Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand Travel Guide
Exploring Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is one of the things every traveller has to put on the list of things to do in this country. Cathedral Cove is one of the northern Island’s most beautiful spots to visit and a big attraction for tourists. This travel guide includes everything you need to know: From how to get there and where to sleep to costs, tips and the best things to do in the area.
But before we start, I quickly want to tell my own personal opinion about this place. I have been to Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand for 1 full day, which is enough to see the most important parts and to get a good impression of the area. From my point of view it’s absolutely brilliant!
Cathedral Cove has something very special, which is very hard to explain. It is a really pretty cove, which almost seems cosy from the way that it looks. A place to lay down and relax. The spreaded charme is one of a kind and I can only highly recommend to make it a big point on your list of places to see when you travel through New Zealand.
Especially, if you only travel the northern island of the country, Cathedral Cove should be a main travel destination. Why? Because even though the north island has a lot of nice places to explore, there are just not that many spots, which can keep up with the highlights of the southern island. But Cathedral Cove can. So trust me, don’t miss out on this one!
Upfront, I also want to give you a little bit of general information about Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand, because I figured for myself, that going to a foreign place without having a clue about it, is not a very good idea. In my opinion you should always get a little bit of information about the place you go to.
Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand – General information
Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand developed of millions of years and it belongs to the Coromandel peninsula. It covers an area of about 840 hectares. Named after the arch that is located in the local area, Cathedral Cove is right next to Gemstone Bay and Stingray Bay, which also belong to the Coromandel peninsula.
The Cove is a starting point for various walks, which lead you through the unbelievably healthy enviroment. Because of New Zealand’s strict regulations on nature conservancy, the whole area is bursting with health. Tourists can see a lot of green fields, ancient trees and untouched bays without any mass tourism.
Although Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand has about 150.000 visitors per year, which is a high number for such a small place, it neither really seems overloaded nor dirty. It’s very different to conditions you can see in other popular countries like Thailand for example.
The whole peninsula, that Cathedral Cove belongs to, is also full of vivid marine life. Besides smaller fish species like marblefish, butterfish and red moki you might get lucky and even see some orcas, just like some German friends of mine did 🙂
According to history Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand belongs to “Hei” a tohunga from the Te Arawa waka (native tribe). He actually claimed the whole area of Mercury Bay to be “Te Kuraetanga-o-taku-Ihu”, which means “outward curve of my nose”. It should clearly symbolize that he owns the land and that it’s home to his tribe.
Over the years the land of Hei has been taken over by the goverment of New Zealand and most of it is used for the tourism industry. Still yet everything is very protected.
How to get there
Getting to Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is pretty easy. It’s about 180 km away from Auckland and 160 km from Tauranga. The easiest ways to reach Cathedral Cove is to go by car or bus.
Many bus companies like Kiwi Experience offer cheap trips to the Coromandel area. Most of them also sort out your accommodation, if you want them to. The best way to travel anyway, is to go by motorcycle, just like I did in Vietnam, because you see so much more of the landscape and it’s a incredibly pure feeling of freedom.
Visitors can find a car park on Pa Road, from where you will be brought to the start of the Cathedral Cove track via shuttle service. If you come with your own vehicle you don’t need to take the shuttle.
Generally you won’t have any problems in New Zealand with driving, because the roads are in excellent condition and it feels like there are no cars on the street once you leave the bigger cities 😀
Weather conditions at Cathedral Cove in northern New Zeland vary a lot, depending on the season. Generally there is a mild climate. It rains quite a lot, since the Bay of plenty connects right with the Pacific Ocean. The driest months are in summer and autumn (December till April). Temperature can rise up to over 30°C+, whereas in winter it can get done to 6°C – 8°C, combined with a lot of rain.
So choose wisely when you want to visit Cathedral Cove… 😉
Accommodation can easily be found near Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand. There are plenty options to choose from. You can either stay in higher priced hotels or choose to check into a good hostel. That’s completely up to your needs and travel style. Since I like to meet a lot of different people from around the world and want to travel cheap, I prefer to stay in hostels.
To give you a couple names:
All the accommodation is not exactly located at Cathedral Cove, but in the proximity.
This is an important section for many people. Especially for tourists, who prefer low budget travel. Since New Zealand is a pretty expensive country, you would assume relatively high costs for visiting Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand as well, right? But not this time…
There are almost no costs, besides accommodation, which you have to pay for anyway, unless you don’t own a camper van. It really depends on if you want to do any payable activities or not.
