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Pacific Coast Highway road trip: Auckland to The Coromandel

Shake the cobwebs out of your hair. Leave the urban crawl behind and follow the thread of the coast you will traverse the Hauraki Gulf, past Miranda ShoreBird Centre, linger in small towns and finish the journey in Thames. The day is about sunshine, beaches and native scenery. Take your pick from several cafes or restaurants  while watching beach activity. Then it’s off to the Miranda Shorebird Centre, Ngatea with its water gardens and Thames.

2 - 3 days or longer
1 - 2 nights or longer

Trip Overview

Coromandel getting there, holiday inspiration

Highlights

  • Spectacular scenery, iconic pohutukawa trees shading the beach, Auckland’s largest native forest reserves
  • Omana Regional Park with its classic campgrounds, beaches, native bush reserve and cliff top views of the Firth of Thames waterways.
  • Maraetai on the spectacular pohutukawa coast.
  • Travel through rural rolling countryside
  • Miranda Shorebird Centre
  • Hauraki Plains blueberry heaven
Start Auckland
Finish Coromandel

Pacific Coast Highway first section: Auckland to the Coromandel Peninsula starts in Auckland and you’ll travel south for almost three hours to the Coromandel Peninsula along SH2 and then SH25.

NOTE: Getting to the Coromandel Peninsula using public transport or a ferry check with Coromandel Peninsula Regional Guide for further information.

Start your journey from Auckland heading in the direction of Whitford.  Travel along Whitford-Maraetai Road where you will observe signs for Pacific Coast Highway.  Continue east enjoying the stands of beautiful coastal bush and the spectacular views of the Firth of Thames.  Your road will be signposted Pacific Coast Highway. You are on the way to the Coromandel Peninsula.

Start Auckland
Finish Coromandel

Route map

Auckland to Thames 167km

Omana Regional Park

Omana Regional Park sea views, New Zealand
Omana Regional Park sea views

Omana Regional Park is your first stop with its beach walks, campgrounds and picnic areas. Omana Regional Park’s panoramic views of the Firth of Thames, sweeping grassed spaces for families, beaches with rock pools and safe swimming areas. There are cool shaded bush walks which allow dogs on a lease to walk in prescribed areas.  The perimeter walk and farm walk are easy walking tracks. On your way again, from Omana Regional Park return to the main road and turn left.  In fifteen minutes you will reach your destination, Maraetai beach.

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Maraetai beach

Mood at Maraetai Beach, East coast, New Zealand
Maraetai Beach

Maraetai beachfront has a large grassed area perfect for big family picnics and a game of beachball. There is a wooden boardwalk with seating encouraging visitors to relax, rest and people watch. And a wharf where water bombing is a summer rite of passage.

The marina has budding yachties practicing all their moves on the water with white sails, an impromptu photo moment. Throw down the beach towel and enjoy.

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Pacific Coast drive

Maraetai Coast Scenic Drive, New Zealand @My Guide Auckland
Maraetai Coast Scenic Drive @My Guide Auckland

The drive along the winding cliff top road around the small picturesque bays is a summer delight.The drive to Umupuia (Duders) Regional Park is perhaps one of the most exquisite road trips in New Zealand. Imagine a short fifteen / twenty minute journey packed with sharp curves hugging the Firth of Thames seascape, fringed with enormous Pohutukawa trees gnarled and moulded by nature, wind and age as quintessential Kiwiana postcard trees, glimpses of people fishing from rocks and people supine on small coves. The light and shade reflects the shape and scent of a New Zealand summer. And all of this is encapsulated in a short regional drive from Maraetai beach to Umupuia (Duders) Regional Park.

