With a wild coastline and native Kauri forests, the easy-going town of Coromandel is a slice of paradise on a peninsula of New Zealand's North Island. Explore the rugged bush and discover the area’s gold-mining heritage by cycling on history-steeped trails. Beach lovers have the pick of the most picturesque shores, from secluded shell-covered bays to the unspoilt stretch of sand at the world-rated New Chums Beach. At night, hunt out the smoked mussel shacks and rustic bars that dot the sleepy main street in Coromandel.
Coromandel hostels have a laid-back, friendly feel. Choose a dorm or private room in a cosy wooden lodge surrounded by greenery, or stay in a low-slung bungalow set in parkland grounds overlooking the water. Most hostels in Coromandel have comfortable beds and lots of outdoor space. In some hostels, you'll also find bonuses such as a swimming pool, bikes to hire or a barbecue for grilling under the clear night sky.
Sitting on the Coromandel Peninsula's west coast, the town of the same name has a peaceful harbour and an arty, village feel with just one main street of quaint galleries, cafés and independent shops. It's an hour's drive north from the larger town of Thames, which offers access to the walking tracks of nearby Kauaeranga Valley. Over on the east side, Whitianga is the main coastal town of Mercury Bay with knockout beaches and water sports. Southeast of the peninsula is the surfing hotspot of Whangamata, which is known for its legendary breaks.
The Coromandel Coastal Walkway, between Stony Bay and Fletchers Bay, is a cinematic trek with views of the Hauraki Gulf, Great Barrier Island and the Pacific Ocean. It takes 3-4 hours one way and is linked to Coromandel by shuttle bus. For seaside fun, head to Hot Water Beach on Mercury Bay and dig your own spa pool in the steaming hot-spring sands. At Hahei, you can kayak to the remote beach and dramatic cliff arch of Cathedral Cove.
From Auckland, you can get to Coromandel on a budget-friendly bus. It leaves from Auckland’s Sky City terminal on Hobson Street and the scenic journey takes about 4 hours. You can also catch a ferry from Auckland’s downtown port across the Haruki Gulf on a service that runs a couple of times a week via Orapiu, Waiheke Island. Once you're in town, a bus goes east to Whitianga, or you can share a private shuttle with other backpackers to tour the peninsula's remote spots.