The Stunning Walk to Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

the walk to cathedral cove new zealand is gorgeous

The walk to Cathedral Cove, New Zealand is something every tourist should do! Not only is it a beautiful walk, but the end result of Cathedral Cove is even more amazing! This is my guide on the walk to Cathedral Cove including all of the information you would need to know to get there as well as some extra handy tips!

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Last weekend Daniel and I ventured to the Coromandel Peninsula to check out Hot Water Beach, and while we were in the area we decided to also walk to Cathedral Cove.

Although we were tired from our 4 am wake-up call (to make low tide at the Hot Water Beach) we are glad that we found the energy to walk to Cathedral Cove – it was awesome and what we think of as one of the best beaches in New Zealand!

In this blog, I will share with you everything you need to know about the walk to Cathedral Cove based on our own personal experience!

Topics included in this Cathedral Cove, New Zeland guide are:

What is Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove is a famous cave/rock formation on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. It is located right on the edge of an ocean-side bay. Just check out the pictures, it is pretty cool!

Its also a film location of the Narnia films and since then has shot to international fame.

It is an extremely popular place among photographers, locals and tourists. One of the reasons many people can’t help but visit is because this amazing attraction is 100% free to visit and requires no national park or entrance fees.

cathedral cove, new zealand
Dan and I inside the cove!

Related Read:   An Auckland Day Trip to the West Coast

What is there to do at Cathedral Cove?

The main things to do at Cathedral Cove itself is swimming and exploring the area. The ocean is beautiful there and the waves aren’t too strong so it makes for a good swimming spot.

When the tide is low enough, people can walk through the rock formation to the neighboring bay and hang out at the beach there too.

a view of Cathedral Cove from the beach
A view of the cove from the beach as the tide was going out.

Cathedral Cove can only be accessed by boat or on foot. There is a 45-minute walk to Cathedral Cove which is the most popular way to get there as it is free! This is what Daniel and I did!

Where is Cathedral Cove located?

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand is located only a couple of kilometers from the town Hahei on New Zealand’s North Island. It is 175km from Auckland and takes about 2-2.5 hours by car.

Parking at Cathedral Cove

There is absolutely no parking at the start of the walk (the allocated carpark) during the summer. The carpark is small and causes many accidents so the council has temporarily closed it with the idea to open it back up again during the slowest months, however, it may remain closed permanently.

To put it simply, you cannot park at the top carpark (starting point) of the walk to Cathedral Cove at this time (summer 2019). Keeping reading for more information on getting to Cathedral Cove. 

We have since spoken to a ranger and she informed us it will be opening in May for the winter but closing again in the summer. With that said we visited in winter in 2018 as well as this summer and it was closed both times.

the top car park at cathedral cove was all fenced off
The top carpark at Cathedral Cove is all fenced off. Visitors must walk or take a shuttle from town instead.

How do you get to Cathedral Cove?

The options for getting to the top carpark (starting point of the trail) from Hahei are: 

1 ) Take the shuttle from town – this is what most people do. In Hahei town, there is a carpark where regular shuttles operate to the start of the Cathedral Cove trail (the carpark that is fenced off).

You can’t miss it, it is right at the entrance of town with lots of signage.
The shuttle cost $5 per adult for a return trip or $10 for a family of two adults and two kids. The shuttle starts operating at 10 am and goes until about 6 pm (double check when the last return shuttle is with the driver though as it can change depending on the season,)

2) Park at one of the nearby houses – house owners near the Cathedral Cove carpark have capitalized on the fact that the carpark is closed. Many houses sell parking for $10 per vehicle.

You will still have to walk five minutes to the entrance but this is a great option if you don’t want to wait for a shuttle or want to start walking before 10 am. Keep i mind that these parking spots do fill up quick so they are best if you want to visit Cathedral Cove early in the morning before the shuttle starts operating.

3) Walk from the town of Hahei – Many people walk along the road from Hahei to get to the top carpark where the Cathedral Cove trail starts. I’m not sure how long this would take…but it is a steep hill!

The walk is approximately 3km from the town of Hehei to the Cathedral Cove  (1.5km from town to the carpark starting point, and another 1.5km along the trail to Cathedral Cove.)

