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Introducing Coromandel Peninsula

Looking a bit like the side view of a hand with its middle finger raised (perhaps aimed at the nearby metropolis), the Coromandel Peninsula juts defiantly into the Pacific east of Auckland and forms the eastern edge of the Hauraki Gulf. Its dramatic, mountainous spine bisects it into two very distinct parts.

The eastern edge has some of the North Island’s best white-sand beaches. Marinas and cafés cater to the chattering set in the wealthier enclaves, while sandy toes and board shorts are the norm elsewhere. The cutesy historic gold-mining towns on the west side escape the worst of the influx, their muddy wetlands and stony bays holding less appeal for the masses. This coast has long been a refuge for alternative lifestylers – although the hippy communes have gradually given way to organic farms and Buddhist retreats.

Down the middle, the mountains are crisscrossed with walking tracks, allowing trampers to lose themselves (hopefully only figuratively) among large tracts of untamed bush where kauri trees once towered and are starting to do so again. At the base of the peninsula the Hauraki Plains were once massive swampy wetlands, rich with bird life. Pockets remain, with Miranda being the premier holiday spot for feathered jetsetters and their admirers.

Although relatively close to Auckland, the Coromandel offers easy access to splendid isolation. Some of the more remote communities in these parts are still accessed by gravel roads, and an aura of rugged individualism hangs like mist over this compact and special region.