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Beach

First and foremost beaches are associated with swimming and sunbathing. Quite a few of them are scenic or outstanding at a special time. Share your favorite beach which you already experienced.

Don't miss the beautiful Piha Beach north of Karekare. If you visit the Karekare Beach famous from the 1993 "The Piano" Movie. The Piha Beach is even more spectacular at low tide. You can walk to a hidden beach (in front of Taitomo Island) or climb to the top of Lion Rock. The trail is pretty steep, but the view is awesome. Tide times

Hidden Beach at Piha accessible at low tide only
Hidden Beach at Piha; accessible at low tide only

The sunset at Piha Beach is famous and popular. Many visitors and especially young people stay here to watch the sunset before going back to Auckland or even better spend a night at Piha. You may have heard about the Piha Rescue, Surf Rescue or Deadly Surf. The lifeguards are pretty famous they featured in a New Zealand reality show. 

Weather and Crowds

Piha Beach during summer with lots of visitors

November until April is the most pleasant time with temps often above 20°C. Coldest months in winter from June to August. However, day temps are often mild around 15°C though expect in the night one digit temps. Most precipitation in winter but expect already more rain in May with its peak in July. Driest months are during summer from December to February/March. The best months for a bath are January until March with a sea temperature below 20°C. The best months for a vacation are December to February; the peak season. Weekends are more crowded due to local beach visitors. If you like to dodge the crowds, November and March/April are a better choice.

Karekare Beach close to Piha famous from the movie "The Piano"
Karekare Beach

 

NZ New Zealand

You will fall in love with this beautiful landscape and beach hike. Don't miss this exceptional place and feel the power of mother nature and the sea when traveling along the Great Ocean Road. Best visited around low tide. it's usually possible to walk along the beach to the rusty anchors except high tide. However, beach walking is safer during low tide. In former days the Marie Gabrielle anchor was accessible around low tide only. Due to the strong power of the sea, the Marie Gabriel Anchor is changing the position. The anchor was better accessible end of 2019 than four years before. It is not any longer so much-effected by the tides. However, always watch the sea. Nevertheless, it also depends on the level of the tide and the wind that builds up the waves. The Fiji anchor stands sentinel near Moonlight Head and is not affected by the tides. Tide times

The beach and wrecks are poorly signposted and due to the remote location not busy. The gravel road is not suitable for tour buses, therefore, our top tip along the Great Ocean Road. Google Maps Location Car Park

Weather Great Ocean Road

Wreck Beach Great Ocean Road - Fiji Anchor

The Southern Ocean has a strong influence on the climate. It keeps the winter warmer and the summer cooler. During summer the sun is very intense, but it is not too hot; there is always a fresh breeze and temps are around 20°C only. Lots of precipitation throughout the year in the Great Otway National Park. Warmer and "drier" conditions from November to April however, rain can always occur. Winter is the wettest and coldest season; rainy every second day. Day temps in winter around 12°C and nights are chilly around 8°C pretty cold for camping.

AU Australia

Cathedral Cove and the Coromandel Peninsula are one of the most popular places on the north island of New Zealand. During the summer the most important thing is avoiding the crowds at Cathedral Cove. To enjoy the rock arch with very few people come here at sunrise. The rest of the year watch the tides and the weather forecast first for the perfect experience. You get the best shot between high and low tide. Low tide is nice as well, and it's dry inside the cave/rock arch. At high tide, you may not be able to walk through it: Tide Times Cathedral Cove Coromandel

Cathedral Cove Coromandel; Mare Leg Cove and its Smiling Sphinx Rock
Mare Leg Cove and its Smiling Sphinx Rock

Don't miss the nearby Hot Water Beach two hours either side of low tide! Read on for more information about Cathedral Cove and all its beautiful lagoons and beaches. 

Weather and Crowds (Season Details)

Coromandel is a year-round destination with a mild climate. The rainfall on the Coromandel peninsula is sometimes significant even in summer. The weather is influenced by the mountain range and the sea.

