What to Do in Whitianga, Hahei and Mercury Bay
If your travels have brought you to the east coast of the Coromandel, then you are in for a treat. Whitianga is the main hub of the Coromandel’s Mercury Bay, home to popular attractions like Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. Needless to say, there are plenty of coastal adventures to be had, from kayaking to coastal walks. Whitianga is also your typical Kiwi coastal town with an obligatory mini golf course and fish and chips shops to take advantage of. See what you can get up to and more with this list of things to do in Whitianga, Hahei and Mercury Bay!
1. Walk to Cathedral Cove
We know this one is already on your bucket list so let’s get to it! Cathedral Cove is one of the Coromandel’s most breathtaking beaches with a large archway, stacks and white cliffs. One of the most popular ways to get to Cathedral Cove is via a 30-40-minute walk hugging the coast. Alternatively, boat and kayak tours also visit the beach (see below). For more walks in the area, see 10 Best Walks in Whitianga.
Location: Grange Road, Hahei. Note that the car park at Grange Road is closed between October 1-April 30. Alternative access by walking from Hahei Beach (extra 20 minutes) or from the Hahei visitor car park with a park-and-ride shuttle. 35km from Whitianga.
2. Dig Your Own Hot Pool at Hot Water Beach
A beach with a difference, Hot Water Beach has a hot spring seeping through its sands. The part of the beach with hot water is accessible at low tide. Dig a hole until you reach the hot water, then you’ll need to mix it with some sea water to make a comfortable temperature for your very own sand hot pool. Spades can be hired from the nearby holiday park and general store.
Location: State Highway 25. 33km south of Whitianga.
3. Take a Trip Down the 309 Road
It’s not all about the coast in Whitianga! Take the 309 Road, which is a gravel road, inland through the lush forest. There are a few fun attractions to find along the way including The Waterworks, a family-friendly park with more than 30 water-powered inventions. There’s also the Waiau Kauri Grove, which is a short walk to a stand of kauri trees (New Zealand’s largest kind of tree), as well as the majestic Waiau Falls.
Location: 309 Road. Waiau Kauri Grove is 20km from Whitianga.
4. Hike to New Chums Beach
One of the most scenic and secluded beaches in the Coromandel, New Chums Beach is only accessible on foot or by boat. A walk to the beach begins just north of Whangapoua and takes you through nikau and pohutukawa forest. The track leads to a lookout where you’ll be able to get “that picture” before descending onto the beach. For more beaches, see our 10 Coromandel Beaches You Can’t Miss.
Location: The walk starts on the north end of Whangapoua Beach. 36km from Whitianga.
5. Kayak or Cruise Around Cathedral Cove and the Marine Reserve
The waters surrounding Cathedral Cove at known as Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve. This is a protected area where marine life is safe from fishing, making it a spectacular place to discover by kayak, boat cruises and glass-bottom boat tours. From Whitianga, take a 2-hour glass-bottom boat trip with Glass Bottom Boat Whitianga or from Hahei, there’s the option to take a kayak tour with Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours or a boat tour with the Hahei Explorer to explore the dramatic coastline.
Location: Whitianga or Hahei
6. Snorkel or Scuba Dive
The waters around Whitianga and Mercury Bay are teeming with life, best seen through snorkelling or scuba diving! See the marine life of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve by scuba diving or simply picking up some snorkel gear from Cathedral Cove Dive in Hahei. Alternatively, Dive Zone Whitianga does dive trips to the Mercury Islands.
Location: Whitianga or Hahei
7. Unwind at The Lost Spring
Unwind in the natural geothermal mineral waters at The Lost Spring. This geothermal hot pool complex has a range of pools in nature-inspired settings. Bathe in waters of 30-40C with a tropical cocktail from the springs’ bar.
Location: 121A Cook Drive
8. Play Mini Golf
Who doesn’t love a good game of mini golf?! Play 18 challenging holes with fun birdy themes and attractive ponds and trees at the Birdwood Springs Mini Putt. The golf course is open daily 10am-5pm and coffee and ice cream sold on-site.
Location: 101 Joan Gaskell Drive
9. Grab Some Fish and Chips
You can’t visit some of the beachiest towns in New Zealand and not eat fish and chips! This is a favourite Kiwi food option for days at the beach, so jump on the bandwagon and try the fish and chips in Whitianga or Hahei. Warning: keep your chips out of sight from the seagulls at Whitianga, or else they’ll never leave you alone!
Location: Whitianga or Hahei.
10. Visit the Mercury Bay Museum
Whether it’s a rainy day or you just feel like educating yourself, the Mercury Bay Museum is something you can rely on. See exhibitions on the earliest navigators to discover New Zealand, kauri logging and gum digging, the history of dairy farming, the Coromandel’s natural history, the history of fishing and much more in this jam-packed museum in Whitianga!
Location: 11 The Esplanade