13 of the best things to do in Whitianga

Join us as we share the best things to do in Whitianga.

Whitianga is a town in the North Island, that’s located along the beautiful Mercury Bay.

If you’re exploring the Coromandel, you’ll end up here soon enough, and trust us – you’ll be glad when you do!

This part of the North Island offers plenty of awesome places to visit, spectacular scenery, and lots of culture.

Whether you’re keen to try snorkelling, enjoy an animal experience, or relax on the area’s pristine beaches, there is something for everyone.

A leaf hanging by a branch while people dip into the springs below.
Soak in The Lost Spring whilst visiting Whitianga.

The Top Things to Do in Whitianga

Though Whitianga is only small, you’ll find a surprising number of activities and attractions in and around town.

Conveniently, many of the best sites are also located within a 30-minute drive from the town centre.

To make things easier we’ve split this article into activities within the town, and ones that are a bit further out.

So, let’s dive into the best things to do in Whitianga…

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1. Relax at The Lost Spring

Visiting The Lost Spring is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Whitianga.

These geothermal mineral pools are some of the best in New Zealand and the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in town, this is a place you just have to visit!

Not only are the minerals great for your skin, but the sounds of birdsong are enough to de-stress anyone.

There is also a spa on-site that offers plenty of different treatments and massages.

Not only that, but The Lost Spring has a restaurant and they can even deliver cocktails directly to you in the pool!

What more could you need?

121A Cook Drive, Whitianga 3510

Two women dipping in the waters while holding cocktails.

2. Explore Mercury Bay Museum

The Mercury Bay Museum is the most visited museum along the Coromandel Peninsula, and it’s no wonder.

When it comes to learning about the area’s culture and heritage, this attraction is a must-visit!

The museum has a tonne of exhibits including displays about James Cook, Māori artefacts, records from early settlers to the area, and the HMS Buffalo.

You’ll also get to learn about the old dairy factory in which the museum is housed and the area’s natural history.

The latest display at the museum is called the ‘In Our Backyard’ exhibit, as it highlights the wildlife that resides around Whitianga, and it’s well worth checking out.

11a The Esplanade, Whitianga 3510

Exterior of Mercury Bay Museum that shows its open.

3. Enjoy Fresh Fish and Chips

A visit to Whitianga isn’t complete without tasting some of its mouth-watering food.

You’ll have a surprising selection of restaurants to choose from that serve both international and local cuisine. This includes pizzerias, Thai food, Indian cuisine, Irish food, and Chinese specialities.

However, the must-try there is the fish and chips and there are several places you can choose from.

Whitianga Takeaways & Fresh Fish, Buffalo Beach Takeaways, and Snapper Jack Takeaways are the most popular spots.

The fish from these places is delicious, but make sure you keep it away from the seagulls — they love pinching chips fresh from the paper if you let them.

Fish fillet, french fries, and two slices of lemon placed on an old wood near the beach.

Cruises from Whitianga

4. Head Out Cruising on a Glass-Bottom Boat

Going on a glass-bottom boat cruise is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Whitianga.

This eco-tour will take you to the marine reserve around Cathedral Cove, and show you the area’s spectacular scenery and diverse marine life.

You’ll get to see a tonne of wildlife through the glass but if you’re looking to get closer, you’re welcome to snorkel on this cruise too.

If you’re lucky you might even get to spot dolphins, whales, orcas, and seals!

This cruise departs from Whitianga Wharf, and you’ll be exploring the reserve for about two hours.

Depart: Whitianga Wharf, The Esplanade, Whitianga 3510

Woman pointing fishes in the transparent hull of a boat.

5. Join a Thrilling Cruise to Cathedral Cove (or a More Sedate Option)

If you’re looking for an exhilarating adventure, then be sure to check out this thrilling boat ride to the best local scenery!

This small-group experience will take you on a daring tour of the area’s best caves and blowholes.

You’ll get to see the best of Mercury Bay including Cathedral Cove, Orua, Cooks beach and its blowhole, and Goat Island.

The tour will also pass by Hot Water Bay, the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout, Lonely Bay, and Hahei.

As you’ll be visiting some of the best marine reserves in the area, you’ll have the opportunity to go snorkelling too.

Be prepared to hold onto the side, and a quick warning – this tour isn’t for the faint-hearted or particularly young children.

There is, however, a relaxed version of this tour that’s available too. That one’s perfect for families. Both of them can be found here…

Depart: Whitianga Wharf, The Esplanade, Whitianga 3510

Slowly manoeuvring while approaching a sea lion in a Cathedral Cove Thrill Ride.

6. Ride the Cathedral Cove Jet

Just like the tours mentioned above, this ride will take you to some of the best coastal attractions — only this time, you’ll be doing it on a jet boat.

Travelling at speeds of up to 80km/h, you’ll race, spin and squeal your way out to Cathedral Cove.

This tour takes approximately 45 minutes so it’s a great way for those short on time to see the sights (whilst getting your heart pumping)!

