I recently had family visiting for their first trip to NZ and although I could have spent days showing them amazing places, they had limited time and so I opted to ‘wow’ them with Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel Peninsula.
Collecting them from Auckland airport, the drive to the Coromandel is about 2 hours on good roads and being NZ, there is very little traffic. There are a host of small towns, activities and incredible scenery throughout the region but for this trip we were headed for the east coast and Cathedral Cove. The roads wind snugly around the coastline and there are literally views around every corner.
Anyone thinking about New Zealand will, without doubt consider scenery as one of the country’s biggest attractions and how right they are! We have an abundance of stunning vistas, are surrounded on all sides by beautiful coastline and for the most, have great weather in which to enjoy it all.
Gateway to Cathedral Cove
We arrived in Hahei which is a small, quaint seaside town now catering mostly to holidaymakers and hailed the Gateway to Cathedral Cove. Coffee was in one of the small cafes and we loaded up with water and made our way to the beach car park. The cove is only accessible by foot or boat and the walk from here is about 2 hours. The track winds up and down from the beach to the cliff tops and back, with ample photo opportunities of the incredible coastline and outlying islands before eventually leading down some very steep steps to the beach and into Mare’s Leg Cove. This in itself is a beautiful spot and the day we were there it was busy with tourists and families enjoying the sunshine, sharing picnics and generally lazing around.
The now famous cave or archway leads from Mare’s Leg to Cathedral Cove and was used in the movie ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’ as the portal through which the children returned to Narnia.
Cathedral Cove was basked in sunshine and the sea was an incandescent blue which contrasted with the jagged white limestone cliffs and rocky outcrops. It was truly a stunning sight and yes, the family were suitably ‘wowed’. It’s easy to lose track of time just enjoying this magnificent place and taking photos that look amazing but never quite do it justice.
For those not relishing the walk back, which starts with the return up the very steep steps, there is a water taxi service which operates from Hahei to the cove on a regular basis. Be warned however, it is weather dependent and although we were there on a beautiful day, the swell on the water was too great and the taxi wasn’t operating.
The walk back from the was a leisurely stroll and we rewarded ourselves with a real fruit ice cream at the small shop near the car park – much appreciated in the afternoon heat.
Relax in your own free natural spa pool
A couple of km’s further on is a truly amazing, natural kiwi experience – Hot Water Beach. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another beautiful long, white beach, the clue really is in the name. There is an underground river of hot water that flows out here into the Pacific Ocean and 2 hours either side of low tide finds the otherwise deserted beach full of people relaxing in their own hand made sand spa pools. As the tide comes in, these are washed away leaving a new beach ready for the next influx of visitors.
For us, it was time to move on, winding down the coast towards the Bay of Plenty passing numerous photo opportunities and hearing gasps of appreciation from my guests. For those wanting to stay a little longer and explore the areas around the Cathedral Cove, the Coromandel is littered with hotels, motels, boutique B&B’s and hundreds of beachfront beaches all offering comfortable accommodation to suit all pockets. The larger towns of Whitianga and Whangamata offer more luxury and have self-catering apartment complexes as well as a good choice of restaurants and pubs.