Spend a Day in Cathedral Cove

Without even realising it you may have already glimpsed a view of Cathedral Cove on Windows 10. A true gem of the Coromandel coastline with white sand beaches, marine life galore and a chilled out atmosphere to boot – what’s not to like?

map of Coromandel

So where is Cathedral Cove?

Cathedral Cove is located in the Coromandel region of New Zealand in the North Island. The Cove itself is a short walk from Hahei, a small coastal village with its own pink sandy beach. Many of the operators for Cathedral Cove are based here. It’s located within Mercury Bay which encompases the Hahei Marine Reserve and ideal place to try snorkelling. Travelling by car it’s about one and a half hours from Thames or two and a half hours from Auckland.

Aerial shot of Cathedral Cove
Credit: The Coromandel |
Credit: The Coromandel |

Walking to Cathedral Cove

It’s a 2.5km walk from the start point to Cathedral Cove taking around 45 mins but it’s along a well maintained path which has numerous viewpoints to take a break along the way. As such DOC classify it is an easy hike. The car park at the start of the track is closed during the summer to restrict the traffic so you can either walk from Hahei to the starting point which is an extra 20 mins but up a big hill. If you don’t think you can manage that there is a park and ride bus ride from the car park in Hahei which charges NZ$5 return.

Along the track there are two optional excursions you can take:

Gemstone Bay – a few minutes off the main track where you can swim or take part in the Gemstone Bay Snorkel Trail. The beach is boulder based and has four floating buoys in the water each with information on what you can see.

Stingray Bay
Stingray Bay (Credit: russellstreet @ Flickr CC)

Stingray Bay – this beautiful white sand beach is great for chilling out away from the crowds as if you are lucky you will get to see Stingrays feeding.

Snorkelling in the Coromandel
Credit: The Coromandel |

Snorkelling & Diving

Cathedral Cove is situated on the Hahei Marine Reserve and as such it’s a great place to go snorkelling and diving. Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel are a PADI Dive Centre based in Hahei that offer both snorkelling and diving trips around the coastline. The snorkel trips last around 2 hours cost NZ$100 and no experience is necessary. If you feel adventurous you can also do the PADI Try Dive Experience.

As previously mentioned a free snorkelling opportunity is available by doing the Gemstone Bay Snorkel Trail. Based on Gemstone Bay, which is a few minutes walk off the main Cathedral Cove path, there are four floating buoys in the water at different locations which have information panels attached. Each one indicates what to look out for under the water. The buoys also have handles on so if you need a quick break from treading water they are there to help! If you haven’t brought any snorkel gear along you can hire it from the Dive Centre in Hahei and it costs around NZ$25 a day.

Cove from Kayak
View from a Sea Kayak

Sea Kayaking to Cathedral Cove

A great way to see the beach is from the ocean onboard a sea kayak. Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours offer a classic tour which lasts 3 hours and sets off from Hahei beach up the coastline. The trip includes you landing on the farside of Cathedral Cove and includes warm drinks and cookies on arrival! The cost is NZ$125

Landing on Cathedral Cove beach
Credit: The Coromandel |
Hahei Explorer
Credit: The Coromandel |

Explore By Boat

There are numerous boat operators that can take you on a trip up the coastline to Cathedral Cove from small dinghies to large catamarans and sailing boats. There is even a glass bottom boat if you don’t fancy snorkelling!

The Hahei Explorer, one of the original boat companies offers a 1 hour tour which gives you an overview of the marine reserve, local reefs and caves and of course the Cove itself. Setting off from Hahei beach the cost is NZ$105 per person.

Many of the other operators set off from the large Coromandel town of Whitianga which isn’t far from Cathedral Cove as the crow flies but due to the winding roads is around 35 mins by car. These operators also take in additional sights up the coastline including Cooks Blowhole and the inspiring Shakespeare Cliff. For more information check out their websites:

Hostel in Coromandel

Where to stay

Although there are lots of hostels around the Coromandel region there is only one that is actually in Hahei called Tatahi Backpackers. Another budget option is the nearby Top 10 Holiday Park in Hot Water Beach which is just 10 mins away and lets you try your hand at creating your own hot pool on the beach! You can rent cabins or use the powered pitches if you have a campervan or tent.