When Is the Best Time
Cathedral Cove and the Coromandel Peninsula are some 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. Spend the entire day at the beach and experience mother nature at its best during high and low tide. Why? You will love to be almost alone at the beach but don't miss out low tide. The rest of the year watch the tides and the weather forecast first for the perfect experience. The best time is between high and low tide for a perfect shot.
Cathedral Cove Arch with the incoming tide
The beach behind the cave is accessible roughly two hours before and after low tide. That's the best time to come here. So start your walk from the car park or accommodation early enough that you don't miss the low tide. That's the best time to walk through and it's dry inside the cave/rock arch. At high tide, you are not able to walk through it and you miss out the best part of this awesome beach.: Tide Times Cathedral Cove Coromandel
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. Crowds can be an issue espcially when the low tide is around midday.
Spring (September - November)
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 - February)
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. An alternative spend the entire day here and experience the beaches and cove during high and low tide - almost alone and busy. We did this on our second visit late January 20. 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 - May)
Peak and shoulder season! In autumn the temperature is getting cooler, but the 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 quieter.
Winter (June - August)
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.
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!
Coromandel Day Tours | +Shorter Tours
Check the banners below for our recommended day tours. Every tour we were on was just excellent with amazing guides! Quote from my teammate: 'What a magical day at Coromandel peninsula!' Booking via GetYourGuide with a truly excellent service! You can find a great overview of more peninsula tours via them here: Coromandel Peninsula Tours (via GetYourGuide). And the town tours: Coromandel Town Tours (via GetYourGuide).
Where and Tips
The name Cathedral Cove comes from the natural rock formation which was developed by erosions. If the cave roof collapses an off-shore stack remains like the Mare Leg Cove and its Smiling Sphinx Rock. Cathedral Cove is accessible on foot, by boat (water taxi) or kayak only. It is situated on the Coromandel Peninsula, and you shouldn't miss this spectacular 45 minutes to one hour walk to the dramatic cliffs along the three stunning bays and beaches; Gemstone Bay which is great for snorkeling, Stingray Bay and Beach, Mare's Leg Cove.
The first part of the walk is paved and easy to walk but gets steep and uneven when reaching different beaches and coves. Lots of steps are leading to Cathedral Cove. The beach is separated by the famous rock arch where you can walk through during low tide. Usually, at high tide you can't walk through the huge arch; the water level is too high. It's a breathtaking spot for swimming. Bring enough water and a picnic. There isn't any shop to buy beverages and food.
Where to Park (Car or Camper)
Parking can get difficult in peak season. There are two car parks available. And there is a third option which we recommend as it's the most convenient one:
- Cathedral Cove Lookout Car Park (Google Maps - Cathredal Cove Parking): This is the closest parking area. From here it's a 30 - 40 minutes walk to The Cove. Even closer are Gemstone Bay (10 minutes) or Stingray Bay (20 minutes). PLEASE NOTE: As of 2018 this car park will always be CLOSED between October 1 until April 30! They made this decision due to massive traffic in summer in Hahei village. The parking lot is still open in low season from May until September. However, even during this time parking is limited to 4 hours for $15$!
- Carpark at Hahei Village Entry (Google Maps - Carpark Hahei Village): This one is new (2018). That's why Google Maps still has no photos. Free parking is available year-round. It can be found at the entrance to Hahei village on the right-hand side. There is also a toilet. From here you can either walk to Cathedral Cove (1:20 hours) or use the shuttle bus which takes you there. Prices for the shuttle are: $5 round-trip per person, $3 for each child, $10 for the whole family.
- Stay at a Resort with free parking: This is the most comfortable choice because it's hassle-free. It gets even better: When you choose the right accommodation it's a much shorter walk to The Cove. You can get there in the morning easily when it's still not crowded or enjoy the beautiful sunset and just walk back and relax. Our #1 choice is the Tatahi Lodge Beach Resort (compare prices here and bookmark the link): It only takes 20 minutes to walk to the lookout and another 30 minutes to Cathedral Cove (stunning coastal walk). We loved this walk the beautiful scenery and went swimming as well. Another option which is just a few meters from Tatahi Lodge on the same road: Tatahi Backpackers Hostel (check reservations here). This is the budget option but still excellent and also includes parking. It's the same walk to the Cove as from the Resort.
Don't miss the unique experience at Hot Water Beach just 9 km south of Grange Road parking. Here's the kicker: You can dig your own hot pool two hours either side of low tide. No worries, spades can be hired in the shops. This is an experience you definitely must put on your bucket list.
Hahei and Beach
Must-Know Facts & Tips
- Parking at Cathedral Cove Lookout Car Park is closed throughout summer from October until April! However, in winter you can still park there for 4 hours for $15. Alternative: There is a also a brand new parking area at the village entry.
- The beautiful coastal walk to Cathredal Cove from Lookout Car Park takes about 30 minutes. From Hahei Village add another 20 - 60 minutes (depending on the location).
- Easiest way is to make a reservation at a resort or hostel which are closer to The Cove and include free parking (see above)
- There isn't any shop at The Cove. Bring enough water and a snack or picnic.
- Wear trainers for the walk.
Bring a towel and your swim clothes from spring to autumn.
First Photo by Christian Holzinger on Unsplash