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Location of Coromandel Peninsula
The Coromandel Peninsula lies in the North Islandmarker of New Zealandmarker. It is part of the Waikatomarker region and extends 85 kilometres north from the western end of the Bay of Plentymarker, forming a natural barrier to protect the Hauraki Gulfmarker and the Firth of Thamesmarker in the west from the Pacific Oceanmarker to the east. At its broadest point, it is 40 kilometres wide. Almost the entire population lies on the narrow strips along the Hauraki Gulfmarker and Bay of Plentymarker coasts. The country's biggest city, Aucklandmarker, lies on the far shore of the Hauraki Gulf, 55 kilometres to the west. The peninsula is clearly visible from the city in fine weather.

Geography

Motukawao Islands and Hauraki Gulf from near Colville
Waikawau Bay in the Coromandel Peninsula
The peninsula is steep and hilly, and is largely covered in subtropical rain forest.

The Coromandel Rangemarker forms a spine for the peninsula rising to nearly 900 metres, and the large island of Great Barriermarker, which lies beyond the northern tip, can be thought of as an extension of the range. Great Barrier is separated from Cape Colville on the peninsula's northern coast by the Colville Channel.

Although the peninsula is close to large centres of population such as Aucklandmarker to the west and Taurangamarker to the southeast, its rugged nature means that much of it is relatively isolated, and the interior and northern tip are both largely undeveloped and sparsely inhabited. A forest park covers much of the peninsula's interior.

Numerous small islands and island groups lie offshore, such as the Motukawao Islandsmarker to the northwest, the Alderman Islandsmarker and Slipper Islandmarker to the southeast, and the Mercury Islandsmarker to the northeast.

The peninsula shows considerable signs of previous vulcanism. It comprises the eroded remnants of the Coromandel Volcanic Zone, which was active during the Miocene and Pliocene. Volcanic activity has since shifted southeast to the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The peninsula is also close to the Auckland Volcanic Field, which exhibits a very different style of vulcanism. Geothermal activity is still present on the Peninsula, with hot springs in several places, notably at Hot Water Beachmarker, in the central east coast between Whitiangamarker and Tairuamarker.

People

Tairua, Coromandel Peninsula
View over Mercury Bay from the Tairua-Whitianga Road on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Owing to the nature of the land, much of the Coromandel's population is concentrated in a small number of towns and communities along the southeastern and southwestern coasts.

Only five towns on the peninsula have populations of over 1000 (Coromandelmarker, Whitiangamarker, Thamesmarker, Tairuamarker, and Whangamatamarker), and of these only Thames has a population of over 5000. Several small towns dot the coast of the Firth of Thamesmarker in the southwest. Other small towns on the peninsula include Whiritoamarker, Hikuaimarker, Pauanuimarker and Colvillemarker. The population of several of these centres is highly seasonal, with many Aucklanders having holiday homes in the Coromandel. Around the Christmas and New Year holiday period, the Coromandel is abuzz with activity, particularly in Whangamata, Whitianga and Pauanui, where youths and families from around the North Island come to spend their holiday.

The peninsula is a popular place to live for those who have chosen an alternative lifestyle, especially for those who have elected not to live in Auckland. The 1970s saw thousands of hippies relocate from large cities around New Zealand to the Coromandel in search of an environmentally friendly lifestyle associated with the counterculture back-to-the-land movement. In recent times an increasing numbers of affluent Aucklanders are also moving to the Coromandel.

The population density decreases with both distance from the coast and distance north. Of the main population centres, only Coromandel, Colville, and Whitianga are in the north of the peninsula, and much of the interior is virtually uninhabited.

The twin towns of Waihimarker and Waihi Beachmarker, to the southeast of the peninsula, are often considered to be in the Coromandel although they do not strictly lie on the peninsula itself, as they lie just to the north of the Karangahake Gorgemarker, the pass which marks the southern end of the Coromandel Rangemarker.

Industries and attractions

Rain forest reserve, interior of the Coromandel Peninsula
area was formerly known largely for its hardrock gold mining and kauri industries, but is now a mecca for tourism, especially ecotourism. A forest park occupies much of the centre of the peninsula, and the coasts are dotted with fine beaches and stunning views. The Moehau Ranges even have an elusive monster, The Hairy Moehau, which is quite a popular attraction with tourists.

Evidence of the regions geothermal origins can be found in hot springs, notably at Hot Water Beachmarker on the peninsula's east coast. The town of Whangamata is a popular holiday retreat, and Whitianga on Mercury Baymarker is renowned for its yachting. The peninsula's waters are also a popular destination for scuba divers.

There are lots of historical mines in the Coromandel area, especially for gold mining. Waihimarker, in the south of Coromandel Peninsula, still has an active gold mine, as of the late 2000s, though most other mining in the area ceased about the 1980s. In late 2009, New Zealand's Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee (National) noted that there was a possibility of new mining in conservation areas, even though he had previously declared that a stocktake of mineral resources in protected areas did not indicate a desire to mine there.

Transportation

The towns are connected by State Highways 25 and 25A which form a circuit around the peninsula. At the base of the peninsula, the towns of Paeroa and Waihimarker are connected by means of a road through the Karangahake Gorgemarker which separates the Coromandel Range from the Kaimai Rangesmarker. Not all of the roads within the peninsula are sealed with tarmacadam, notably the 309 Road which connects Coromandel Town and Whitianga. Some hire car companies have contracts that specifically exclude driving on these roads.

References & Notes

  • Normal New Zealand usage tends to refer to places informally as being "in the Coromandel" rather than "on the Coromandel Peninsula".


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