We had a long weekend a few weeks back for the Queen’s Birthday (thanks, Queenie!), so I decided to take an extra couple days off work and fly up to Auckland. From there, I rented a car for a five-day, four-night trip around New Zealand’s gorgeous Coromandel Peninsula, south to the coastal town of Tauranga, and then back to Wellington via Taupo.
As soon as I got to Auckland Airport, I picked up my car and hit the road for the two-and-a-half-hour trip to Coromandel Town. Here’s a map of the Coromandel in relation to the rest of the North Island to put everything in perspective. You can also see Tauranga and Taupo on here.
I was very lucky to have gorgeous weather for my drive. As soon as I got off the big highway headed out of Auckland, the scenery was incredible. The blue water contrasted with the bright green coastline and I hardly minded that the sun was in my eyes for most of the drive.
Here’s my ride. She had about 270,000 km on her, but she did well enough when I wasn’t trying to pass people.
Coromandel Town is on the western side of the Coromandel Peninsula, so I was going due north for most of the serpentine coastal drive.
I couldn’t resist the urge to pull over, with so many wonderful spots to stop.
Hard to tell it’s winter up here.
The road then began to wind uphill and inland as I neared Coromandel Town.
I’ll never get sick of these rolling green New Zealand hills.
The setting sun cast a golden glow over everything.
You can see some of the Coromandel’s islands off in the distance.
This was also a great chance to use my new telephoto lens.
I descended back to sea level just as the sky burst into flame.
I pulled into my lodgings in Coromandel Town as night fell and cooked some dinner before calling it an early night. Well, it would have been early if it weren’t for the people partying in the lounge past midnight. Hostels do come with their risks.
The next morning held the promise of another beautiful day, and mist blanketed the fields outside town.
I hopped in my car and headed down Coromandel’s well-known 309 Road. It’s unpaved and winds through the heart of the Coromandel, past kauri forests and waterfalls. I was headed to one of the kauri groves when I passed signs for a Waiau Falls and of course had to stop. I hadn’t even passed a single car on the road, and the waterfall was deserted too, making it all the more magical.
The path took me to the top of the falls, and I found a perfect perch from which to survey the surreal surroundings.
New Zealand is truly incredible. You can find places like this without another human being in sight and just pause to appreciate how wonderful mother nature is.
I reluctantly headed back up to my car to continue on to Waiau Kauri Grove. I only had a few minutes further to go down the road.
The path to the kauri grove took me through dense rainforest, and again, not a soul was in sight.
The kauris towered majestically over the rest of the forest like the kings that they are.
I had to pose with the largest one.
The sun came out and illuminated the ancient towering giants as I said my farewells.
I then made the slow and bumpy drive back to Coromandel Town for lunch. I wandered around a bit, taking in the old gold rush architecture.
I read in my guidebook that the Coromandel Smoking Company was known for their amazing smoked mussels, so I had to check that out. There were so many flavors to choose from, but I settled on garlic and barbecue and found a nice spot to park and enjoy my meal. Wow! They were incredibly delicious.
The view didn’t hurt, either.
Satisfied after a fabulous lunch, I hit the road towards Whitianga, my next overnight stop, which is due east from Coromandel Town. I got some great views of the town behind me as the road rose steeply towards the Coromandel’s east coast.
Much more to come!