There’s a lot to be said for hopping off the city treadmill and adjusting to ‘Coro Time.’
Just arriving in colonial Coromandel Town somehow puts you instantly into holiday mode. This peaceful haven, where New Zealand’s first gold was discovered under the lush green hills, still retains Old World values. Time spent here can bring a breath of fresh salt sea air into hurried metro lives.
Old Coromandel Town is remarkably easy to get acquainted with. Walk 1km along Rings Road to the town centre and you pass a rich stock of surviving historic buildings from the 19th century ‘boom and bust’ era. The Mining and Historic Museum, old courthouse and the original miner’s cottage give a glimpse of life in the good old gold days.
The name Coromandel stems from the 1820 visit of the British Admiralty supply ship Coromandel, intent on shipping home kauri masts and spars. The ship took its name from India’s Coromandel Coast south of Madras, which really bears no similarity to our gentle peninsula.
Kauri regeneration was very much in the mind of local entrepreneur and conservation guru, Barry Brickell, when he created Driving Creek Railway and Pottery. He has also planted out 9,000 kauri seedlings. This remarkable 27 year labour of love and locomotives has created Coromandel’s premier tourist attraction. The narrow-gauge railway runs daily up to breathtaking views from the ‘Eyefull Tower.’ It is a ‘must see’ experience for young and old.
Further colonial nostalgia awaits at the Goldfields Centre and Stamper Battery nearby. Drop heads and pulley systems are guaranteed to mesmerise shed blokes here and the ladies will appreciate the 40kg ingot of bright shining gold. Coromandel Town has fun and adventure on offer as well, in the form of the 309 Road just south of town. Waiau Waterworks is a blast with its wonderfully whimsical, water-powered inventions. More ‘Wow’ factor is in store for those who carry on to the Waiau Falls, Kauri Walk and Castle Rock.
More energetic pursuits are available too. Adventure tours on the 8-wheel Argo vehicle go to places you wouldn’t want to walk and horse treks offer bush, beach and mountain views. Take a breather after all this and visit the delightful Taraire Grove and Waitati Gardens, both within 1.5kms of the town centre.
Slip on the tramping boots again for the ultimate scenic walk on the peninsula, the Coastal Walkway. This three hour ramble links the Cape Colville and Port Charles roads. Transport can be arranged in town for both drop-off and pick-up. Other tramping options are the Kaipaua Trig Walk and Lucus Lookout Track on the Kennedy Bay Road.
There is a wide range of places to stay. A campsite is right in the heart of town and there are several motels, B&B’s, cottages and a luxury lodge. The town is well endowed with cafes and restaurants.
Coromandel Town is a great escape, ideal for a family holiday or a romantic break. All you need are walking shoes, sunhat, sunglasses and a sense of adventure. There are unexpected pleasures in those lush green hills.