If you have the right mindset, the journey can be just as enjoyable as your destination. We have some great reasons to stop your vehicle, to pause and refresh, and discover some of the delights along the way.
Photo credit: George Ribin Sunny Vadakkedat
As you pass through the Karangahake Gorge, take the time to stop in the main DOC carpark and cross the swing bridge, as there are excellent walks to be had for a refreshing break in your journey.
Watch out for the one-lane bridge just before the Waikino Hotel for a short detour to the stunning Owharoa Falls. You can see the top of the third fall from the side of the road, but a two-minute walk down to the pool at the bottom will give you the best view, a pool for a dip, and a cloud of cooling mist.
The Pepe Reserve, Tairua. Over the one-lane bridge, heading north, you can’t miss it on the edge of the harbour. Take a swim, get a real fruit ice-cream from All Things Organic, just up the road, and have a play in the excellent playground. Or barbecue on the (free) gas cookers with the best view. The new public toilet facilities are stylish, helping make this one of the most popular comfort stops in The Coromandel.
If you are heading up the western coast from Thames to Coromandel Town, Waiomu Beach Cafe is the perfect place to cave in for an ice-cream for the kids. The cool cafe is renowned for it's breakfast and lunch menu, and with items such as green eggs to a smoked fish platter from Piako Pete's, even the foodie members of the family will be satisfied. Situated across the road from a beachside playground with giant shady pohutukawa, it's a Coro' Classic.
Colenso Country Cafe, Whenuakite. Parents heading north up the east coast plan for this one. Great food served with a warm welcome by the family owners. You can sit outside in the shady orchard garden, let the dog out for a sniff and a stick game and let off steam in the kids playground, complete with spring-free trampoline and giant Jenga. The naughty donkeys often provide entertainment just over the fence, and the gift shop is worth a browse. Colenso is a also good spot to grab some fresh produce, sourdough loaves baked on weekend mornings or a jar of preserves.
A great alternative route from Auckland to The Coromandel is along the East Coast Road, through quirky seaside settlements, forests and rocky shores to the wide bay south of Kaiaua and the Pūkorokoro-Miranda Shorebird Centre. The white curve of the chenier plain and the views across the Hauraki Gulf have their own tranquil magic. You can visit the nearby bird hide for a glimpse of the amazing birds who migrate around the world to return here each year. One godwit that arrived back late last year holds the record for the longest non-stop avian flight, 12,050km from Alaska to Pūkorokoro-Miranda.