If you are going to walk, I recommend walking from the beach in Hahei. There is a path from the left side of Hahei beach which meets the pathway to Cathedral Cove. This walkway would be easier and a lot more scenic than walking along the road

hahei beach near cathedral cove is pretty nice
Hahei Beach right in the town of Hahei. You can walk from here to Cathedral Cove by following the beach to the left until it meets a trail.

You can also go on an organised tour from Auckland to both Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. This is a good option if you don’t drive or if you you are short on time!

The walk to Cathedral Cove

While hanging out at Cathedral Cove is great, half of the fun is the walk there. It is a pretty walk through the forest and fairly easy as well.

For clarity, this section is about the actual trail from the Cathedral Cove top carpark to Cathedral Cove itself (what most people do), it does not include the walk from the town of Hahei as we didn’t do this

a map of the walk to cathedral cove
A map of the walk to Cathedral Cove. from the top carpark.

How long does the walk to Cathedral Cove take?

Without stopping much, it takes about an hour each way. However, there are some nice viewpoints to stop at and two other bays for swimming (keep reading for details on Stingray and Gemstone Bays.)

How difficult is the walk?

The walk is pretty easy in my opinion. It is paved the entire way so there are no tripping hazards or muddy spots.

There is a bit of a hill about halfway through that will have you out of breath slightly, but it is quite short and easily done with a couple of breaks.
All of the bays including Cathedral Cove require you to go down staircases to access the water. This means climbing the stairs on the way back up.

There are only a few flights though and tons of elderly people and children were doing the entire walk with ease.

staircases along the walk to cathedral cove
There are a few sets of stairs to and from the water at Cathedral Cove.

Stops along the walk to Cathedral Cove

There are a few points of interest along the walk to Cathedral Cove.

Viewing platform

The first stop is literally right at the entrance of the trail next to the carpark. There is a viewing deck showing visitors the whole coastline. Even if you aren’t interested in the walk to Cathedral Cove, you should at least check out this viewing deck!

the start of the walk to Cathedral Cove
The viewing platform at the very beginning of the walk right next to the carpark.

Gemstone Bay

The next stop is Gemstone Bay which is only about a 15-minute walk from the carpark. There is no hill on this walk, but there are stairs to access the bay.

Gemstone Bay is said to be a great spot for snorkeling! We didn’t know this so we didn’t have snorkel gear with us – next time I guess!
It is also a great option for those who don’t want to go all the way to Cathedral Cove. Gemstone Bay is a nice swimming spot and a decent alternative to Cathedral Bay.

gemstone bay along the way to cathedral cove
Gemstone Bay, as you can see, at high tide it isn’t much of a beach at all

However, the beach completely disappears during high tide so if you want to hang out on the sand it will need to be during low tide.

To check out the current tide times click here.

Stingray Bay

Stingray Bay is only another 5-10 minutes of leisurely walking from Gemstone Bay.

This walk is also relatively flat with stairs down to the water at the end of the trail.

Stingray Bay is bigger than Gemstone Bay but also floods during high tide. It is still okay to visit during high tide though as there are lots of rocks that you can sit on.

Stingray Bay near Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel
Daniel hanging out in Stingray Bay.

Lookout on the hill

The hardest part of the walk to Cathedral Cove is after Stingray Bay. Here, you start to climb a hill. The hard work doesn’t go unrewarded though, because at the top of the hill there is a pretty cool lookout and a bench to catch your breath.

the lookout at the top of the hill on the walk to cathedral cove, new zealand
The lookout when you finally get to the top of the hill. This lookout means the hardest part is over!
Related Read:   Rotorua Maori Experience

Alternatives to walking to Cathedral Cove (the boat and kayaking)

If the walk to Cathedral Cove really doesn’t sound appealing to you then there is another to options, taking the boat or kayaking.


You can get a boat from Hahei Beach to the Cathedral Cove for pretty cheap, we saw one company advertising for only for $15 per person each way (children are $10.)

The benefit of the boat ride is definitely the lack of physical effort required. Besides that, it’s quick and affordable.

