New Zealand is famous for being distant, exotic, and picturesque. New Zealand has many internationally famous national parks (like Fiordland National Park home to Milford Sound) and is filled with countless natural wonders seemingly around every bend. One of the most beautiful regions in the North Island is the Coromandel Peninsula - a stone's throw from the main city of Auckland.

The Coromandel Peninsula is one of the leading candidates to be New Zealand's next national park and is a popular holiday destination for the local Kiwis (New Zealanders). It is renowned for its pristine beaches, misty forests, and marine life like whales.

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Why The Coromandel Peninsula is A Local Favorite

The hilly peninsula is studded with coves and beaches and is largely covered in bush (aka forest). The highest point on the peninsula rises to around 900 meters (or 3,000 feet). The peninsula is rather isolated (even though it is close to Auckland) and most of the population lives at the western base of the peninsula.

  • Forest: The Hilly Peninsula is Covered In Forest

It is made up of the eroded remnants of the Coromandel Volcanic Zone (it was very active during the Miocene and Pliocene periods). While the geothermal activity has long since died down, there are still hot springs in the area (notably the Hot Water Beach).

Much of the area is covered by the Coromandel Forest Park which covers some 71,899 hectares of the Coromandel Peninsula. The park is an expanse of densely forested hills and valleys including Kauaeranga Valley that's famous for its swimming holes).

Related: What To Know Of Exploring New Zealand's Famed Southern Alps

What To See And Do On the Coromandel

One of the most iconic destinations is Cathedral Cove which gets its name from its cathedral-like arch that has formed from a limestone cliff. Cathedral Cove is only accessible by foot or by boat. The cove is part of a marine reserve and is one of the most popular tourists destinations in the whole peninsula.

While kayaking and hiking around the peninsula, keep one's eye peeled for dolphins, southern right whales, humpback whales, and Bryde's whale.

One of the favorite pastimes for travelers on the Coromandel is to hike to Hot Water Beach and dig a hole in the sand to bathe in the hot springs tracking in the sands.

  • Tip: Dig A Hot Bath On Hot Springs Beach

The best way to explore the peninsula is by hiking (termed "tramping" in New Zealand) and by kayaking. There are also scuba diving adventures, boat excursions, thermal springs resorts, ziplining, and New Zealand's only narrow-gauge mountain railway journey, called Driving Creek Railway that climbs through regenerating native Kauri (one of the world's largest trees native to New Zealand).

Plan one's trip to the Coromandel with 100% Pure New Zealand or with the Coromandel's dedicated website.

Related: Your Most Pressing FAQS About Visiting New Zealand

Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary (Donut Island) - Kayaking Tours

Donut Island or the Whenuakura Wildlife Sanctuary was for a long time a local secret but is now considered a "must do" for those adventuring New Zealand. One of the companies offering kayak rentals to explore this piece of paradise is Pedal and Paddle. Pedal and Paddle is a locally owned and operated business specializing in retail and hire of Cycles, Kayaks, and Stand up Paddleboards.

Hire a kayak and explore the island at one's own pace. Note that to freely hire their equipment without a guide, one needs to have the ability to swim confidently and to have kayaking experience. Alternatively, one can also explore the coast by bicycle or just join the tour.

  • Single Kayak: $40 NZD ($26 USD)
  • Double Kayak: $60 NZD ($40 USD)
  • Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP): $35 NZD ($23 USD)

Donut Island/Whenuakura Island is located 600 meters (yards) offshore and was once home to the native Tuatara. Tuataras are reptiles from a very ancient lineage that superficially resemble lizards. They are regarded as "living fossils" and are perhaps New Zealand's most significant non-avian native species.

Donut Island has been continuously eroded by the ocean, and now it boasts a picturesque lagoon (that gives the island its donut-like shape). While kayaking in the lagoon, one must remain in the kayak to protect the island wildlife sanctuary.

  • Assess To The Island: Land Access to The Island Is Prohibited To Protect The island's Wildlife
  • When: Daily, Year Around
  • Duration: 2 Hours
  • Difficulty: Beginner/Intermediate