Other than that, these are the average costs for one day when travelling low budget:
- Accommodation: 25$+ (dorm room)
- Food: 10$ – 15$+ (selfmade food)
- Transportation: 38$+ from Auckland to Coromandel Central (InterCity bus)
- Activities: 90$+ for any activity
There are a couple tips I can give you from my own experience at Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand. Maybe not all of them are useful for your needs, but some might save you some money and upgrade the whole experience:
- Prepare your own food – It’ll save you a lot of money
- Bring a rain jacket – You never know in New Zealand
- Use sunscreen in summer – New Zealand’s sun is a enormously strong
- Bring good shoes – It makes the walks a lot easier
- Don’t spend all your time at the Cove – Also go hiking for example – Wonderful very scenic coastal walks everywhere
- Try to avoid winter time – You won’t experience the whole beauty of this place
- Go early – Avoid the “masses”
- Bring a good camera – Great landscape photography settings
Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand – Highlights
Exploring Cathedral Cove
Exploring the heart of Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is something truely special. The moment you reach this place, you’ll be amazed by the unbelievable beauty. You can get to the beach by walking down a high staircase, from where you can already see the ocean and the lovely golden sand. The beach is pretty hidden, which creates a feeling of comfort. It’s hard to explain for me, but as I said, Cathedral Cove is very cosy and chilled.
Once you’ve reached the beach, you will have a massive rock with a hole in the middle to your left, which you might know from a lot of pictures, and a dreamy bay to your right. The water is tremendously clear and it has such a nice colour. It’s slightly green, but also has some turquoise elements in it. When it’s sunny, the ocean really starts to show its beauty. I was there on a quite cloudy day, but you could still easily see how beautiful the ocean is around Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand. So in summer it must be even better 😉
If you walk along the beach in both directions, you will also see some small crabs here and there as well as some local bird species. Especially during breeding season this area is great for bird spotters. During summer you’ll also find a lot of people enjoying a refreshing swim. Definitely something you should consider when you explore Cathedral Cove.
Besides exploring the beaches, you can also go on a coastal walk, which I highly recommend. This was one of the best things about visiting Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand. There are different routes you can take, but if you follow the ones close to the shore, then you’ll also be able to see a lot of Mercury Bay from above.
The paths will lead you through some small forests and to a couple lookouts from where you can see massive slightly white cliffs and some lovely inlets as well as bigger islands. You can also stop by at Cooks Beach and Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve, if you walk far enough. Even Hot Water Beach can be reached from Cathedral Cove, if you walk along the east coast towards the south (about 11km). But to be fair, it might be to far for a one day trip, unless it’s your final destination for the day anyway.
The thing that fascinated me the most, besides the wonderful views, was the sheer beauty of the forests. This is where you truely get the Kiwi feeling. Nature is so strong, healthy and powerful in this area. A perfect showpiece for New Zealand’s beautiful landscape.
Another highlight at Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is a boat trip. It’s a big adventure with a lot of cool things to see. You will be driven around the marine reserve & offshore islands and along the magnificent volcanic coastline in a small motorboat with only a couple people joining you.
You will be able to see some spectacular sea caves and a hidden underground blowhole, if the tide is right. Additionally you’ll enjoy wonderful marine life. Gannets, penguins, seals & dolphins are only a couple friends to name, that try to make time for visitors 😉
A boat trip around Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is nothing but stunning and a lot of fun, especially for people, who like a little more action.
2nd tip for Narnia fans: Look out! A couple film locations from the Prince Caspian movie can be seen 🙂
Kajaking is also a very cool thing to do at Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand. It’s pretty much the same as doing a boat tour, but in this case you have to do the work to move around and not the engine 😉
Lot’s of tourists prefer a kajaking tour, because you can simultaniously enjoy the beauty of the ancient vulcanic coastline full of massive white cliffs as well as the peace of the ocean while watching countless of animals swimming around and flying above your head.
You’ll find heaps of good companies, which offer such tours. Many of them claim to show you around the Coromandel’s best parts. So give it a try!
Like I’ve mentioned before, the marine life at Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is absolutely brilliant. Above the water, big mammals such as dolphins, seals and sometimes even orcas can been seen all year long. But the best way to explore what’s below the surface is to go scuba diving. Scuba diving in New Zeland is not what I’d call cheap (140$ NZD with rented gear), but in the north of New Zealand it’s definitely worth the money.
At Cathedral Cove and Mercury Bay in general, scuba divers are almost always blessed with good diving conditions, prolific fish life and great dives sites, since the Coromandel is one of New Zealand’s best scuba diving areas.
Even for beginners there are various offers. From getting a PADI license to doing an introduction dive. It’s all there. Just get out of your comfort zone and go for it!
The last highlight to witness at Cathedral Cove in northern New Zealand is to travel on the RNZ navy rescue craft, which is an open boat that takes people to places other boats can’t go to.
One of the best parts is visiting the deep inside of the Orua Sea Cave where you’ll experience wonderful acoustics, thanks to the unique structure of the cave. Most tour operators also offer snorkeling gear, so that people can snorkel in the crystal clear Marine Reserve waters. It is fair to say, that a cave tour at Cathedral Cove is 100% Kiwi Magic and something you’ll probably won’t forget that fast!
Want to know more about White Water Rafting? Read here
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