Planning the trip and route
The weekend weather looked perfect and we thought this is our chance to visit the Coromandel Peninsula. We had this in mind already last year, got too busy to fit it in. We aimed to go up right to the top, not only to Port Jackson, rather to the end of the road at Fletcher Bay. This remote spot is very basic and the start of the Coromandel Walkway.
This meant we had to plan for a night camping, with good weather in the cards it seemed to be the perfect choice. On the way up from Taupo we decided to break down the journey in Tairua for the first night and near Thames on the way home, the third and last night.
Half Day 1: Taupo to Tairua via Whangamata
We left Taupo around midday on Friday to make our way to the Bay of Plenty via Rotorua and Tauranga. There would be plenty to see and places to visit in case we had more time. We stopped for a picnic at the end of the gorge on Tauranga Direct Road near the Mangorewa Stream.
We continued along SH2 until Waihi where we joined the SH25. Our next stop was at the harbour in Whangamata .
After a swim in the sea near the surf club we met a local that suggested a nice restaurant called Nero where we had a delicious pizza for dinner. Our overnight stop was at Tairua where our pre-booked Airbnb had a whirlpool as an added bonus.
Day 2: Tairua to Fletcher Bay via Whitianga
The next morning we made our way to the Paku Summit. The views from the top are just amazing. Go early to avoid the large tour bus group that may arrive around 10 am.
We left behind all the tourist spots on the way, like Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove as we had been there before. In Whitianga we stopped at the i-SITE and visited a friend for lunch before going for a swim at the beautiful Otama Beach. We voted it our most favorite spot for a swim this year! The water crystal clear and warm, while the light-golden sand squeaks between the toes. The scenery couldn’t be better, old Pohutukawa trees lining the beach, they are just so photogenic.
If we had more time we would have also visited Opito Bay, but we still had a long way to go up to the top of Coromandel. Fuel up the vehicle as there is no more fuel beyond Coleville (also the shop might close early, specially on weekends!!) The route takes longer than expected. Because it is so scenic and you want to stop all the time to take photos of the scenery, just to find out that it gets more beautiful around the corner.
Near Coleville we saw a herd of cows crossing the estuary at low tide. We met them again, when they arrived on the other side. Keep your eyes open to soak in the beauty of this place. It’s everywhere!
The road is mainly unsealed behind Coleville and often lined with old Pohutukawa trees. This route would be even more magic around Christmas time. Probably, this is why the campgrounds need to be pre-booked during high season, between December and February.
We just made it in time before dark, when we arrived at Flechter Bay, located at the end of the road. We set up our tent and enjoyed a magnificent night sky.
Day 3: Fletcher Bay to Ngatea via Thames
The next day was another beauty with sunny skies that invited us to go for a bit of a walk after a morning swim. There are two major walkways, the Coromandel Walkway starts from Fletcher Bay and takes 7 hours for 10 km. We decided to walk along the shorter Muriway Walk from the top car park, on the way back towards Port Jackson, for about 1 hour (the whole walkway is a loop that returns via the road and takes 2 hours for 6 km).
As you can imagine, it was hard to leave. Drive back the road you came in. We stopped in Coromandel Town to fill up with fuel. Our plan included a visit of the Waiau Falls and Kauri Grove along the 309 Road, a 15 km detour south of Coromandel Town.
The township of Thames celebrated a heritage festival on this weekend. We wandered along the historic Pollen Street and enjoyed a bite to eat with a cider at the Junction Hotel, before driving to our Airbnb accommodation at Ngatea.
Last half Day: Ngatea to Taupo via Morrinsville
For our last day and the drive back to Taupo, we had two options in mind. The hot pools in Te Aroha or photographing the herd of Morrinsville. The last option is a different kind of attraction, blending marketing with artwork. We decided on that. The Morrinsville i-SITE has maps available that show the locations of the cows. The sculptures are dotted around the township, mainly along the main street. It was an enjoyable exercise and we had a lot of fun.