For me a New Zealand summer doesn’t feel complete without doing the Cathedral Cove walk.
Cathedral Cove is one of the most popular tourist destinations in New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of those places that just feels like summer.
The dramatic limestone cliffs, pristine white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters make it a truly magical place. Cathedral Cove is also home to an abundance of marine life, making it a snorkeler’s paradise. Maybe it’s the long stretch of golden sand or the bright blue water. Or maybe it’s the fact that Cathedral Cove is just a short drive from some of New Zealand’s best vineyards. Whatever the reason, Cathedral Cove always feels like the perfect place to spend the day.
There’s something for everyone at Cathedral Cove, whether you want to swim, sunbathe, or just relax in the shade with a good book. And of course, no visit to Cathedral Cove would be complete without a leisurely swim in the cove itself.
This gem of a spot is located in Hahei on the Coromandel Peninsula.
Best time to visit Cathedral Cove
My most recent trip here was just a few weeks ago in early October and I must say, it was a pretty good time to visit! If the Spring weather behaves and you score yourself a gorgeous day as I did then you’re in for a treat. October is outside of school holidays and Uni holidays so it’s not crazy busy. The main people you will bump into at this time of year are either other tourists or the locals.
Another great time to visit would be in March. It’s officially Autumn by this stage but the days are still long and hot. The water will still be pretty warm from the heat of the summer so you’ll still be able to swim. But the best part is that all the school kids and uni students are back by March so popular spots like Cathedral Cove automatically become a LOT quieter.
The Cathedral Cove walk is simply stunning in Autumn with all the leaves changing colour. So if you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy nature, Cathedral Cove in March is perfect.
How to get to Cathedral Cove
You’ll begin your day by parking at Cathedral Cove park and ride. It’s pretty easy to spot, it’ll be on your right hand side before you get to the Hahei shops. There used to be selected parking up the top of Cathedral Cove, which you could score if you got there early but this has now been closed off from October until the end of April each year to make way for the shuttles that run.
They run every 20 minutes so you aren’t left standing around which is good and at $5 return per person it’s pretty reasonable. There’s a ticket machine where you can pay by card or give cash to the driver or if you’re super organised you can book and pay online at www.go-kiwi.co.nz. If I were you, I’d take the shuttle. Trust me you don’t really want to have to walk all the way up the hill just to get to the start of the track…
The shuttle drops you right at the track entrance and the views you get from here blow me away every time. It is so beautiful looking over Hahei and the rest of the coromandel coast. It’s these views that keep me coming back again and again.
Visitors can also take a ferry from Hahei Beach to Cathedral Cove, which is a great option for those who don’t want to walk.
Whichever way you choose to get there, Cathedral Cove is definitely worth the effort!
Cathedral Cove Walk
The Cathedral Cove walk is a scenic trail that takes you through native bush, down to a beautiful beach where you can swim or relax in the sun.
The walk itself is actually pretty easy. They’ve recently paved it which makes the journey so much faster! Probably still not suitable for prams though as there are a few stairs once you reach the end. It’s classified as an easy walking track and takes about an hour and a half return.
About 15 minutes into the walk you’ll come across Stingray Bay, one of my all-time favourite spots! A lot of people just carry on walking and miss this hidden gem but it is well worth stopping by because it’s so beautiful and pretty quiet.
Stringray Bay is a beautiful sheltered cove with crystal clear water and an abundance of marine life. Stingrays, seabirds and even dolphins are often seen here.
I’ve never swum here because as the name suggests, there can be a lot of stingrays! But I’m pretty happy just walking along the sand, putting my feet in the water and taking in the gorgeous turquoise blue shades of the ocean.
You’’ll get pretty amazing views of the coast as you continue along the Cathedral Cove walk, it’s a very scenic walk with plenty of photo ops. Before you know it you’ll have reached the stairs with will take you down to the beach at Cathedral Cove.
By the time to get down to the water, you’ll probably be ready for a swim, especially if you’re here in the middle of summer! It was too cold for me to swim in Spring, I usually don’t go anywhere near the water until December but there were some people splashing around in the waves.
The ocean here is quite calm, at least on the days I’ve been here. It’s definitely not a surfing destination but it’s not dead flat either.
To snap a famous pic of the cove with minimal people in it you’ll want to aim to get here early. Be warned, this place gets crowded quickly – well crowded by New Zealand standards at least…
By the time we got down to the cove, it was about 11 am and within half an hour of us being there, it got so much busier! I still managed to get some snaps with no people in it but fast forward to November or December this would be a lot more difficult. So if you want to get that perfect picture, aim to arrive early.
It’s easy to spend half a day here, enjoying the sunshine and taking a dip in the gorgeous ocean before mustering the energy to walk back to the carpark. Luckily once you reach the top the shuttle won’t be far away to take you back to your car.
Be sure to stop for ice cream in Hahei before heading back! And if you feel like another swim to cool off, Hahei is absolutely stunning and well worth a visit while you’re in the area.
After visiting this part of the North Island there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll come to realise why I love this place so much!
How to get from Cathedral Cove to Hot Water Beach
Hot Water Beach is another tourist hotspot you’ll want to tick off while you’re in the area.
There are two ways to get from cathedral cove to hot water beach. The easiest way is by car, and the second is by foot. If you’re driving, you’ll need to take the coastal road that runs between the two locations. The journey by car will take around 30 minutes.
If you’re wanting a bit of exercise and are keen on walking, you can either follow the coastal path or take a shortcut through the bush. The walk will take around 2 and a half hours. Just be sure to wear some sturdy shoes, jandals won’t quite cut it for this one!
Alternatively, if you prefer to relax and take in the scenery, there are several companies that offer boat tours of the area. The trip takes around 45 minutes and gives you a chance to see some of the most beautiful coastlines in New Zealand.
Whichever route you choose, you’re sure to enjoy incredible views of the sea and coastline.
Why visit Hot Water Beach?
Hot water beach is a fun place to visit if you want to warm up a little. Yes, there is literally hot water you can bathe in! Which is a perfect way to relax after a long day of exploring.
As the name suggests, the beach is famous for its hot springs, which bubbly up through the sand at low tide. The hot water flows from underground and into the ocean.
Visitors can dig their own pools in the sand to relax in and enjoy the warm water. And when the tide comes back in, the hot water magically disappears!
Bear in mind that you will need to check the tide times before visiting this spot as the hot sand is only accessible at low tide. You might also want to have your jandals handy as the sand can get quite hot!
If you’re looking for a beautiful place to visit in New Zealand, be sure to add Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach to your list.
These two spots are some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, and it’s easy to see why. Both locations offer stunning natural scenery and plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy.
If you have any questions about how to get there or what to do when you arrive, reach out – I’d love to help!