Crowned as New Zealand’s best beach destination, the Coromandel Peninsula is just as beautiful underwater with fabulous dive sites and teaming marine life. With a long coast of sheltered coves and 100 offshore islands, the Coromandel is the best learn to dive region for beginners and a piscine paradise for seasoned divers. So grab your flippers, wriggle into that wetsuit and check out the five best diving spots Coromandel boasts in glorious Mercury Bay.
Best offshore diving: The Mercury Islands
Most insta-worthy dive spots: The Alderman Islands
Best stingray spotting: Stingray Rock As you head to the Aldermans, Dive Zone Whitianga often pause for a group dive at Stingray Rock, named after the large stingrays, which call the area home during summer. This stunning pinnacle rock rises 35 metres and peaks at eight metres below the surface attracting huge schools of mackerel, blue maomao and massive red moki. Look closely for rock lobster hiding in crevasses, yellow moray eels or black angelfish possessively guarding their own piece of rock.
Best shore diving – take your pick!
Best snorkelling with kids: Gemstone Bay
Offshore Islands, Aldermen and Mercury rival The Poor Knights as one of New Zealand's best diving spots. Jump on a full day dive trip with Dive Zone Whitianga to discover the ‘Merc’s’, a cluster of seven islands which serve up a scuba feast. The islands many different bays offer sheltered dive spots from the prevailing winds, so if it’s too choppy to dive in one spot, calmer conditions might be found the next bay over. A dive in the ‘Mercs’ will reveal stunning reefs, deep underwater caves, and schools of maomao, trevally, kingfish and terakihi. During winter, New Zealand fur seals often playfully shadow divers, while dolphins can be spotted cresting alongside the Dive Zone boat, all year round.
The Aldermen group, located an hour off the Coromandel coast, provide stunning seascapes ideal for diving and underwater photography. The steep island waters are in a marine conservation area so the sea life flourishes and the visibility is unrivalled on a calm day. With over 30 dive sites to choose from including the majestic Honeycomb Caves, you’re likely to spot colourful nudibranchs, elusive crayfish, stingrays, large kingfish, blue maomao and little darting mackerel, even the odd bronze whaler. You’ll feel like a silent visitor in a magical underwater world.
You won't need a boat when you learn to dive in the Coromandel. If you’re boat averse or a beginner diver, there’s excellent sheltered spots to explore just metres from shore in the Te Whanganui A Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve. Take a detour off the main Cathedral Cove path and a scramble over rocks, to little Stingray Bay. Here you’ll discover kelp forests, frisky leatherjackets, colourful wrasse, and red moki. Don’t be alarmed if the odd shorttail stingray or large snapper glides past your mask, attracted by the calm, warm water in this protected no-fishing zone. Add both Otama Beach and Matapaua Bay to your best ‘diving spots Coromandel’ list too. Easily accessible off the beach and just as beautiful.
Take the family to beautiful Gemstone Bay, another picturesque cove near Stingray Bay. After a 10-minute walk from the main Cathedral Cove car park, you’ll discover a tranquil spot to snap on your flippers and mask. The snorkel trail has marker buoys anchored 50 to 165 metres off the shoreline, each with handles and information panels to highlight the marine life underneath. Marvel at huge snapper, and maumau fish as you and the family drift delightfully above. You will need to cross a rocky foreshore before accessing the water, so beach shoes are recommended to protect little (and big feet). Afterward, as they gleefully recount what they saw, book the kids into a learn to dive course with Dive Zone Whitianga. Best suited to ages 12 and above.
If you want to learn to dive or get back into the sport, the Coromandel is the best place to start. Book a PADI Open Water Dive course with the expert instructors at Dive Zone Whitianga then join a trip along the stunning Coromandel coast to discover New Zealand's best diving spots and the sea creatures who call them home.
Check out upcoming dive courses and dates here