Depart: Whitianga Wharf, The Esplanade, Whitianga 3510

Cathedral cove jet cruising at top speed over the water.

7. Visit Whiti Farm Park

Whiti Farm Park is another great activity for families in Whitianga.

You’ll get to meet, hand-feed, and cuddle with over 40 different species of wildlife ranging from farmyard animals to birds. This includes deer, dogs, horses, rabbits, alpacas, turtles, and parrots to name a few.

Not only that but Whiti Farm Park is located on eight acres of land so there is plenty of room to explore. There is even a bush walk that will take you through scenic gardens.

The farm park also has a train, an old fire engine, and plenty of old-fashioned games to keep the little ones entertained.

Whiti Farm Park is an 11-minute drive from Whitianga.

2414 Tairua Whitianga Road, Kaimarama 3591

Animal caretakers with their dogs, pigs, cattles, and horse in Whiti Farm Park.

8. Visit Mill Creek Bird & Animal Encounters

Mill Creek Bird & Animal Encounters is the perfect family day out.

They have 45 aviaries on-site which house an impressive 400+ birds ranging from macaws to lories.

There is also a farm here, that’s home to an array of animals including alpacas, donkeys, emus, goats, and pigs.

If you’re more of a reptile-lover, the park even has bearded dragons, blue tongue lizards, tortoises, turtles, and newts among others lizards.

Aside from the wonderful wildlife, Mill Creek Bird Park also has a playground, cafe, and campground on-site too. You’ll even find plenty of picnic areas if you want to bring your own food.

Mill Creek Bird Park is a 15-minute drive from Whitianga.

365 Mill Creek Road, Kaimarama 3591

A kid feeding birds.
Photo credit: Mill Creek Bird & Animal.

Awesome Things to Do Near Whitianga

9. Head to Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is one of the most beautiful spots in the Coromandel, if not the whole of the North Island.

There are plenty of awesome tours that visit this incredible place (some of which we’ve already shared), but you can also walk to it which we’d recommend.

If you head to the scenic Hahei Beach, which is one of the best beaches in Coromandel, first, you can then walk along the cliff top before descending into the cove.

You’ll then get to see what all the fuss is about.

A huge arched cavern passes through the white rock here, and it’s quite the sight!

The walk takes around an hour, and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular scenery along the way.

The beach here is also stunning and is the perfect place to have a swim or take a picnic.

A cove showing the rock formations, calm waters, and the beautiful beache.

10. Relax on Cooks Beach

Relaxing on Cooks Beach is one of the best things to do in Whitianga. Not only is it beautiful, but this beach also has a tonne of history.

It’s the spot where Captain James Cook made anchor in 1769 during one of his famous voyages. Ironically, it’s also the same bay that Kupe chose when he first came to New Zealand.

Cooks Beach is around 3 km (1.8 miles) long with pristine white sands, spectacular rock formations, and plenty of great areas to swim.

It’s a popular spot so expect it to be busy, but trust us, it’s worth the visit.

Cooks Beach is a 34-minute drive from Whitianga.

11. Visit Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach is another must-visit during your trip to Whitianga.

What makes this place unique is the heated mineral water that bubbles up to the surface — hence the name.

If you head to the southern end of Hot Water Beach, you can literally dig your own hot pool. It’s a strange feeling to be lying in a pool of warm water right on the beach, but it’s an awesome experience.

When it comes to digging a pool, you’ll need to visit the beach within two hours either side of the low tide (with a spade of course).

Hot Water Beach is a 30-minute drive from Whitianga.

A family making a pool on the beach by shovelling the sands.

12. Head to the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout

The Shakespeare Cliff Lookout offers some of the most spectacular views in the area.

The best way to reach this lookout is to catch the ferry over from Whitianga, which will take you to the peninsular on the opposite side.

From here the walk up the lookout takes about an hour.

Once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Mercury Bay and Cooks Bay.

However, if you don’t fancy walking to the top, then you can drive most of the way up instead.

Shakespeare Cliff Lookout is a 35-minute drive from Whitianga.

13. Taste delicious wine at Mercury Bay Estate 

Mercury Bay Estate is a family-owned winery and vineyard that offers stunning views of the surrounding area and Mercury Bay.

The Cooks Beach area produces the perfect conditions for grapes and as such you’ll find a variety of fine wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Reserve Melot Cabernet.

Although famous for its range of wine, Mercury Bay Estate also offers an Italian inspired menu and the ‘best pizza on the peninsula’.

If you’re heading to the vineyard during lunch you can also choose one of their gourmet platters to enjoy.

Mercury Bay Estate is a 32-minute drive from Whitianga.

761 Purangi Road, Cooks Beach 3591

The vast farm lands of Mercury Bay Estate.
Photo credit: Mercury Bay Estate.

As you can see there are plenty of awesome things to do in and around Whitianga!

For this reason, you’ll want to give yourself at least a couple of days to explore this beautiful area.

Have you ever been to Whitianga?

If you have – drop your favourite spots in the comments below!

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