If you’ve ever wanted to relax your own hot tub on a scenic beach, take a day trip from Auckland, New Zealand, to the Coromandel Peninsula. Set in the North Island’s Bay of Plenty region, the Coromandel Peninsula is just over 100 miles from Auckland, about a two-hour drive. This wild region is packed with stunning beaches, lush forests, rugged mountains and enough outdoor attractions to fill your day, whether you prefer hiking, kayaking or beachcombing.
Pack your car with walking shoes, swimsuits, snorkel gear, a shovel and a tide table and head for the town of Whenuakite. From there, drive 5 miles to Hot Water Beach; plan to arrive about two hours after low tide. Walk to the southern end of the beach and get your shovel ready — the beach lies atop two geothermal hot springs. Dig a hole and watch it fill with warm water; the deeper you dig, the hotter the water gets. Climb in and relax in your own natural hot tub; if you time it right, the rising tide trickles in, mixing with the steaming water for a refreshing, exhilarating experience.
If you arrive too early or late for low tide, drive to the end of Hahei Beach Road and while away a few hours on the secluded, pink-sand beach. Protected by a cove, this inlet’s calm waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
For an après-swimming snack, stop by the Church Restaurant in Hahei. Set in an historic building, this eatery specializes in fresh produce and New Zealand-raised lamb, beef and seafood. Order a platter of tapas and ask the waitstaff to suggest a local or international vintage from their extensive wine list.
After lunch, put on your walking shoes and hike the sloping 1.5-mile trek to Cathedral Cove. The easy-to-moderate track starts just north of Hahei, about 6 miles north of Hot Water Beach, and winds through the lush pine and puriri groves that line the rugged coastline. Take the side tracks to Gemstone Bay — known for its snorkeling and rock formations — and to the sandy swimming beach at Stingray Bay, or just follow the main trail all the way down to Cathedral Cove. One of the most spectacular natural rock formations in the country, this long stretch of beach is dominated by two dramatic, white stone arches.
On the way back to Auckland, finish your day trip with a stop in the beach town of Whitianga. This resort destination is packed with art galleries, boutiques and eateries. For an unparalleled view of Whitianga Harbour and Mercury Bay, take a quick climb to the top of Historic Whitianga Rock. Once the site of an indigenous Maori stronghold, the rock looms over the sea and is sprinkled with archaeological sites and ruins that date from long before Captain Cook’s 1769 visit to the area.
New Zealand.com, “Hot Water Beach”
Department of Conservation, “Coromandel Peninsula”
Fodors, “Coromandel Peninsula and the Bay of Plenty Travel Guide”