On New Zealand's North Island, across the Firth of Thames and 70 mi/115 km east of Auckland, the rugged Coromandel Peninsula offers spectacular scenery. The drive along the coast winds past bays, beaches and green fields edged with cliffs that plunge into the sea. Trips into the interior bush let visitors get a look at gold-mine ruins, waterfalls, ancient kauri trees, and plenty of tree ferns and birds. This is a popular destination in summer.
Whitianga, on the northeast coast, makes a good base for exploring the area. Don't miss beautiful Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach (where you can dig a hole in the sand at low tide and sit in it while hot water bubbles to the surface), both near Hahei. Be aware that Hot Water Beach isn't safe for swimming because of dangerous undertows.
Take the unpaved 309 Road between Whitianga and the town of Coromandel (it's about an hour's drive) to see the peninsula's interior, complete with waterfalls and a grove of kauri trees. Pauanui is a favorite holiday town among Auckland's wealthy set. When driving around, keep in mind that though distances may appear short on a map, it takes more time than you expect to travel the peninsula's small, winding roads.
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