The downside is that the boat doesn’t always let riders off to actually explore the Cathedral Cove on foot. I can confirm since visiting again they do allow people off the boat but only if conditions are not as rough as the first time we went.

While we were there the waves were too large for the boat to get near to the shore to let people off. They could only see the Cathedral Cove from the ocean and didn’t get a chance to hang out at the beach.

These boat rides do advertise themselves as “water taxis” so the original idea is that they drop you off at Cathedral Cove and then you catch a different one back when you are ready. But, if the waves are too strong then this doesn’t happen. I would ask before buying the tickets what the water conditions are like and if you will be able to get off at the shore or not before buying.


If you want to Kayak tours leave right from Hahei Beach. I am not sure how long it takes or how hard it is but in the summer its very popular.

I can see this being a very nice tour as the coastline at Cathedral Cove is absolutely stunning!

the distances for the walk to cathedral cove
This sign shows how far it is to each point of interest along the way to Cathedral Cove from the top carpark.

In the summer it is also possible to go on a kayaking guided tour from Hahei Bech to Cathedral Cove. This is a great adventure for those up for the challenge. It is a bit pricey though at $115 NZD per person.

How much does it cost?

The walk and Cathedral Cove itself is completely free. The only expense is parking/the shuttle (and the boat if you decide to take it.)


There are no facilities once you start the walk until Cathedral Cove. At Cathedral Cove there are basic toilets.

Related Read:   Cheap and Free Things to do in Wellington

Useful tips to know before you go

  • Plan your visit according to the tide – The best time to visit Cathedral Cove is when it is between low and high tide. At high tide, it is not possible to walk into the cove, and at low tide, the water is way out and makes for worse pictures.
  • Pack plenty of water – there are no drinking taps along the way to Cathedral Cove so ensure you bring enough water for the walk there and back. I would recommend at least 1.5 liters per person on a hot day.
  • Food is limited in the town of Hahei – we were there in the morning around 8 am and literally, nothing was open! Not even a service station. To get something to eat we had to wait until 8:30 am when the first Cafe opens.
  • Go early in the morning – Cathedral Cove is very busy in the afternoons in summer. It is a small beach and cove so if you want some peace and photo opportunities I would suggest getting there before 9 am. The earlier the better.
the views along the way to cathedral cove are amazing
The views along the way to Cathedral Cove are amazing

Where to Stay near Cathedral Cove

We love the area of Hahei, which is the closest town to Cathedral Cove. If you have time, we strongly recommend spending a couple of nights there. Not only will you be able to go to Cathedral Cove but you will also e able to enjoy Hahei Beach as well as Hot Water Beach!

Some recommended places to stay near Cathedral Cove are:

Tatahi Lodge and Backpackers – Perfect budget accommodation right in Hahei town center. A couple hundred meters from Hahei beach and shared kitchen facilities onsite. This is perfect if you don’t want to spend a ton on accommodation (and why would you, you’ll be at the beach the whole time anyway!)

Robyn’s Nest – This little holiday home is gorgeous. It is actually where Dan and I stayed when we were last in Hahei. You can rent either the house or the studio apartment and have the whole place to yourself. It is around the corner from the beach and shops and super cute. It books up quick though so book well in advance!

Church Accommodation – Offers super cute cottages that are perfect for the whole family in summer or winter! Centrally located and all the facilities you could possibly need, these guys are also top rated for having exceptional customer service

Accomodation is limited in Hahei, so another great altnerativ in AirBnB. If you use this link you’ll save money on your booking!

at hahei beach
, at Hahei Beach! We love the town of Hahei!
Related Read:   A Trip from Auckland to Muriwai Beach

Check out these tours to Cathedral Cove

I hope that this guide has answered everything you need to know about visiting Cathedral Cove, New Zealand. If you are going to Cathedral Cove, be sure to also check out the nearby Hot Water Beach, it is super neat!
As always, we love to hear from you, so leave any comments or questions below!

Cathedral Cove is easily one of our favoutire places in New Zealand’s, some of our other favourites are…


Like it? Pin it! Click here!

3 Replies to “The Stunning Walk to Cathedral Cove, New Zealand”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *