The primary settlement of Mercury Bay, Whitianga sits on the North Island of New Zealand. The town is on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, 208 kilometres from Auckland, 93 kilometres from Thames, and 42 kilometres from Tairua. The town is right on the coast of Mercury Bay, on the 5 kilometres long Buffalo Beach.
Whitianga has a fascinating and rich history. The area has been continuously occupied for more than a thousand years. Kupe, a legendary Maori explorer was the first to settle his tribe on the present day Whitianga in 950 ACE. The original place name of the town was Te Whitianga o Kupe, which translates to, “Kupe’s crossing place.”
The first European to land at Whitianga was the famous Captain Cook, who arrived in 1769. He came in order to observe the transit of Mercury Bay. He hoped to find a good location for a harbour. The vantage point over all of Mercury Bay was best from Whitianga and for that reason, it was the perfect place for him to conduct is research on the comings and goings in the bay.
Despite Captain Cook’s relatively early arrival in Whitianga, the first European settlement in the are wasn’t until many years later, in 1836. They settled on the opposite side of the river from the native tribe.
What to Do – Whitianga
One of the primary attractions to Whitianga is Mercury Bay. The bay is an ideal place for any number of water activities. The harbour is a particularly beautiful area and as such, it has become the Coromandel Peninsula’s centre for many boating and fishing excursions. The bay is home to the Mercury Bay Boating Club. It is also the main departure point for most big game fishing trips and other chartered boat excursions.
Mercury Bay is an absolute angler’s haven, with some of the best fishing on the Coromandel Peninsula taking place either in the waters of the bay, or departing from Whitianga Harbour. The Whitianga Marina is a world-class New Zealand “clean marina,” and as such, is a hub for both local and international boats visiting the Coromandel Peninsula.
On top of boating and fishing, the coastline in and around Whitianga is also perfect for a number of other aquatic activities. The conditions can be especially good for surfing. During these times, surfers flock to Whitianga to make the most of the perfects swells in the area. Additionally, Whitianga can be a popular spot for windsurfers, kitesurfers, paddle boarding, and all other sorts of watersports.
There are also a number of wonderful swimming areas. Mercury Bay has pockets of calm and safe water that are perfect for summer visitors looking to take a quick dip in the beautiful waters along the coastline at Whitianga.
Whitianga also benefits from being in close proximity to the beautiful and fascinating Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve. This reserve is home to a wide array of marine life, thus making it the perfect place for diving, snorkeling, or simply boating. There are a number of tours originating in Whitianga that will take visitors out to the marine reserve and allow them to experience the wildlife on offer in the reserve in whatever manner they prefer.
Obviously the best way to enjoy the Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve is underwater. It is one of the better, if not the best, diving and snorkeling site on the Coromandel Peninsula.
If you want to enjoy the beautiful coastal scenery but don’t feel up for a trip under the surface, there are also a number of tours that will take visitors to some of the most beautiful and stunning coastline on the Coromandel Peninsula. Many of these tours embark from the marina in Whitianga.
If visitors are looking for a day of tranquility and relaxation, they should make their way to the Lost Spring Thermal Hot Pools. The Lost Spring is nestled right in the centre of Whitianga. They are surrounded by lush, tropical foliage, making it the perfect retreat for visitors looking to clear their mind and recharge in a secluded oasis. The Lost Spring is also home to crystal and amethyst caves that visitors can wander through.
These caves are a truly enchanting experience that are the perfect complement to the tranquil relaxation provided by the pools. If the old stories are to be believed, the waters of The Lost Spring are rich with a blend of minerals that have healing properties. There are a range of pools at different temperatures, ranging from 32 degrees Celsius to 41 degrees Celsius, providing each and every visitor with the pool that is just right for them.
Of course the township of Whitianga itself is a wonderful place to spend a day as well. The town is filled with well-renown cafes and restaurants serving a variety of locally sourced, fresh food. Visitors can find some truly fantastic seafood in Whitianga, all of which comes fresh from the waters in Mercury Bay. There are also a number of shopping options making Whitianga a great place to spend a day walking around, browsing the shops, and enjoying a good meal.
Where to Stay – Whitianga
Whitianga is home to a variety of different accommodation options. The township boasts a comprehensive array of affordable backpackers hostels, apartment rentals, holiday cottages, holiday homes, hotels, motels, and resorts. No matter what your taste or budget, there is something for you in Whitianga.
Travelling from Abroad?
If are hoping to visit Whitianga from abroad, your easiest travel option is to fly into Auckland and either drive or take bus from there. Auckland is very easily accessible from abroad as it is serviced from a number of international destinations daily.