In bygone days, people flocked to the Coromandel searching for gold or to work in the kauri industry. Today The Coromandel is mecca for those in need of some R and R, having its own microclimate as well as seemingly having its own cruisey time clock, which makes it the perfect holiday destination. The peninsula is awash with gob-smacking views, bird filled native bush, numerous shimmering golden sand beaches and taste defining local produce which means pretty much everyone’s Coromandel day is a good one. And there’s no better way to explore the Coromandel and across the North Island than on your own steam – or indeed your own EV - safe in the knowledge that our itinerary will keep your charge at reassuring levels, so all you need to focus on is on the outlook in front of you.
Before you head out, make sure your car is fully charged, your tent is packed and your road trip playlist is sorted. This is the best way to be assured you’re super relaxed as you set out on your adventure.
Head south out of Auckland, taking the State Highway 2 turn off to The Coromandel. And if you’re camping or rocking your own RV make sure you pop into some of the great roadside stalls for orangey yoked free range eggs, fresh from the garden vegetables, amazingly tasty fruit - like the pick your own blueberries at Blueberry Country, Ngatea, (or summer plums and nectarines a bit further on at the Valley Orchard, Whangamata) - and delicious fresh or smoked fish from Piako Pete’s roadside stall, just before the bridge at Pipiroa.
First stop is Thames, and the Chargenet at 505 Mackay Street – just behind the library. We think 15 – 20 minutes should just about do it, and this will give you the perfect amount of time to pop up to Café Melbourne or Coco Coffee Bar for your morning flat white. Wander up one side of the wide main street of Grahamstown, Thames’ heritage area, and back to your car on the other side. The wooden shop fronts recall an era of swarthy gold miners, horse drawn mail coaches and hillsides once covered in enormous kauri trees.
Head back to your car, now charged and rearing to go. From Thames, SH25 meanders north along the scenic western coast of the peninsula, darting in and out of rocky coves and bays, through delightful little blink and you’ll miss ‘em towns, like Te Puru and Waiomu. If you’re peckish, pop into Waiomu Beach Café for a wood fired pizza and locally brewed craft beer, or go straight for the jugular and hook yourself up with a coffee and a slice of one of their devil may care cakes! Oh and what a super nice spot to sit outside and stare across the road to the pohutukawas, the reserve and further to the sea.
In fact if you’re cruising here in December the route northwards is trimmed with the scarlet blooms of pohutukawa trees - locally known as 'New Zealand's Christmas Tree'.
19km north of Thames, at Tapu, a forested road leads east to the Rapaura Water Gardens and further on towards the Square Kauri Tree. Wander the walking tracks past garden sculptures in Raupara's verdant bush setting, filled with native birds and bird song, abutting the rugged wilderness that runs down the peninsula's central spine.
After exploring all of the flora and fauna jump back in the car and head north where SH25 becomes even more spectacular, negotiating hills and valleys to provide glimpses of remote bays. Around 7km south of Coromandel Town, an essential stop combines horizon-stretching views with super-fresh, local seafood. Oysters, scallops and fish and chips fill the menu at the rustic Coromandel Oyster Company, and along the road at the Coromandel Mussel Kitchen (closed 2018/2019 season), huge green-lipped mussels are perfectly combined with locally-brewed craft beer from MK Brewing. Our recommendation? Try the grilled mussels in garlic butter and a Gold Digger pilsner.
Back to the coast road and northwards leads you and your trusty EV steed to Coromandel Town. Even more quaint and old school than Grahamstown in Thames, Coromandel Town is a sleepy byway framed with wooden buildings from the 19th-century. A mandatory stop is at the iconic Star & Garter Hotel – visit on a weekend for the best chance of live music – before embarking on more heritage discoveries at the Coromandel Goldfield Centre and the local Mining Historic Museum.
There are some great accommodation options – camping at Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park, or closer to the beach is the Shelley Beach Top 10, both are super options as you can charge your car fully whilst you enjoy a relaxed evening by the beach, or a quick stroll into the nightlife options of Coromandel Town. We think you should allow two nights here, to ensure that you can explore the delights of Mussel Barge Fishing and walk the spectacular Coromandel Coastal Walkway. Go on, you’ll want to be here tomorrow too!
Take a day trip to the outskirts of Coromandel Town, and you’ll find a quirky narrow gauge railway which winds up a forested hillside negotiating four bridges, two winding spirals, tunnels and a careful double switchback. There are views aplenty – courtesy of the breezy open-sided passenger carriages – and even better vistas at the railway's terminus high above at the 'Eye-Full Tower'. Booking ahead online is definitely recommended on summer weekends, and don't leave without watching the video about Driving Creek's inspirational founder, pottery artist and conservationist, the late Barry Brickell.
Nearby, sleepy Colville is a tiny northerly village that's popular with alternative lifestyle folk drawn by the blissful solitude. Stock up on all things organic and vegan at the Colville General Store before securing a sunny outdoor table for good coffee and fresh fruit ice-cream nearby at Hereford 'n' a Pickle. If you're self-catering and having barbecues on this road trip, their excellent sausages and fruit relishes are available to buy.
After a great nights sleep and another overnight charge at your campground, make your way in an easterly direction towards Kuaotunu. Your first stop on this leg must be simply to hang out on the very beautiful and pristine New Chum Beach.
Just after the rural hamlet of Te Rerenga – do make a stop for home made fruit chutneys and chilli sauces at the Castle Rock Cafe – an unsealed road leads to remote Whangapoua Beach. Whangapoua is pretty special in itself, but a walking trail at its northern end continues for 30 minutes to a stretch of sand that's been ranked in the world's top ten beaches. Bookended by tiny Motukopu Island, New Chum is a remote, white sand cove that can easily steal an afternoon. If the tide's in, you may need to wade through a shallow inlet, but it's definitely worth getting your feet wet. (People often call this beach New Chums but we've had it on good authority that you drop the s, old chum!)
When you finally decide to pack up your towel and book (and make sure you take all of your rubbish with you!) it’s an easy drive down the peninsula to Kuaotunu, and you can park yourself and your EV up at The Kuaotunu Motor Camp, located at 33 Bluff Rd, Rings Beach. Remember to medium charge your EV between day trips and always charge to 100% overnight so you’re locked and loaded for the next day.
Banner Photo Credit: Ocean Leopard Tours