You will have to walk or take a boat or kayak to the famous Cathedral Cove, but you will soon appreciate why it is is one of the “must visit” locations in The Coromandel.
Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve, Te Whanganu o Hei, covers 9 square kilometres and is New Zealand’s sixth marine reserve. It is administered by the Department of Conservation.
This site was chosen for a marine reserve because of the rich and varied habitats associated with the coastline and outlying islands.
Reefs of hard rock, soft sediments, intricate caves and underwater arches provide homes for complex communities of plants, crustaceans, molluscs and fish. Sheltered from the worst of the southerly winds Te Whanganui o Hei gives visitors an opportunity to learn from and enjoy an unspoilt marine environment.
Kayaking within Te Whanganui o Hei Marine Reserve
Many kiwis will be familiar with the spectacular coastal walk into Cathedral Cove, but perhaps the best way to explore the breathtaking coastline of the reserve is by kayak.
The picturesque limestone cliffs, superb volcanic coastline, clear water and abundant marine life of Hahei’s marine reserve blend to create New Zealand’s best kayaking trip.
Along the way your guides will take you kayaking through limestone archways, into sea caves and will even serve up café quality cappuccino for you right on the beach!
The area is rich in stories from the many navigators who first discovered Mercury Bay, such as Kupe, Hei and Cook. Te Whanganui o Hei, or "The Great Bay of Hei" was named one of three brothers who arrived in New Zealand with Kupe. With his family, Hei settled in the area of Oahei, which is now Hahei, and they became the ancestors of the Ngati Hei people. after whom the marine reserve is named.
Scenic Adventure Tour
Boating in and around this amazing coastline can be as simple as taking a guided scenic adventure boat tour on the Hahei Explorer. Referred to by many as a photographers dream, this one hour highlights tour departs daily from Hahei beach.
Cathedral Cove Walk
There are several scenic tracks on land adjacent to the reserve, including the 2hr return walk to Cathedral Cove track, which gives access to Gemstone and Stingray Bays, Mare's Leg and Cathedral Coves. Pedestrian access to the Cathedral Cove car park is at the western end of Hahei Beach and vehicle access for drop offs only is up Grange Road (turn left past shops and go all the way to end of Grange Road).
A day in the Marine Reserve
Te Whanganui o Hei Marine Reserve is a protected marine area of 9 square kilometres of coastline and outlying islands off Cathedral Cove on the Mercury Bay. Only accessible by boat, kayak or foot, a day spent experiencing the rich and varied habitats of Te Whanganui o Hei offers unlimited opportunity for learning, fun and adventure. A scenic tour by boat will bring you up close and personal with the reefs, caves and bays of the marine reserve. The one hour scenic tour with Hahei Explorer (which departs from the beach at Hahei) seats just ten passengers, making it ideal for family groups and those who appreciate a personalised tour experience.
Tours departing from Whitianga include Cathedral Cove Scenic Cruises, Cave Cruzer Adventure Tours, Sea Cave Adventures, Ocean Leopard Tours and The Glass Bottom Boat who all operate morning, afternoon and evening tours of the coves, caves and coastline.
Te Whanganui o Hei has its own snorkel trail in Gemstone Bay; designed to provide an easy and safe experience for people to discover the amazing marine life from under the water. Suitable for snorkelers of all ages, the trail includes information buoys with handles attached for snorkelers to hold on to. Cave Cruzer Adventure Tours and The Glass Bottom Boat both offer the opportunity to snorkel and swim during your excursion.
Cathedral Cove Dive and Snorkel and Dive Zone offer guided snorkel and dive trips every day throughout the summer season. Experience breathtaking underwater subtropical scenery with experienced guides taking you to the best dive spots in the reefs, bays and islands of the Reserve. Its a great place to learn to dive if that's something you have dreamed of.
Cathedral Cove Kayaking offer a terrific way to discover Te Whanganui o Hei if you prefer to be a participant rather than a spectator. Paddle through sea caves, interact with marine life and pull up at Cathedral Cove where your guide will make you a well-earned hot cappuccino while you explore the famous stretch of beach.
Land-lovers can still experience the majesty of the marine reserve on an easy walking track to Cathedral Cove, Gemstone and Stingray Bays. The main track is 2.5km and takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes return. There is also a walking track from the western end of Hahei beach up to Cathedral Cove car park to connect with the track to Cathedral Cove. Allow an extra 20–30 minutes for this walk.
Cathedral Cove Water Taxi provides a ferry service between Hahei and Cathedral Cove, every 30 minutes. The journey takes 10 minutes and is bound to be the one of the most picturesque taxi trips you’re ever likely to take.
While in Hahei enjoy a visit to The Coromandel Brewing Company, a small brewery making local craft beers to wash down some local seafood and delicious wood-fired oven pizza. Cathedral Cove Macadamias is just up the road where you can take in the beautiful surroundings as you take a short walk around the orchard. Visit the orchard Shop to purchase a range of Macadamia Products & seasonal produce. A short drive back out to the main highway will take you Hot Water Beach, where you can dig your own spa on the beach. Hot Waves Cafe is well worth the stop.