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Umupuia (Duders) Regional Park

Umupuia (Duders) Regional Park, New Zealand @wandering_poly
Umupuia (Duders) Regional Park @wandering_poly

Umupuia (Duders) Regional Park. This is signposted and there is parking available. It is a reasonable walk into the park, to the coves and beaches. Consider the Farm Loop through rolling pastures passing grazing sheep surrounded by incredible sea views stretching across to Waiheke and Ponui islands. This walk is 2 hours, 4.3km

Or you can consider “Duder Sustainable Trail 1.5 hour, 4km Learn how Duder Regional Park is walking the talk on sustainability.

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Miranda Shorebird Centre

Flock of Flying Birds, Miranda Shore Bird Centre, North Island, New Zealand
Flock of Flying Birds, Miranda Shore Bird Centre

The volunteers who staff the centre are passionate about the birds, the biodiversity as well as offer plenty of advice about the Hauraki Gulf. The various walks from the Shorebird Centre are well signposted with plenty of description about what is happening. The landscape has no dominant features. You spend time contemplating sand, sea, shells, water and sky with the seamless ribbon of flat expense before you. Look at the shades of white, cream with dashes of deep hues slashed with emerging water lights.

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Hauraki Plains town Ngatea

@Top Notch Macadamias
@Top Notch Macadamias

A compulsory detour for a snack, Macadamia Orchard | Top Notch Macadamias | New Zealand. Check beforehand if the shop is open and if you have 8 or more in your party book an orchard and factory tour. As the tour includes morning or afternoon tea it is a winner. Then for those who can’t make the tour there is the shop stocked with macadamia brittle, macadamia sweet and salty or packets of macadamia, dukkah and muesli made with macadamia of course. You’re on holiday, pack the hamper with treats for the road.

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Detour for Blueberry fans (State Highway 2)

@BlueberryCountry
@BlueberryCountry

Blueberry Country fill your hamper to the brim with your own freshly picked blueberries. Pick your own is open from early December to late February, check individual orchards for specific dates at Pick Your Own Ngatea. This is a great family attraction with kids competing with parents to see who can eat the those, who can pick the those and then who can manage to fit a large blueberry ice cream into their tummy. The snack bar and pre-packed blueberries are an option for those who do not want to spend time picking fruit.

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Thames

Thames Gold Mine, New Zealand @Stuff
Thames Gold Mine @Stuff

You have arrived at your destination for the night Thames.

Have you thought about stopping in the regional centre, Thames, and I don’t mean just visiting the public toilet? The town is not the prettiest in the Coromandal, it does not have numerous picturesque beaches on its doorstep or quirky railways circumnavigating a spectacular pottery creation yet it is worth a stop or even an overnight stay.

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Coromandel Peninsula

Landscape Scenery Kuaotunu Beach, Coromandel Peninsula New Zealand; During Low Tide
Coromandel Peninsula

As a bird flies Coromandel is a glimmer across the Firth of Thames. The outline of hills, coast and bush is in contrast to the urban vibe of Auckland. The Coromandel is Auckland’s escape valve where baches and white sandy beaches offer rustic, quiet retreats. What to see and do ranges from chilling out on a beach or a luxurious lodge where pampering is the order of the day. The classic kiwi summer holiday spirit includes fishing, diving, hiking and cycling. Adrenaline adventure beckons with skydiving in Whitiangi or sea kayaking around the coast.

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Thames to Coromandel Town to Whitiangi

Coromandel town, Coromandel, New Zealand @The Coromandel
Coromandel town @The Coromandel

The longer route SH25 loops around the Coromandel Peninsula travelling to Coromandel Town on the east coast, cutting across the peninsula to Whitiangi on the west coast.

The route continues down the west coast towards Hikuai which is the junction for Whangamata and the journey to Tauranga. This is the official Pacific Coast Highway touring route.

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Thames to Whitiangi

Coastal view, flax, islands and blue waters, Whitiangi

141km (SH25A)

You will be returning on the same road from Whitiangi to Hikuai for the onward journey to Tauranga. The shorter route eliminates the east coast section and travels to Whitiangi on SH25A which is a direct route from Thames to Whitiangi.

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