Spring (September - October - November)

Cathedral Cove during spring and almost low tide

Shoulder Season! Precipitation decreases; but still quite high in September with an average daily temp of 12°C and nights are around 8°C which is pretty chilly for camping. October improves with almost 14°C and above at daytime. Cathedral Cove gets busier but still bearable. November is drier almost like the summer months. Temps are pleasant.

Summer (December - January - February)

Cathedral Cove in summer at sunset

Peak Season! These are the driest months of the year and the most popular time for visiting New Zealand. Come here either for the sunrise or the sunset. Don’t worry about the tides. If you like to enjoy this magic place, try to avoid the crowds. Cathedral Cove is often overrun during the day. From December to March the parking fills up soon. The reason that there is a second parking area with shuttle transfer offered. The mean daily temp is 24°C and above even up to 30°C during the summer.

Autumn (March - April - May) 

Cathedral Cove in autumn after a rain shower

Peak and shoulder season! In autumn the temperature is getting cooler, but weather can be excellent even for swimming until late April/May. It’s still drier in March and April; rain increases in May. March is still busy until Easter. In April the crowds thin out, and in May it becomes enjoyable.

Winter (June - July - August)

Cathedral Cove during winter with an overcast sky

Low Season! If you come here during winter and the colder months from May to September, you may experience the beach and cove almost alone, but it's too cold for swimming. Most precipitation in winter with its peak in June. This is also the coldest month but still pleasant day temps. The winter temperature can be 12°C-14°C and drop to 6°C-8°C. This time of the year is pretty cold for camping.
 


Picture provided by Johannes Ehrhardt

How to avoid the crowds during peak season? Before sunset, most of the people already left the beach. It's less busy in the early morning and the evening.

Where to Stay

Don't visit Cathedral Cove in a rush. Stay here at least one night. There is a huge variety of accommodations in Hahei. We spent two nights there and even that was too short for Cathedral Cove, Hot Water Beach (we gave it a miss, unfortunately) and the Waiau Kauri Grove and Falls. We'd chosen an exceptional location for our stay in the Church Accommodation. We loved the dinner in the Church Bistro which was initially a church made of wood in the 1900s. If you like it hassle-free regarding parking and stay in close proximity to The Cove, check out our accommodation choice below (Where to Park). Are you traveling on a budget? The Tatahi Backpackers is the best-located hostel ever. It is right on the pathway to the beach. You couldn't wish for better. The hostel itself has comfy beds, clean kitchen, beautiful outdoor dining, and seating. Advanced booking is recommended; it's often fully booked.

Car Rental & Campervan

Please do not make the mistake and rent a car or camper at Auckland airport without pre-booking. It's much more expensive if you rent on the spot. The best price comparisons for pre-bookings can be found at Rentalcars.com - Auckland Airport. You can book any big brand (Budget, Enterprise, Alamo, ezi, Hertz, Avis, ace, etc.) or even campervans from JUCY!

NZ New Zealand

Nazare, Praia do Norte became famous for the biggest waves ever surfed at the Big Wave Awards Contest with world records between 80-100 feet. Usually, the highest chance for watching these waves occurs between November to January. The waves can be seen from Praia do Norte close to the clifftop ford and lighthouse. On December 22 were the highest waves ever forecasted with up to 37 meters. Continue reading how to get the most out of your stay at Praia do Norte!

Nazare clifftop ford and lighthouse

It’s a unique experience to see surfers among the waves. It’s one of the most difficult places to predict the conditions. The annual surf event with the best surfers from all over the world takes part between mid-October to late February. If “Giant Waves” are predicted, and the surfers arrive at Praia do Norte it’s an exciting spectacle to watch the surfers getting towed with the jet ski into the next monster wave.

