Its natural beauty and proximity to both Auckland and Hamilton makes the jagged Coromandel Peninsula a popular North Island touring destination for New Zealanders and overseas visitors alike. The bush-clad mountains that form its backbone seem a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and the walking here is especially good - on trails through the forest winding their way past historic logging and mining spots.
Circuiting the coast, you'll find a mixture of pebble beaches on the west coast and bays of white and golden sands on the east coast such as Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
The Peninsula has a friendly vibe and an interesting history, too, with connections to Captain Cook and the Maori navigator, Kupe.
Whitianga & Mercury Bay
On the east coast of the Coromandel is Mercury Bay, named by Captain Cook when he stopped here in 1769 so that the scientists in his expedition could observe the transit of the planet Mercury.
The mythical Maori explorer Kupe is also said to have settled in the area some 800 years before Cook dropped anchor.
The little town of Whitianga, on the edge of the bay and Whitianga Harbour, remains a popular place with sea-lovers, with sheltered sailing spots and volcanic offshore islands where bottlenose dolphins and whales can be seen.
The east coast's Cathedral Cove is named after the impressive arch of rock that spans the sandy beach - a feature that has made it one of the Coromandel Peninsula's star attractions.
The beach and the cathedral-like rock can be reached by boat or via a scenic half-hour walk from a lookout point near the seaside village of Hahei - bring a towel and a picnic and prepare to relax.
It's also worth allowing time to explore some of the surrounding area as well. Nearby islands and underwater caves are protected within the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve (Te Whanganui-A-Hei), where glass-bottomed boat trips and a snorkel route set up by the Department of Conversation in Gemstone Bay provide fabulous opportunities to see dolphins, seals and penguins, as well as numerous fish, crustaceans and other marine creatures that live among the intricate rock formations.
Hot Water Beach
Further down the east coast is the natural wonder, Hot Water Beach, named after the hot spring water that surfaces close to a rocky outcrop in the middle of its white-sand beach for a couple of hours either side of low tide.
Simply dig a hole for yourself in the sand and wait for the warm water to seep into it, as steam from the springs rises into the air all around and you relax in your own private spa pool.