A limestone cathedral archway and a bubbling hot spring are just two of the surprises you will find on beaches around Whitianga.

This thriving seaside town in Mercury Bay is just two hours drive from Auckland over the rugged Coromandel Range. Its popularity knows no bounds in summer when holiday crowds throng to the shops, cafès and restaurants. Colourful murals adorn the exterior walls of commercial buildings. They depict the pioneering life of the district. The Mercury Bay Museum by the wharf has interesting displays on Captain Cook, Maori artefacts, kauri gum, minerals and local shipwrecks.

Whitianga is renowned for its superb white sand beaches and sheltered waters. Buffalo and Simpson’s Beaches are just north of the town within walking distance. Front, Flaxmill and Cook’s Beaches can be reached on foot after taking the five minute ferry ride from Whitianga wharf to Ferry Landing. The landing has the distinction of being the oldest stone wharf in New Zealand. Overlooking Cook’s Beach is the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout where a granite memorial marks the site where Captain Cook observed the 1769 transit of the planet Mercury.

The two best-known beaches are south of Whitianga. Taking the Whenuakite turn-off a short drive brings you to Hahei, which has a magnificent beach with offshore islands and a marine reserve. A coastal walking track with spectacular scenery leads to Cathedral Cove. It is fun to walk through the stunning rock cavern from one cove to the next. Further south is Hot Water Beach, where thermal water bubbles up through the sand two hours either side of low tide. Here you can dig your own personal hot pool. It’s a refreshing experience to plunge into the cool sea and then soak in the thermal pool.

Whitianga is a big-game fishing base for tuna, marlin, mako and thresher sharks. Many charter boats ply the waters of Mercury Bay for scenic cruising, fishing, diving, whale watching and dolphin swimming. On land, guided tramps, quad bike safaris and horse treks are available.

Whitianga has some of our finest coastal scenery and beaches.