If you ARE familiar with the 2005 film Chronicles of Narnia, then you’ll already be somewhat familiar with Cathedral Cove. A New Zealand icon, this destination is without a doubt at the top of the list for must see in the North Island. And not just because it features in a Narnia film (AND a Macklemore music video) but because it is straight up gorgeous.
If you are NOT familiar with Cathedral Cove then I’ll paint a picture for you real quick! Imagine two little bays of white sand, one connected to another by a giant Cathedral like cave. These bays are surrounded by beautiful native Pohutakawa trees and sand coloured cliffs. And if you visit during the summer months those trees flower a brilliant red. Which as you can well imagine, makes for a stunning and very instagrammable destination.
Perhaps what makes Cathedral Cove so unique and special, is that it’s not a simple drive and arrive to get to this magic spot. You’ll need to put just a little more work into this adventure than that. But I’m here to tell you how to get there, as there are a few options available.
Walking into Cathedral Cove – What You Need to Know
The first thing you need to know – is that there is a 40 minute walk into Cathedral Cove. And this is the most obvious way of getting there.
The car park is always full and often closed during the busier summer months, so for a small fee you’ll need to park and ride by shuttle to the start of the walk. Alternatively, some residents living nearby offer car parks on their property. And this is a good idea if you are travelling as a group.
Alternatively, park at Hahei main beach and begin your walk from this point. It will take longer, as you need to walk from the main beach up the hill to the beginning of the track, but it is a cheaper option. The path from the beach is a pretty one and shaded most of the way.
Visit Crayfish bay or Gemstone bay on the way to Cathedral Cove for some good snorkelling and a quieter beach to sunbathe on.
There is a newer walkway and access to Cathedral Cove through farmland. Just note if you take this option, there is less shade and the landscape is less scenic. So while you might save yourself some money on the shuttle, the view isn’t quite as breathtaking.
Top Tip: If you want the beach to yourself get there first thing in the morning. In the golden hours of the early morning the cliffs light up providing a backdrop to drool over. And there is nothing quite like having Cathedral Cove completely to yourself.
What to Do When You Get There
Take a snorkel and mask and head out to the rock reef at the southern end of the bay. Climb into the rock pool on the ledge and check out all the crayfish lining the crevices. Look but don’t touch… this is a marine reserve.
Swim out to the rock in the middle of the bay for a 360 degree view of the first bay. This is also a great jumping rock.
There is a toilet provided by the Department of Conservation, so in case you get caught out, there is no need to worry. And there is also a lifeguard on duty should anyone get into trouble in the ocean.
And need I remind… it is definitely a good idea to bring your Go Pro and your camera as there are many photo opportunities!
Alternative Ways of Getting to Cathedral Cove
Our best advice is find yourself a friend with a boat and save yourself the walk. Or if that is impossible then take a kayak tour over from Hahei beach. This is a great alternative route and will give you the opportunity to explore some of the coastline from the ocean.
We recommend you book your kayak tour here with the local tour company operating from Hahei. They are very very knowledgeable and a friendly team. This would be my preferred option of getting to Cathedral Cove as you are in for a scenic treat.
If you are travelling with young ones, then check out the glass bottom boat tour. Book your visit here with Get Your Guide. These guys are awesome as you are able to cancel your booking up to 24 hours in advance… so no drama if your plans change. The glass bottom boat gets very busy so be sure to book well in advance.
Getting There from Auckland
If you are on borrowed time, then don’t despair. We can even recommend a perfect option to get you from Auckland to the Coromandel on a guided day trip. Book with KKDay, lock in a date and you’ll be picked up from your accomodation in Auckland and driven to Cathedral Cove AND Hot Water Beach.
JUST DO IT, and thank me later! Click this link here to make your booking and to find out more.
Where to Stay in Hahei – Cathedral Cove
There is a fantastic campground which we’ve stayed at just about every summer that we have been in New Zealand. However, we recommend the cabins… because they are beachfront, just a minute walk from the stunning Hahei beach and bay. They are perfect for a Cathedral Cove and Hahei getaway.
Book a beachfront cabin at the Hahei Holiday Resort here with Booking.com.
If you loved Cathedral Cove and it’s connection to the film Narnia, then you may also be interested in New Zealand filming locations for the Lord of the Rings. Get this guide on all the best places to visit in the North Island, with links to destinations such as Hobbiton and the WETA Studio in Wellington.
If you are also planning a visit to the South Island check out this post on our top recommendations for Nelson.