The Budget Guide to the Coromandel Peninsula
Welcome to a coastal haven of natural attractions! Waterfalls, beaches, kauri forests and more offer a way to explore the Coromandel on the cheap. What’s more, you’ll find affordable farm parks, gold mining experiences, wildlife refuges and more that will continue to keep the costs low. So plan at least a few days to explore the Coromandel Peninsula in the North Island of New Zealand, either as a first or last stop from Auckland. Find out how in this travel guide to the Coromandel on the budget!
Budget Tips for the Coromandel
- Visit in the low season (June to September) to see discounts/low season rates on accommodation and activities
- Having your own transport makes seeing the free attractions in the Coromandel a lot easier – check out some of the budget vehicle rentals in Auckland here
- Choose self-catering accommodation to help save money on food (and check that your chosen accommodation is near a supermarket so you know whether you need to arrive with supplies prepared)
- Load up on the free activities – we list a bunch in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Coromandel
- The Coromandel’s most affordable accommodations are holiday parks, motels and hostels. Check out our recommendations in the 10 Best Budget Accommodation in the Coromandel.
For more general budgeting advice, take a look at the 11 Ways to Save Money When Backpacking in New Zealand.
Free Activities in the Coromandel
There are so many free natural attractions to see around the Coromandel Peninsula that the only thing you need to save up for is fuel or perhaps a day tour with Coromandel Adventures (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor). Let’s dive into some of the top free attractions!
First, we know it’s on your list anyway, so let’s get to it and mention Cathedral Cove. The stunning white cliffs and coastal arches are a picture-perfect reason to visit. The free way to visit the cove is via the Cathedral Cove Walk starting from the end of Grange Road near Hahei. Note that the car park here is closed during summer (1 October to 30 April), so you will need to park at the entrance of Hahei village instead and walk along Hahei Beach to get to the walk.
Moving onto some free things to do in the Coromandel that you might not have heard of, we fully recommend a walk in some of the Coromandel’s amazing kauri forests. An excellent option are the walks to Waiau Falls and the Kauri Grove Lookout Walk. Both are situated on the 309 Road between Coromandel Town and Whitianga – an activity in itself. 7km (4 miles) along the 309 Road is a super short walk to the picturesque swimming hole, Waiau Falls. A further 1km (0.6 miles) up the road is the Kauri Grove Lookout Walk is a 30-minute return stroll to a magnificent stand of mature kauri trees, which are the largest types of trees in New Zealand.
Finally, a must on the Coromandel is some beach-hopping. There is no lack of beaches in the Coromandel so just take your pick from the 10 Coromandel Beaches You Can’t Miss.
For more ideas, head to the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Coromandel.
Cheap Activities in the Coromandel
Only costing you a little extra to visit, these cheap activities in the Coromandel are well worth adding to the itinerary.
On your way to the Coromandel from Auckland, don’t miss the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre. At the Shorebird Centre, learn about the amazing wading and shorebirds that have their habitat here. Then head to the Robert Finlay Reserve to see the birds for yourself, particularly thousands of wrybill which are unique to New Zealand. Entry to the Shorebird Centre and Reserve is free but a donation is welcome to fund conservation efforts.
Also on your bucket list has to be Hot Water Beach. While it’s free to visit the beach and dig your own hot pool in the sand at low tide, we recommend doing this activity with a spade. And while most of us don’t travel with a spade, you’ll need to hire one from either the local store or the Hot Water Beach TOP 10 Holiday Park. Spade hire is around NZ$5. The main car park is along Pye Place, just south of Hahei. The digging spot is in front of the rocky outcrop on the beach, only accessible at low tide.
And what budget road trip is not complete without an obligatory trip to the museum? Don’t worry, you’ll still get your fix of knowledge at the Mercury Bay Museum in Whitianga. Admission is only around NZ$5 for adults and free for children, where you can learn about the early Maori navigator, Kupe, see Maori artefacts, learn about kauri timber and gum and much more.
And there’s a lot more where that came from! Just check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in the Coromandel.
Cheap Eats in the Coromandel
Complete your Coromandel experience with some classic Kiwi food. Being a coastal region, it’s one of the best places in New Zealand to try the Kiwi favourite, fish and chips. You’ll also find a good selection of bakeries selling more Kiwi icons, such as savoury pies and gourmet burgers.
A few favourites for fish and chips include Central Seafoods Fish and Chips (530 Pollen Street, Thames), Snapper Jack’s (26 Albert Street, Whitianga) and Coromandel Takeaway (124 Wharf Road, Coromandel Town). A word of warning: watch out for seagulls. They are cunning and will try really hard to steal your chips.
A popular little cafe with good food, great prices and an even greater waterfront view, The Wharf Coffee House and Bar (Queen Street Shortland Wharf) is well worth stopping for lunch or a coffee break in Thames.
If you want to taste a savoury pie, a couple of excellent options include the Bay Bakery (32 Monk Street, Whitianga) and Coro Pies (41 Wharf Road, Coromandel Town).
For more food recommendations, head to The Foodie Guide to the Coromandel.