Cathedral Cove in The Coromandel: How to Get There and What to ExpectEverything you need to know about the famous Cathedral Cove on the North Island in New Zealand
A very photogenic rock formation
Do you love beaches and dramatic cliffs?
Then visiting Cathedral Cove in The Coromandel is a must!
The Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve (The Great Bay of Hei) is a protected area most known for the natural rock archway (looking like a cathedral) from which you have a nice view to the Te Hoho Rock.
On our campervan road trip on New Zealand’s North Island, we visited this stunning location an early morning in November.
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What to expect of Cathedral Cove
Look forward to arriving at a pristine beach with pure, white sand and turquoise water.
Immediately you will notice the large white rock with a spectacular arch cut into it.
This is the “cathedral” that Cathedral Cove is named after.
The sea eroded the cliffs for years and the hole has grown quite big.
You can easily walk through it to the other side where you will find another gorgeous beach.
Cathedral Cove is a popular attraction, so you will likely not be alone – not even at sunrise.
But there’s plenty of space for finding a nice spot on the beach to sunbathe or swim in the sea.
Cathedral Cove is a bay in the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve on the east coast of The Coromandel Peninsula in the southern part of Mercury Bay.
Near Hahei, it’s just a short drive from the famous Hot Water Beach.
Be sure to check out some of the many other awesome things to do in the Coromandel.
Other beaches in the area
Stingray Bay and Gemstone Bay
When walking to Cathedral Cove, there are two additional beaches you can visit.
They are both accessible via short side roads along the same track.
The one closest to Cathedral Cove is a sandy beach called Stingray Bay.
If you have the time, it’s a very beautiful beach to relax on.
The other one is a rocky beach in Gemstone Bay.
It’s allegedly one of the best places to snorkel in the area and you can experience the astonishing marine life of the Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve.
If you are in the area, you should visit the dreamy Hahei Beach.
The water is incredibly clear and looks like a piece of Thailand!
This is probably also the most scenic way to start the hike to Cathedral Cove.
How to get to Cathedral Cove
The most common way to reach Cathedral Cove is on foot.
A track begins at the northern end of Hahei Beach.
From there it should take 1 hour and 10 minutes according to the signs but it only took us about 45 minutes to walk.
The path is mostly paved or covered with gravel.
It’s a bit of uphill and downhill and gets steeper close to the bays but it should be do-able for most people.
Sea-views and native flora and fauna will keep you entertained along the cliff walk.
You can also get to the track from the Cathedral Cove Lookout car park and walk for around 30 minutes.
From May to September you can park here for four hours for 15 NZD (~ 9.6 USD / 8.7 EUR).
Unfortunately, it’s closed from October to April because of increased traffic in Hahei Village during the summer.
Instead, you can find free parking at the entrance to Hahei Village at the Hahei Visitor Carpark.
If you stay in Hahei as we did (we camped at Hahei Holiday Resort), you can leave your car and walk along Hahei Beach.
Cathedral Cove can be reached from the sea as well.
You can either go by boat or take one of the kayak tours.
A boat tour starts at around 100 NZD per person (~ 64 USD / 58 EUR) and the price of a kayak tour is a little more than that.
You can also take a water taxi for 15 NZD per adult (~ 9.6 USD / 8.7 EUR) or 10 NZD per child (~ 6.4 USD / 5.8 EUR) each way.
It will, of course, be more expensive than the free walk but it should be a memorable experience too.
When to visit Cathedral Cove
Opening times and price
Cathedral Cove can be visited at any time and it’s free!
Time of day
Around sunrise or sunset is the best for photos and fewer crowds.
Considerate the tides. You may not be able to walk through the arch at high tide but you can easily walk through it around low tide.
We visited between low and high tide and it was perfect.
You can check the tides here.
Cathedral Cove is a year-round destination and weekends are always popular.
Make sure to plan accordingly if you want to witness this spectacle of nature in serenity.
It gets really busy during the summer months (December, January and February) as this is peak season in New Zealand with excellent weather.
Spring (September, October and November) and autumn (March, April and May) are shoulder seasons with pleasant weather and less people.
Rain increases in May and it gets colder during the winter months (June, July and August).
It’s too cold for swimming but you may get it all to yourself.
Where to stay near Cathedral Cove
Hahei Holiday Resort
We stayed at Hahei Holiday Resort and looooved it.
Mostly because the beach was less than a minute from where we parked. And wow, what a beach!
This 4.5-star upscale beachfront holiday park is not the cheapest (we paid 50 NZD for a campervan spot without power) but the location is amazing.
Hahei Holiday Resort has a wide arrange of options when it comes to accommodation: villas, family cottages, cabins and camping spots with or without power.
All the facilities (toilets, showers, kitchen, picnic tables etc.) were clean and the atmosphere was friendly.
It’s a really great place to stay if you are going to visit Cathedral Cove!
Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort
Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort is a 3-star guesthouse with cosy rooms.
It’s close to the beach and there’s a lovely garden as well.
Here you get great value for your money.
There are only 9 rooms available so make sure to book in advance if you want to stay here.
Another nice place to stay would be the Church Accommodation.
Choose between a simple room, a cottage with a small kitchen or even a house with three bedrooms.
There’s a library with books and TV-area and a tranquil garden with beautiful flowers.
The hotel is a bit further away from the beach than the two mentioned above but it’s still within walking distance of Cathedral Cove and it’s usually a bit cheaper.
What to bring for a trip to Cathedral Cove
- Travel insurance. Never travel without it!
- A good camera – here’s a guide to the gear we use.
- We saw many people wearing hiking shoes for the walk but we wore sandals and that was fine too.
- Swimwear and a towel if you plan to swim.
- Water and snacks.
Minimise your impact
To minimise your impact, follow these guidelines:
- Bring your own drinking water in a refillable bottle.
- Avoid single-use plastics.
- Dispose of waste properly. While putting your trash in a nearby trashcan is convenient, wrappers and other small items are prone to get taken by the wind and end up in the ocean.
- Check your sunscreen. Many brands contain oxybenzone and other chemicals that are harmful to corals. We like this vegan, organic and reef safe one from Green People.
- Take only photos, leave only footprints. Let shells and corals stay in their natural home.
- Be considerate of other visitors.
- Respect wildlife.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading our travel guide to Cathedral Cove. We hope it has been useful!
What do you think about it?
If you’ve been to Cathedral Cove it would be awesome to hear your best tips in the comments. If you haven’t yet been, please don’t hesitate to ask us anything. We’re glad to help.