A surfer get towed-in at Nazare

The tuned jet skis have 300 hp for this kind of sport "Tow Surfing". These waves are so powerful and fast that paddling is impossible. To figure out how to increase the chance to catch a day where surfers riding those massive waves continue reading for details. You’d like to know the real story about the world record in January 2018 and the 100 million times clicked video? Continue reading in our description.

When Do These Waves Occur 

When giant waves are build up jet skis and surfers appear

The Big and Giant Waves appear between October and March but are most likely to happen from November to January. These waves are not predictable far in advance on short notice only with the current technology for forecasting conditions. Predictions are accurate for three days only. To experience the big waves, you have to monitor the forecast. Either you are flexible, or you spend your vacation in Portugal as we did. We spent some time in Porto and north of Spain in Galicia to visit the popular Cathedral Beach. We monitored the waves forecast each day, and when we figured out there is a high chance for giant waves, we drove the entire way from Galicia to Nazare back. Such a big event does not often happen, so we took the chance. When we arrived in the Zulla Nazaré`s Surf Village (Highly recommended, as it's outside the crowded area! Tip: Bookmark the link, as you save money with the booking.com price guarantee. IMPORTANT: Book in advance!) popular among surfers in walking distance to Praia do Norte, we got told that several surfers from Brazil arrived the day before.

The Zulla Surf Village in Nazare

At this moment we’d known it was the right decision to come here. Another opportunity spend your vacation in Lisbon, Sintra and the surroundings and monitor the forecast. Follow the link to figure out the estimated wave height and day time:  Big Waves Surf Forecast It’s just 1.5 hours drive north of Lisbon. Even if all accommodations are fully booked, it doesn’t take so long to come to Nazare from the Lisbon surroundings.

What Causes and Indicates These Huge Waves

The north, deep water canyon of Nazare reaches a depth of 5000 m and is 230 km long. This canyon generates and amplifies such waves up to 100 feet / 30 meters height. There are 4 key factors in particular which indicate these enormous waves:

  1. Wave size > 3 meters 
  2. Wave period > 13 seconds 
  3. North Atlantic storms during autumn and winter bring swells to the canyon 
  4. Incoming tide makes the conditions even better
 
 
Our Personal Guesthouse Tips

Casa Artelena half an hour drive to Nazare

Portugal is my second home country due to my family living around Lisbon and Estoril. If you’ve never been to Portugal before here are our recommendations on how to get the most out of your stay. First of all, traveling through Portugal is more convinient by car. Rental cars are much cheaper in the winter season. You'll save money by booking with the rental cars search engine (bookmark the link to save time and money):

Choose one of our favourite casas “guesthouses” located in a truly beautiful landscape close to Nazare but Lisbon and Sintra as well. Stay here the entire vacation to explore the fantastic country. Monitor the forecast for giant waves and in the meantime visit Praia da Ursa, Montserrat Palace, and Torre de Belem to mention just a view of the many outstanding locations nearby.

  • Casa Artelena The guesthouse is peacefully located in the countryside. It’s just half an hour drive to Nazare. Your host Artur is looking after you with a warm personal touch. He prepares a delicious breakfast each morning. It is spotless clean here and very nicely furnished. You couldn’t wish for better.
  • Azen Cool House This guesthouse has an excellent location in close proximity to Lisbon, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Praia da Ursa, and Praia da Adraga. It’s a stunning place with a great view of the ocean. Your fresh and tasty prepared breakfast is included. It’s a huge guesthouse with a winter garden, game room, and even a tennis and padel court. Have you ever played padel? It’s a mixture of tennis and squash. An excellent restaurant and also the beach is just a short stroll from Azen. Sam and Tiago are fantastic hosts.
PT Portugal

The “Praia das Catedrais Beach” is the most popular beach in Galicia and a photographer’s dream. During Easter, the summer months, and on long bank holiday weekends a permit is required. In the winter you may enjoy your walk at the beach almost alone. The beach and in particular the arches and the cathedral are accessible around low tide only!

