Planning a Trip
Getting There & Getting Around
By Plane -- Air Coromandel/Great Barrier Airlines (tel. 0800/900-600 in NZ, or 09/275-9120; www.greatbarrierairlines.co.nz) runs daily services and scheduled scenic flights between Whitianga and Auckland, Great Barrier Island, the Bay of Islands, Waiheke Island, Rotorua, and Tauranga.
By Ferry -- Operating between Auckland and Coromandel town is 360 Discovery Cruises (tel. 0800/360-3472 in NZ; www.360discovery.co.nz). The trip takes 2 hours and costs NZ$89 round-trip for adults and NZ$49 children ages 5 to 15, which includes a transfer into town. They can also arrange for a rental car for you.
By Coach (Bus) -- InterCity (tel. 09/623-1503) runs regular services between Auckland, Whitianga, and Coromandel.
By Car -- If you're coming from Auckland: Drive south on State Highway 1 for about 50km (30 miles), then turn east on State Highway 2. About 34km (21 miles) later, you'll pick up State Highway 25 to Thames. If you want to head straight to the east coast beaches of Whitianga, Tairua, and Pauanui: Take the direct route, signposted EASTERN BEACHES, turning right at Kopu (St. Hwy. 26) away from Thames. Approximately 1km (1/2 mile) from this point, turn left onto State Highway 25a, which is the direct route. If you follow the Pacific Coast Highway through Thames and Coromandel town: Turn left at Kopu and follow the PCH "Hook" signs. This is a terrific trip, but if your destination is the east coast beaches, it will add at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours to your journey. If you're traveling up the west side of the peninsula, through Whitianga to Pauanui, pass through Tairua township and continue south until you reach the service station on the left. This is where you turn off to Pauanui (there's a small sign) and travel north again.
The road from Colville village, north of Coromandel town, to the top of the peninsula is unpaved all the way and takes around 1 1/2 hours. It's a stunning trip, but not recommended for the fainthearted. It is dirt only, very steep, narrow, and often a one-way lane with no room for passing -- plus steep drops to the ocean. If you want to explore this area, I strongly advise you to join Coromandel Discovery, 316 Tiki Rd. (tel. 07/866-8175; www.coromandeldiscovery.co.nz).
By Taxi -- Contact Mercury Bay Taxi, in Whitianga, at tel. 07/866-5643.
A Word on Driving: -- Remember that getting to places on the peninsula often takes longer than you think. Many of the roads are narrow and winding and, off State Highway 25, generally unsealed (unpaved). Thames to Coromandel village takes almost 2 hours driving through numerous little coastal settlements. There are pretty beaches aplenty to stop at along the way, but drive carefully! North of Coromandel township, the roads become significantly worse. Rental-car companies previously forbade vehicles from traveling here, but if you stick to the Pacific Coast Highway path (St. Hwy. 25), you're generally okay. The route from Coromandel to Whitianga takes about 1 hour by State Highway 25 (recommended for rentals), and a similar length of time on the "infamous" 309 route, which has 24km (15 miles) of unpaved road and is narrow and winding. It may be scenic with some interesting stops along the way, but State Highway 25 is far less harrowing.
The Thames i-SITE Visitor Centre, 206 Pollen St., Thames (tel. 07/868-7284; fax 07/868-7584; www.thamesinfo.co.nz), is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm; Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays 9am to 4pm. The Coromandel i-SITE Visitor Centre, 355 Kapanga Rd., Coromandel (tel. 07/866-8598; fax 07/866-8527; www.coromandeltown.co.nz), is open in summer daily from 9am to 5pm; and in winter Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 2pm. The Whitianga i-SITE Visitor Centre, 66 Albert St., Whitianga (tel. 07/866-5555; fax 07/866-2205; www.whitianga.co.nz), is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm, and December 26 to January 31 from 8am to 6pm. Pick up the free 72-page Coromandel Visitor's Guide at any one of the above locations.
The Thames office of the Department of Conservation is on Kauaeranga Valley Road (tel. 07/867-9080; www.doc.govt.nz).
Coromandel Peninsula is well served with websites. You can find information on the region at any of the following: www.thecoromandel.com, www.mercurybay.co.nz, www.thepeninsula.co.nz, www.whitianga.co.nz, www.pacificcoast.co.nz, and www.waihi.org.nz.
For details of the colorful 2-week annual Pohutukawa Festival, held every November to celebrate the red-flowering native pohutukawa trees that line the coast, call tel. 07/867-9077, or check www.pohutukawafestival.co.nz. In late summer, Coromandel town celebrates with the Coromandel Flavours Festival. Contact the visitor center for details or check www.coromandelflavours.co.nz.