Because nature is free and Aotearoa is ātaahua, we love to hike. We’ve twisted the ams of respected locals around the country to give their insider knowledge of the walks and off-the-beaten track beauty spots they favour most.
It’s notoriously difficult, of course, to get people to give up these secrets. We promised them you’re good people and will respect the land. Our closed borders can frustrate those with wanderlust but there is plenty here to scratch the itch, and some of our most picturesque spots feel more secluded than ever without the presence of international tourists. Remember to leave only footprints!
This week we are in the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, one of the most beautiful areas of our beautiful country - where Kiwis live in rugged, mountainous native bush casting shadow on crystal clear oceans, sublime rock formations and cliffs, abundant rock pools, great surf beaches and calm family friendly waters. In amongst the better-known walks are a few local secrets.
One such local is Courtney Linnecar, the founder of Happylocal. The shared workspace in Kuaotunu allows locals and holidaymakers to work alongside each other with access to covetable high-speed WIFI. It also serves as a community hub with various therapists and workshops, allowing those who live between the bigger centres of Whitianga and Coromandel to access various health and wellbeing services without driving great distances.
Courtney has also recently started Drink Happy, a subscription service for innovative, locally-crafted non-alcoholic drinks.
Visitors to the Coromandel are spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches and bushwalks, but there are a few specific walks that Courtney frequents or encourages others to take a look at - she shares them below...
Shakespeare Cliff, Flaxmill Bay (pictured above)
If you are looking for a varied day mission, grab the ferry across to the Cooks Beach side from Whitianga, walk to Flaxmill Bay or keep going to do the Shakespeare Cliff walk. The hike to the top is steep but worth it for the incredible views across Whitianga, Wharekaho, Waitaia and Matapaua, and then back around through Cooks Beach and beyond on the other. The rocks around this area are stunning! The top of the point is a lovely large grassy knoll with lots of room to explore and a plaque to commemorate the 1970 visit from Queen Elizabeth. It’s definitely worth extending the walk by another 15 minutes or so each way and following the narrow path to Lonely Bay, a completely private bay with more beautiful rock formations, squeaky white sand and glorious ocean to cool off in before making your way home. There are a couple of excellent cafes in the area - Eggsentric and Cooked - so no need to pack a picnic.
Ability level: Moderate. Time: 1 hour. Footwear: Sturdy.
If you want a stunning combo of bush and beach in one, beautiful New Chums is a must-do choice. It’s infamous in Aotearoa for its remote vibe, pristine sand and sparkling, safe ocean. The relatively short walk time makes it an easy destination for a few hours; it’s worth packing a picnic, boogie boards, snorkelling gear, cricket set and lots of water. But make sure you get the tides right: go at low tide so you don't have to wade through the waves. Good walking shoes are a must!
Ability level: Easy-moderate. Time: 30 minutes. Footwear: Sneakers or reef shoes
While you’re in the Whangapoua area, another local gem at low tide is Opera Point. Start at the estuary and follow it around the edges of the point. The estuary side of the walk is where we take the family for tree swing fun and snorkelling to spot starfish (there are thousands in the sand in the shallow), before we mission around the point to the hole in the rock. Once there you’ll find the most incredible, picturesque white sand beach. Overlooking the Matarangi headlands and the mouth to Whangapoua, the swimming conditions aren’t as ideal as New Chums but there will be far less people to contend with. There’s also an historic pā site, Raukawa pā, above the start of the walk that is well worth checking out.
To get a bit of a workout in, you can't go past the Rings Beach loop track. The full loop track, starting at the carpark at the Northern end of the beach, is a local gem that many locals enjoy as part of their exercise routine. It takes you up through stunning native bush with glimpses of the incredible coastline before you head down through the wetlands and then back up again. A motivated team of volunteers do a great job looking after it and we’re all very proud of the thriving local Kiwi population as a result. The full loop is a good couple of hours but if you’re after something a little shorter, the track down to Matarangi provides the most amazing birds eye view over that beach and through to Opera Point, Whangapoua, New Chums and beyond. You can walk back along the narrow crumbly gravel road to Rings. It’s been closed to traffic for many years now and the surrounding cliffs, tiny inlets, rock pools and crystal clear water make for an incredibly scenic yet nice, flat walk.”
Ability level: Moderate. Time: 2-3 hours (or 1 hour to Matarangi return). Footwear: Sturdy.
One of my favourite places for snorkelling is Stingray Bay. It’s quieter than neighbouring Cathedral Cove but you get the same beautiful, joyful walk (surely one of the country’s greatest), before pulling in to this less-frequented bay for beach fun. There are resident stingrays (!) and it’s just as stunning as the busy, oft-grammed Cathedral Cove.
Ability level: Moderate. Time: 90 minutes. Footwear: Sturdy.
We’ve had some good times at Tucks Bay. It’s a great spot to bring the kids: a very flat beach with no dumpy waves and plenty of space to run around safely. (Many people camp here too). An easy and very pretty 15 minute walk from Long Bay, or you may wish to do the full 40 minute Long Bay Kauri Loop walk. The best way to finish the day is with fish and chips in Wyuna Bay with a completely different point of view - either up top looking over the little islands or down in the settlement, which, when the tide is right, is like a calm natural swimming pool area as the sun goes down. Pure bliss.
Ability level: Easy. Time: 15 minutes. Footwear: Barefeet or jandals are okay.
Where do you walk? We’d love to hear your favourite walks around Aotearoa, or the spots where you’d love a little local knowledge - get in touch here.