Accessibility

Accessible during low tide only. This is particularly the case for the end of the beach where the three well-known arches are located. These arches are accessible during a short time frame roughly one hour before low tide and one hour afterwards. Furthermore, the sea level has a relevant impact on how far you can get and how long you can enjoy your visit. 

Avoiding the Crowds 
Peak Season (Easter - Summer)


As Catedrais by Guillén Pére, CC BY-ND

Due to the popularity; well-known from social media, a permit is required since 2015 for Easter and from July to September now to preserve this extraordinary place. August is the worst month of the year. In July 2014 75 thousand visitors came here each week. The reason for the permit system. However, the limit of 5000 people per day is still quite high. To gain access, you even may queue before entering the beach. Cathedral Beach can get quickly crowded during low tide depending on the time of the day. Early morning is much quieter than the rest of the day. If you arrive at the end of the low tide in the peak season signs are put up, and you don’t get access to the furthest part, which is the most stunning and picturesque. It's such an amazing place in winter that it is hard to believe having thousands of visitors here in summer. Consider that booking of at least 30 days in advance is mandatory. The permit is free and easy to book. Tickets Booking Cathedral Beach – Praia das Catedrais
Accommodation rates are the highest, and mostly there isn’t anything available on short notice. 

Shoulder Season (Spring - Autumn)

The Cathedral and Arches at Praia das Catedrais

Cathedral Beach is accessible without a permit except for Easter. Though the beach can get a little busy early morning or late in the evening it’s quiet and peaceful. Accommodations are available on short notice although the best rated are already fully booked. The weather can be capricious, therefore, carry a raincoat.

Low Season (Winter)

The Cathedral Beach arches at the furthermost part

During winter very few people visit the beach in the morning and also midday is bearable. It’s quiet and peaceful, and you take back home unforgettable memories of this outstanding piece of nature. In our opinion the best time to enjoy this marvellous place in Galicia. You can book a cottage last minute for lower fares. Consider it frequently rains in the winter but you can't get disappointed at this time of the year.

Photography Tip

The Cathedral Beach and its famous rock arches and bridges are located towards the north. Getting the right light for a shot may be challenging, but if you come here at sunrise during the wintertime, an atmospheric shot is almost guaranteed.

Weather 

Cathedral Beach with rainbow after a brief shower

The north of Spain experiences much more rain than the south. The driest and warmest months are from June to September. Usually, pleasant day temps around 20°C not hot as you would expect in Spain. Night temps can be chilly. Mostly one-digit day temps from November to April. Even if it is cold, foggy or rainy, Cathedral Beach does not disappoint,

Where to Stay

Villas Las Catedrales close to the Cathedral Beach

Our favourite cottages are the Villas las Catedrales; fully equipped also with heating which is essential during winter. These villas are newly built, super clean, and Maria is taking care of you. She lives just 100 m before the self-catering cottages. You can park your car right in front of your rental home. Leave your car at your accommodation and take their offered bikes to get to the nearby Cathedral Beach. Especially during the peak season or long bank holiday weekends the parking might be full.

Praia de Illas nearby Cathedral Beach
Praia de Illas nearby

There is a variety of self-catering cottages, holiday homes, and hotels nearby. All available accommodations around Cathedral Beach. Bookmark the link for the lowest fares at booking.com. During the summer, advanced booking is necessary. In the winter check the weather forecast first and then book your accommodation last minute as we did. Cathedral Beach is exceptional. We loved to explore this mind-blowing beach and watched the incoming tide afterwards from the cliffs. Stay at least one night to enjoy this place without being in a rush. We spent two nights here and went twice to Cathedral Beach. This place is too amazing to be in a hurry. We enjoyed walking along the beach in both directions, watching the incoming tide. There are more scenic beaches around where we also had a closer look too.

