The drop to the ocean on the left is over 20 meters. A few straws of hay play the part of a fence in between the drop and the skinny road. A hasty Audi driver takes over a truck between the curves. This is the Coromandel. The roads are very scenic yet very chilling. And they get even better. Only one lane left and no pavement. Curly ribbon road follows the steep mountain slopes up and down. Speed limit 100km/h. Remember to keep left and try to stay on the road.
Coromandel peninsula is a beautiful holiday destination the New Zealanders, followed by tourists, like to go for a weekend. It is about 1.5 hour drive away from Auckland. There are no busses (although there are few ferries to Auckland) so hiring a car is the best option. Roads might feel a bit hazardous but nothing forbids driving slowly. If you hire a car, keep in mind that you have to have a driving license that is accepted in NZ. That is, the license should be in english or accompanied by an international driving license or a translation.
Coromandel town is a small town. At first it seems poor and run down; some other towns we drive through while in the Coromandel are lot more attractive. Thames for example is a western style old gold mining town with lots of cafes and interesting looking inns. However, Coromandel town does get busier on the weekend. There are a few restaurants and a grocery store and the Top 10 Holiday Park where we stayed was fine and not too expensive. Most of all, it is located nicely in the middle of the Coromandel so it is easy to plan day trips to all over the peninsula.
The serpentine gravel road we are driving leads to the northern tip of the peninsula. It ends at the Stony Bay campsite. The other end of the road is 11km away at the Fletcher Bay campsite. Coromandel Coastal Walkway is a nice moderate hike along the coast. The path starts to follow the coast within a half shaded forest of green firths and thin, long trees. The later part of the trail wanders on the grassy hills among the cows. The ocean is always near and if you are lucky you might see a whale or a dolphin there. At least that’s what the procedures say.
There are drop off – pick up tours available, where you walk only one way, available from Coromandel town. But if you are on your own you have to return to the beginning by foot. 22 km in a mostly flat terrain is doable and requires only good shoes and enough water and food (no drinking water available at the campsites). Of course you can always decide to walk the track halfway and turn back then, or camp at the other campsite. But do not use all your energy and the daylight on the walk if you have to drive home! The roads do not get any better while you are walking. Even though the park ranger at the Stony Bay said that driving in the dark is all right because it is easy to see the other cars, I would not try that. I’m more keen on seeing where the road goes.