The palm-lined Esplanade is the hub of this busy town featuring cafes, restaurants and bars all overlooking the Whitianga marina and harbour. Sit back and enjoy your choice of culinary delights while contemplating which of the endless activities you’ll do next.
The amazing marina views from Salt Restaurant & Bar are more then matched by the fabulous food and first class service. This is a popular lunchtime place to dine alfresco on the expansive deck sampling the fresh seafood and local farm cuisine.
The Fireplace restaurant is another popular dining place featuring gourmet food wood fired pizzas and open fires in a spacious, rustic setting oozing with old world charm. Good food is worth the wait and in peak times; you can wait a long time for a table but locals and visitors alike all say it’s worth it for the great food, great location and great times.
The Fireplace is very close to Whitianga Wharf where you can catch the Whitianga Ferry and take the short trip across the harbour to Ferry Landing. From here, take your pick of the many safe and accessible swimming beaches including Front Beach, Flaxmill Bay, Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach.
Hiking and Trekking Walks
Located between Flaxmill Bay and Cooks Beach is Shakespeare Cliff, an impressive scenic reserve and immense edifice of rock clad in natural bush. A walk to the top rewards sightseers with breathtaking views of the ocean, bay and nearby Lonely Bay and Cooks Beach. You can walk down into Lonely Bay, a picturesque beach popular as a venue for weddings or continue on to Cooks Beach.
Cooks Beach is 3 km of crescent shaped golden sand beach looking out to Centre Island, a popular location for diving and fishing. A safe swimming beach, you can also hire kayaks off the beach and explore the beach, the surrounding rocky outcrops and the pristine waters of the nearby Marine Reserve. Teeming with marine life, this reserve also features the world famous, magnificent cathedral shaped cavern called Cathedral Cove.
Fishing & Coastal Cruises
Whitianga is the place to get out, in, on or under the water. If you prefer to stay dry, head to Whitianga marina and go big game fishing with Rod of R&R Charters. Whether you are experienced or new to fishing, Rod is great value and will go the extra mile to help you catch those big fish. You can also take a leisurely boat ride to Cathedral Cove on the Cathedral Cruiser or view the undersea world from one of several glass bottom boats.
For something a little more adventurous, head to Dive HQ and learn to dive or if time is of the essence, take one of their organised snorkelling & diving trips. These guys can also take you kayaking and show you the delights of Whitianga Harbour and Cathedral Cove.
Hot Water Springs
For something luxurious, try the Lost Springs. This is one of the Coromandel’s top attractions and is a testimony to determination, perseverance and never giving up on your dream.
Inspired by old stories of a lost thermal water spring on the Coromandel, Alan Hopping spent 20 years searching for the spring. His eventual success led to the creation of the Lost Spring Thermal Resort in Whitianga, a spectacular suite of hot pools fed by crystal clear geothermal water set in beautiful native forests. Relax and unwind in the resort’s soothing waters, spoil yourself with a spa treatment or dine out at 18sixtyfive, the resort restaurant and bar.
One way to see Whitianga and the Coromandel is by helicopter. Coromandel Helicopters based at Whitianga Airfield takes scenic flights all over the Coromandel but for an absolute buzz sure to get your heart racing, fly in to the Pinnacles range and mountain bike out starting with 2300 vertical feet of adrenalin pumping downhill.
Whitianga Scollop Festival
Late August heralds Whitianga’s gastronomic event of the year, the Scallop Festival. This event is a sell-out every year with more than 100,000 scallops shucked, cooked, marinated and presented in every possible way imaginable to delight and tantalise the taste buds. A huge marquee village houses over 60 food and wine stands serving a wonderful array of seafood delights, fresh produce , wines and locally brewed beer. You must try the scallop and macadamia fish cakes from Cathedral Cove Macadamias, Fired’s scallop and seafood wood fired pizza or the Meat at the Beaches ‘Scally Pops’. This is a spin on the New Zealand classic hot dog and features a gourmet homemade sausage wrapped around scallops served on a stick.
There’s so much to do in Mercury Bay and Whitianga it’s easy to see why this is a top tourist destination for visitors to the Coromandel. So come and visit Mercury Bay and Whitianga and see what makes this such a great place. But be prepared to stay awhile as there is just too much to do for a short stay.
Leslie Preston is founder of Bachcare – a NZ provider of Coromandel holiday homes and rental accommodation and throughout New Zealand’s favorite holiday and vacation destinations.