You’re on the road, in steep and hilly terrain, enveloped by verdant green native bush. Or on windy roads tantalising close to the sea, or to a cliff going down to the sea… And chance spectacular sightings of the magnificent Pacific Ocean, the source of much local food, are aplenty.
The Coromandel Peninsula is a truly gorgeous part of our country, with clusters of classic seaside towns dotting its eastern and western coastlines. It’s an area home to locals and holidaymakers alike, with numbers burgeoning in summer months. And it also has its rugged, isolated and largely uninhabited inland parts. Through here, what remains of unfelled native forests lead their quiet natural existence, now largely uninterrupted by people.
“Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations”
The roadside chalkboard sign says it all. Yes, at times the roads might be difficult, but there’s no doubting the journey is worth it. A road trip around the peninsula definitely rewards you with spectacular natural beauty - and a real sense of getting away from it all.
It’s an area filled with history, and happily one where its pre-European history still feels very evident. There is a long history of Māori settlement, the people attracted by now extinct moa (enormous flightless birds), and abundant kai moana - the seafood we enjoy still today. And many of the region’s towns, especially on the eastern coast, bear their wonderful original Māori names. When translated, and be sure to seek out the translation if you need to, they speak perfectly to the history of the place.
You are spoilt with options for tracks to local pā sites - the remnants of fortified villages with outstanding views of the area, carefully and strategically selected and inhabited by Māori tribes for surveillance and defence. Any available walk, and you are fortunate that there are many, to the top of a pā site, never disappoints. It’s definitely a place to wear your sneakers, and smile while you climb.
“Organic as bro”
And meandering those winding peninsula roads, there’s all sorts of treasures to find along the way. Wee cafes with delicious home made fresh baking (ginger crunch so worth travelling for), seriously laid back places with pizzas fresh from the wood fired oven, glorious orchards filled with tree ripened fruits, spots selling seafood straight from the ocean in front, classic local butchers, handcrafted coffee, organic cheesemakers… and more.
There’s no doubting it’s a creative community, and you’ll find many with a keen sense of environmental awareness. It makes it a super area to find food, grown organically or sustainably, with true love and care, and local to the core.
Fruit and veges, pickles and preserves… honest!
A classic kiwi roadside stall is never far, offering the latest in seasonal fruit and veges. And, always a true mark of New Zealand’s countryside, trading operates by honesty box.
Choose your favourites - fruit and veges, pickles and preserves, honey, perhaps some eggs - and leave your cash for the local grower in the allocated spot. No eftpos, no paywave. Just real money, for your honey.
And there might well be a recipe or two copied in a stack and available to take with you, if you’re wondering what to do with your feijoas. Or, if you’re not from New Zealand, and wondering what they are…
Magnificent macadamias, a great place to go nuts
The macadamia orchard is one not to miss. This splendid nut orchard, close to Hahei, is a delight. On your visit, you are right in amongst the action. The lovely wee shop, boasting an array of macadamia nut products, is set in the garden amongst the macadamia trees. Self guided tours of the orchard are encouraged, and it’s a fabulous way to see where your food really does come from.
With a wonderful assortment of nutty products, roadside stall produce galore, and a final stop at a local fish shop sitting (as they ought), right on the wharf, your next meal is a breeze. Click here for more about our Coromandel crumbed fish, the perfect end to a perfect road trip.