Travel Notes: Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

Travel Notes: Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

If you ever get the chance to travel to New Zealand, the Coromandel Peninsula is a must-see. So much to see and do including Coromandel Town, Whitianga, Cathedral Cove and the Mercury Bay Marine Reserve. For the photographer and nature lover it is a true gem.

Coromandel Bay


Coromandel is a favorite holiday destination for Kiwis and visitors alike, with pristine sandy beaches and a relaxed holiday feel. A wonderful oasis to stop, relax and enjoy the beautiful weather. We saw some truly breathtaking scenery as we drove up the mountains and the bay finally came into view in front of us. We booked our hotel and then headed out to explore Coromandel town itself, so quaint and beachy.

We organized our boat trip for the next day. This time we did a lot more research and selected a small vessel that could carry no more than 16 passengers, the skipper was also a photographic enthusiast and offered special photographic tours of the cove, bay and to the marine reserve… just what we wanted !

We then heard about the Driving Creek Railroad and drove there for the late afternoon train ride and short walk.

Driving Creek Railroad

This is the dream of Potter Barry Brickell who started this project in 1973. To build 2 miles of this incredible narrow gauge railway in very steep bushland, mostly by hand! We boarded the little train for a very enjoyable and informative 1 hour train journey up the mountain to the Eye-Full Tower for fantastic views of the bay. It was also nice and cool between the trees. Filled with handmade tunnels and various sculptures and large pieces of pottery along the track. It was quite dark and the train a little too fast making it difficult to take good pictures while the train was moving. But a really enjoyable afternoon and well worth taking a trip out for.

Back in our motel room for a nice cool drink and snacks while watching the sunset. It couldn’t have been more perfect for a view of the bay from our terrace.

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View of the sunset from our motel room

Whitianga wharf

Driving through the hills from Coromandel Town to Whitianga Wharf was lovely in the cool early morning. We explored the small coastal town before heading to our zodiac Cathedral Cove scenic cruises.

Cathedral Cove scenic cruises

We had the most amazing day on the water with our skipper, Ken, an avid photographer himself. He took us to the best places. Cathedral Cove, Orua Sea Cave and some beautiful coastlines. This 2.5 hour cruise was definitely a highlight of our trip. Great photos and even spotted a hammerhead shark in the marine park. After selecting a small vessel and an expert cruise operator, we were confident we would get the best views and great photos from a local who knew the area very well. So much better than the big cruise boats we’ve had in the past. Not to mention being on a zodiac on the water was so exciting.

I wish we had spent more time than just a few days here. I would very much like to come back to this beautiful coastal area.


  • It’s quite choppy on the water so try to have a shutter speed of at least 1/1600 to 1/2500 second, ISO can be at least ISO400 – 640
  • It’s difficult to change lenses to say the least while out on the water, salt spray, motion etc. So pick a lens and stick with it. I took an 18-200mm.
  • If you’re going out on the water, a CPL (Circular Polarizer Filter) can help reduce glare and allow you to capture the action below the water’s surface if you’re lucky enough to see some.
  • Of course, don’t forget water, sunscreen, a hat and a lens cleaner to remove the sea spray you inevitably get on your lens. A UV filter/protector can also be a good investment.
  • When you’re not shooting, try covering your camera and lens to protect them from salt and water spray.