Heading south of Auckland to the east coast, you’ll encounter a spectacular coastline of white sand beaches and marine reserves. From the Coromandel Peninsula, where you can dig your own bubbling spa pool at Hot Water Beach to adrenaline-fuelled water sports, the range of activities in and out of the water is endless. Combine with a visit to the geothermal wonders of Rotorua and its distinctive mud pools and colourful Maori culture.
Less than two-and-a-half hours by car from Auckland, you’ll find 400 kilometres of unspoiled coastline on the Coromandel Peninsula. This stunning and laidback destination is popular with surfer dudes and Aucklanders on weekend escapes, as it’s an ideal place for beach-hopping, sailing and hanging out with locals in quirky cafes and restaurants.
At Hot Water Beach, you can dig your own spa in the sand and bathe in warm waters heated by the thermal springs beneath the surface: the further the tide goes out, the hotter the water, so beware! Cathedral Cove is the other big attraction on this beautiful peninsula: a picture-postcard setting of white sand beaches linked by a natural rock arch and framed by native Pohutukawa trees.
Away from the beaches, you’ll find a vibrant arts and crafts scene, fantastic walks, and scenic mountain bike tracks through Kauri forests and old gold mining towns.
Reached in under three hours from Auckland, the geothermal centre of Rotorua is a must-see on a holiday to New Zealand. It lies above a geothermal field: you’ll smell the city before you see it, with the distinctive sulphurous steam emanating from the pavements. This thrilling combination of bubbling mud, erupting geysers, steaming hot mineral pools, crater lakes and ancient forests ticks all the boxes for a unique destination. After exploring, and maybe enjoying a bathe in a natural hot pool, visit some of the surrounding lakes, such as Lake Tarawera and the Blue and Green Lakes.
Rotorua is also the hub of Maori culture, and cultural experiences range from enjoying a traditional hangi, where your food is cooked on heated rocks in a pit oven, to watching a spine-tingling performance of the haka. High-octane adventures abound here too - try your hand at skydiving, the luge or the Shweeb (the world’s first human-powered monorail). Meanwhile, animal lovers should visit a local wildlife park, where they may be lucky enough to see a baby kiwi hatch in the conservation centre.