Best New Zealand Winter Hikes: Cathedral Cove Walk
New Zealand may just be one of the best hiking/walking countries in the world. Think about it. Great walks often feature, surreal national parks, gushing waterfalls, pristine beaches, mountains and maybe some ocean views too! All of which, New Zealand has! Gorgeous beaches in the summer and snow-capped mountains in winter New Zealand appears to offer the best of both worlds. Our first awesome New Zealand walk that we conquered was the Cathedral Cove walk-in Coromandel.
This walk is full of fascinating views of shoreline along the north islands east coast and is every traveller’s dream. If you love gorgeous beaches, hiking and surreal sea cliffs then you’ll love the Cathedral Cove walk which is even better in winter because it’s so quiet which is what this post is all about!
What is Cathedral Cove?
So what exactly is Cathedral Cove? Cathedral Cove is a marine reserve and beach in Hahei, located on the East Coast of New Zealand. This scenic spot has become one of the most popular tourist spots over the years because of it’s huge stone archway crafted on the shore over many years.
After a gorgeous coastal walk, it’s the ultimate climax when you step two feet onto the beach to see the view in front of you. Thanks to the technical advances of the internet and Instagram more travellers are finding out about Cathedral Cove wanting to witness the beauty for themselves – me included and it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and well worth the 70-minute walk to get there!
Where is Cathedral Cove?
As I mentioned above you’ll find Cathedral Cove in the North Island in a little beachside town called Hahei. In winter the town is a little sleepy but still gorgeous to explore. Cathedral Cove is a must see when visiting the North Island and is only a couple of hours drive east of Auckland. I’ll pop a map below of the drive across which itself is beautiful! As you drive through the Coromandel Forest the views are spectacular with a few awesome lookout points en route!
How to get to Cathedral Cove
The first question I’m always pondering when I find incredible sights to go and explore is how do I get there! Because let’s be honest not many of these awe-inspiring spots are located on the roadside and Cathedral Cove is no exception.
The beach is literally hidden amongst the shoreline where the only means of getting there is by foot or boat! Since most of us don’t have a yacht tucked away walking will be the option most of us will take. There are water taxis which you can get from Hahei which are perfect for those who can’t make the walk for health/other reasons. But they aren’t cheap and don’t run all year round, only in the summer months. So if you do plan on visiting in winter and can’t do the Cathedral Cove walk it’ll be worth triple checking to see what days/if any water taxis are available.
All You Need to Know About The Cathedral Cove Walk in Winter
- Cathedral Cove Walk Distance 2.5 km one way
- Time: 1.5 hours one way
- Difficulty of the Cathedral Cove Walk: Easy to Medium
- Track Condition: Good paves track all the way
- Considerations: Steep hills and stairs
The walk to Cathedral Cove is simply gorgeous but strenuous too! I’ll admit I was not expecting all of the hills that we found along the way! The Cathedral Cove walk runs along the shoreline weaving in and out, up and down. When it comes to doing the walk in winter you have two choices.
Park for free in the Hahei visitors car park and walk to the start of the track. This is the option we took and it took us about 90 minutes to reach Cathedral Cove. You can either walk to the beach and along to the start of the track – which we didn’t realise until after! Or follow the road to the track up one big ass hill! The second option is to pay for the car park at the start of the track but being budget travellers that wouldn’t be an option for us! The walk from the Cathedral Cove car park is still 45 minutes to an hour anyway.
As you begin the Cathedral Cove walk make sure you’ve got a camera at the ready because the views are spectacular. The walk evolves from strolling along the coastline to wandering through fields and countryside, it’s a real beauty! There are some must stop places on the way too!
Not too far into the walk, you’ll hit Gemstone Bay a gorgeous little cove where you can jump in the water for a snorkelling trail! Seen as we visited Gemstone Bay in the winter it definitely wasn’t an option for us but I bet it’s spectacular in the summer months. A little further along the track from Gemstone Bay is Stingray Bay. Another gorgeous little cove where you can swim in the crystal clear waters – again probably more of a summer activity but it was just as wonderful to see in the winter too.
The cathedral cove walk then just follows around in and out of bush land until you meet the steps which will descend down to the beach. The stairs are quite steep so watch your step! As you reach the last couple of steps prepare to be blown away by the beauty in front of you! To the right you’ll find some gorgeous sea cliffs and beach- a wonderful spot for reading, sunbathing and swimming in the summer! Then as you turn towards the left you cannot miss the gigantic stone archway staring back at you. It’s honestly a masterpiece of Mother Nature and an incredible landmark to explore! Make sure you read the safety signs as rocks are prone to falling on the Cathedral Cove beach so don’t stand under the arch for too long!
Why Enjoy the Cathedral Cove Walk in Winter?
I am so glad we enjoyed cathedral cove in the winter because I can just imagine how busy it gets in summer. This spot has over the years become one of the most visited in the North Island of New Zealand and in the summer months the tourists come flocking left right and centre! I can’t imagine anything worse than having the share this scenic spot with thousands of others.
Another awesome reason to visit in winter is to support the local town. Hahei appears to thrive in the summertime thanks to the tourists who come for the Cathedral Cove walk and beach and spend money in the town. But in the winter this sleepy seaside town was like a ghost town. The shops and cafes remained open but only a few people were wandering the streets. It’s nice to give back to communities during the quieter months. There’s an awesome pizza truck in the winter which looked delicious!
Is Cathedral Cove affected by the tides?
Cathedral Cove is not affected by the tides. It is accessible all year round and all day despite high or low tide. Just be mindful that at high tide you may have to have a little paddle to get through the arch way- no biggy though right? On the odd occasion, you may not be able to pass through the archway but that would be in extreme conditions.
Cathedral Cove Walk Budget
The walk and to visit Cathedral Cove is completely free but parking and getting to the start of the walk will cost you if you don’t walk.
Transport and Parking at Cathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove Park and Ride is available in the summer as the car park at the start of the cathedral cove is closed! You must park at the Hahei visitors carpark and either walk or pay $10 per adult or $5 per child to the start of the track.
In winter the car park is open and charges $2 per hour. The visitor’s car park is free to park in the winter but the shuttle bus does not run in winter, only summer!
Other Things to Do in Hahei Other than the Cathedral Cove Walk
As well as enjoying the walk to Cathedral Cove there are some other spots to enjoy in Hahei:
- Hahei Beach
- Grab a drink at The Pour House
- Gemstone Bay Snorkel Trail
- Take a Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour
- Glass-bottom Boat Tour of Cathedral Cove
- Hire Bikes at Hahei
- Picnic on the Beach
Freedom Camping Near Hahei
If you’re freedom camping in New Zealand then you’ll find a rest area about 15km from Hahei which is a great spot for freedom camping. We stayed here for one night and enjoyed a stunning sunrise the next morning! The area has toilets which are a little smelly but it’s free so you can’t complain! Self-contained vehicles only and close the road.
Address: Coroglen Reserve, State Highway 5, Thames Coromandel District, North Island
Accommodation in Hahei
For non-campers, there is lots of accommodation in Hahei it’self including backpackers and Motels. The average price is anything from $30-100 a night depending on the time of year and what type of accommodation you choose. Air BnB is also quite popular in the area too.
I hope that you enjoyed this guide to Cathedral Walk and the Cathedral Cove walk, it really does make for a great day out! If you did enjoy this post then please share it with your friends as they might like it too!