Cathedral Cove

Accessible only on foot, boat or kayak, Cathedral Cove is one of the must visit sites on The Coromandel.

Overview

Cathedral Cove is named after the amazing rock archway located on the beach in the Te Whanganui-A-Hei (The Big Bay of Hei) Marine Reserve. The area receives around 200,000 visitors per year.

Walking time from the Cathedral Cove Carpark to Cathedral Cove is 30min but as there are some stunning views along the way this can take longer once you stop for a few photos.

Other Bays that are also in the reserve include Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay and Mares Leg Cove.

 

Getting There

Head to the small village of Hahei which is where the trail begins.

Summer Season

There is no parking at the Cathedral Cove Carpark between 1st October - 30th April. The Cathedral Cove Park & Ride operates over this time period and will pick-up/drop-off in three places:

  1. Hahei Visitor Carpark at the entrance of Hahei.
  2. Hahei Beach Road opposite the Hahei Store.
  3. Cathedral Cove Car Park at the end of Grange Road.

 

Winter Season

Between 1st May - 30th September the Cathedral Cove Carpark is open and you can park there for a fee with a maximum stay of up to 4 hours. Public toilets are also located just off the carpark. 

At Queens Birthday, Matariki and July School Holidays the Cathedral Cove carpark can also be very busy so expect to have to park in Hahei and walk up the road or take the coastal trail (+20min) to get to the start.

 

The Trail

The 2km trail from the Cathedral Cove Carpark to Cathedral Cove is now all concreted. It starts at 88 metres above sea level and finishes at the beach but there is a 30m rise along the way. 

The last 100m descending to the beach includes over 100 steps. If taking a wheelchair or baby stroller on the trail to the top of the stairs please be aware that the gradient exceeds 5 degrees in some places.

 

Mares Leg Cove

The trail comes out onto Mares Leg Cove. Named for another rock archway that looked like the hind leg of a horse "Mare" - pictured below. In April 1978 a large storm knocked it over with only the underwater rocks now remaining.

At the eastern end of the Cove is a waterfall and beneath the large Pōhutukawa's are two toilets.

In the middle of the Cove sitting in the water is what is called the Smiling Sphinx Rock. A Sphinx head can be seen looking towards the Cathedral archway. 

Another flatter rock sits 60m off shore which is great for jumping off at high tide.

 

Cathedral Cove

Walking through the Cathedral Archway leads to Cathedral Cove. You can access Cathedral Cove easier at low tide as at high tide you will get wet up to your waist walking the last part of the Archway to the Cove. Even at high tide (pictured below) you can walk 75% of the way through the Archway without getting wet.

Te Hoho Rock is the famous sea stack seen through the Cathedral Archway. Cathedral Cove is one of the most iconic and photographed places in New Zealand.

 

History

In c1350 AD the Te Arawa Waka arrives and Hei settles his people in Te O ā Hei (Hahei). This was the creation of the Ngāti Hei ("People of Hei"). As the tribe grew they expanded around Te Whanganui-A-Hei (The Big Bay of Hei) and created many Pā ("stronghold").

The Māori name for Cathedral Cove is Motauhi "a place to come and debate". The Ngāti Hei would gather on the Pā above the Cathedral Archway to discuss matters concerning the bay. 

The HMB Endeavour sailed into Te Whanganui-A-Hei on Friday, 3rd November 1769 AD. Upon seeing the archway Captain James Cook thought it looked like a Cathedral roof and so gave it its English name.