popular spots to stay include Coromandel Town, Whitianga, Thames, Tairua and Whangamata.
For a more luxurious experience, the Coromandel has plenty of hotels and holiday homes to choose from. These tend to be quite pricey but you can often get great deals during the off-season months.
Conclusion: 20 Free Things to do in Coromandel Peninsula
So there you have it – all the free best things to do in the Coromandel Peninsula. With all these great things to do, no wonder it’s become such a popular destination for New Zealanders and international visitors alike!
From stunning hikes, to great surfing spots and incredible beaches there’s something here for everyone.