In New Zealand’s north island, panoramic beaches make up a big part of the attractions. Coromandel is a region well-known for its beautiful beaches and pristine waters. One of its most famous locations is Cathedral Cove. Located just outside the small town of Hahei, the cove is surrounded by sandy beaches and clear waters that are popular with snorkelers and divers.
Getting to Coromandel & Cathedral Cove
At just two hours and a half drive from Auckland, Cathedral Cove makes for a great day trip. It is possible to get there with bus services such as Naked Bus or shuttle services by Coromandel Adventures (prices vary but it is advised to book in advance). If not, you always have the option of renting a car, as there are plenty of car rental services around Auckland.
The roads and directions are easy to follow from Auckland. Once you are approaching Coromandel, the road starts to twist and turn, surrounded by trees and ferns. The beautiful scenic road runs next to Coromandel Forest Park. Follow the road and turn north towards Hahei. Once in Hahei, follow the signs to Cathedral Cove, which will lead you to a parking lot on top of a hill. The view from there is very refreshing, a great spot for a short break from driving. There are also restrooms for visitors, free of charge. Cathedral Cove can be accessed via a footpath next to the parking space.
Attractions at Coromandel
The area’s attractions comprise Cathedral Cove, Stingray Bay and Gemstone Bay. The 30-minutes stroll is very scenic, with beautiful outlooks to the sea, while parts of the walking path is covered and shaded by big trees and ferns.
At the end of the path, wooden stairways lead down to a beautiful sandy beach, directly next to Cathedral Cove. The limestone structure is covered with patches of pink and yellow hues. The blue sea and the rest of the beach are visible through the cave-like structure. Its arched ceiling towers over visitors. Trees line the limestone cliffs along the beach, providing some shade. Topped off with soft white sand, the beach presents a beautiful relaxing spot.
Stingray Bay is a hangout for rays
If you are interested in exploring the smaller bays, you can walk back towards the direction where you started. Walking half the way, there are signs pointing to the left onto a small path that leads to Stingray bay. Just as its name indicates, Stingray Bay is a hangout for rays. The bay has a small beach, although somewhat more secluded and less frequented than the cove. If you sit there long enough, you might spot some rays moving in the shallows through the pristine water. Then there is Gemstone Bay. Unlike the other two beaches, it is covered in round, smooth rocks.
Consider a boat tour!
If you still have time to spend, it is worth to explore the area by water. There are local kayak and boat rental services as well as the hiring of snorkel and diving gears. For our group, we decided on the boat tour with Hahei Explorer, a local tour boat operator. The one-hour boat tour was priced at 75 NZD (approx. 52.82 USD) per person. Life jackets are provided as well as safe storage space on land. It is a good idea to bring your own waterproof bags for your belongings that you wish to take onto the boat. I highly recommend bringing your camera along, as the tour is exceptionally scenic.
The tour runs twice a day, once in the morning and afternoon. Departure time varies on the season. As you have to call or book online for the boat tours, you might be on the tour with other passengers unless you request a private tour. The tour is approximately an hour long, consisting of visits to Cathedral cove and Stingray Bay, offering a different perspective of the place. In addition to the two previous locations, you will also get to visit caves that are only accessible through boats.
Explore a cave named Blowhole
Numerous caves of different sizes are formed inside towering cliffs; some are coloured red and green from algae. The most interesting cave was called the Blowhole. To get into the Blowhole, the boat has to go through a long and narrow corridor inside a cliff. At the end, the walls open up into a larger area. Light shines through the opening where the top of the cave has collapsed, revealing the sky and trees. When the guide turns off the boat’s motor, you can appreciate the sound of water dripping, gently splashing against the walls while enjoying the sights inside the Blowhole. It is a very magical place.
Best time to visit
A mere two and a half hour ride from Auckland, the cove is best visited during the summer months.
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