ES Spain

The white cliffs of Etretat are one of the most popular sights in Normandy and famous for Monet’s paintings. The impressive three rock arches “falaises” created by incredible forces of nature over thousands of years ago are a must to visit. It’s breath-taking to watch the waves crashing against the arches. They are accessible during low tide. When I walked through the arches; I felt tiny. The two arches Porte d'Aval and Falaise d'Amont can be already seen from the promenade in Etretat.

The 70 meters high needle Aiguille and the arch Porte d'Aval

Come here and spend at least a day around Etretat. Regarding the weather, mid-June to mid-September are the best months to visit Etretat. Continue reading to get detailed information about the weather, crowds, parking, history, hiking, accommodations, and camping.

Highlights and Tips

Walk through the tunnel to the arches of Etretat at low tide

 
  • Watch the arches during high tide from the different viewpoints from the top of the white cliffs.
  • Walk to and through the arches during low tide; between two hours before and one hour afterwards. Check the tides properly; otherwise, you may get trapped in the cave, but it is safe to stay in there. There is one ladder and a steep trail up at the end of the arches to escape the flood. Tide Times Etretat
  • The afternoon light is the best time of the day for perfect shots of this fascinating piece of nature. In addition the crowds thin out at this time of the day.
     
Weather and Crowds (Season Details)

The climate at Etretat and the coast of the Normandy is mild influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. Weather is unpredictable. Rain occurs throughout the year. Summer is the driest time and November the wettest month. Strong winds often occur at the coast. It’s frequently partly cloudy or overcast.

Spring

Etretat White Cliffs; Falaise d'Aval
Falaise d'Aval during high tide

Comfortable temps from April to June; 15°C to 21°C. Night temps are usually below 10°C. Busy during easter and especially in May at Labour Day, Victory Day, and Ascension Day.

Summer

Chemin Des Douaniers during low tide from the pebble beach
Chemin Des Douaniers at low tide

Day temps are pleasant around 20°C and ranging between 13°C to 15°C during the night. The water temp is quite cold from 15°C to 19°C from July to October. June to September are the driest months. July and August; the summer holidays are the best months and the busiest at the same time. However, there is plenty of space and you get away from the crowds when you hike through the arches or to the clifftops. Weekends, the Bastille Day in July, and Assumption Day in August are the worst during summer.

Autumn

The white cliffs - arches from the top; Falaise d'Aval and Chemin Des Douaniers
Falaise d'Aval and Chemin Des Douaniers

September is still pleasant, with almost 20°C. It’s getting cooler in October and November is cold and the wettest month with temps around 12°C. Increasing precipitation from the end of September. September is still busy but bearable. From October onwards fewer people come to Etretat. Weather is unpredictable and very windy. 

Winter

Heavy rainfall in winter at Etretat

It can be pretty chilly during this time of the year although the temps are slightly below 10°C. Storm occurs often. However, night temps are rarely below 0°C. Decreasing rainfall from February onwards. Despite the weather the scenery is spectacular and impressive pictures can be taken.

Accommodations and Camping in Etretat

Hotel La Residence in Etretat

Lots of holiday homes are available, but if you plan to stay here for a night or two, we highly recommend the 400 years old half-timbered Hotel La Residence. The rooms and bathrooms got modernized; however, it still has the cosy charm of the former time. The hotel is fantastically located just a two minutes walk to the famous beach. The staff is very lovely. The food in the restaurant (moules normande – steamed mussels in a calvados and wine cream) was excellent, and the cidre as well.

Camping at river Seine

If you plan to camp in Etretat we only recommend the shoulder season but not the summer months. There is just one campground next to the road. Camping Municipal d'Étretat (Google Maps) Usually, it is super busy from June to September. The sites in the back are nice located but next to the road all campervans and tents were packed together without any privacy. We chose a campgound next to the river Seine. It took us some time to get to Etretat, but it was quiet with lots of privacy. So, it depends on what you want; staying close or quiet with space.

FR France