Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve is on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand, covering an area of 840 hectares (2,100 acres).
Cathedral Cove can only be reached by boat or foot. Walking tracks exists from the northern end of Hahei Beach and the top of the headland between Hahei and Gemstone Bay. Kayaks and water taxis are available from Hahei Beach. Parking is at the Visitor Car Park on Pa Road (turn right just after entering Hahei). During the summer months a shuttle service runs from the visitor car park on Pa Road to the start of the Cathedral Cove track. It only costs $5 return per person, $3 for a child and $10 for a family (2 adults 2 children). It is recommended that all visitors to Hahei Beach and Cathedral Cove use this car park. The top car park (Grange Road) is a pick up and drop off zone for the Shuttle only. Parking is prohibited at Grange Rd from the 1 October – 30 April. Limited parking is available on Grange Rd from 1 May – 30 September at $15 for 4 hours.
The area is very popular with tourists, and receives around 150,000 visitors per year.
Boat and kayaking tours come from Whitianga in the north and Hahei in the south to visit the area. Both coves contain shapely natural rock stacks, Sphinx Rock in Mare’s Leg Cove, and Te Hoho Rock in Cathedral Cove. Stingray Bay, and in particular Gemstone Bay, are popular snorkelling and diving areas, as marine life within the reserve boundaries is plentiful. In Gemstone Bay there is also a snorkel trail marked by the Department of Conservation. Both bays are also accessible by paths leading down from the main walking path to Cathedral Cove.
The Maori name Te Whanganui-A-Hei (the Great Bay of Hei) refers to Hei, a tohunga from the Te Arawa waka. According to tradition, Hei chose the area around Mercury Bay as home for his tribe, proclaiming ownership by calling Motueka Island “Te Kuraetanga-o-taku-Ihu” (the outward curve of my nose.) It is said he made this claim near the site of the present-day of Hahei. The cave and beach was used as the tunnel through which the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia in the movie version of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. More recently the cove was used as one of the locations in the music video for the song “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton.
Attractions : 1 Cathedral Cove walk. The track starts at the carpark on Grange Rd, at the northern end of Hahei. The walk down to the cove takes 35 mins one way. Stingray Bay is 20 mins from carpark. The walk back takes 45 mins. The cove has a limestone rock arch that separates two sandy beaches. At peak summer time, the Grange Rd carpark is usually full, so use the park-and-ride shuttle that operates from the entrance to the town from 27 Dec through January and Waitangi weekend – fares are $5 adult, $3 child up to 15 years, $10 family (up to 2 adults and 2 children).
2 Te Pare Historic Reserve, Pa Rd. Two Maori pa sites on the headland at the southern end of Hahei Beach. A 15-minute walk with great views.
Activities : Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel.
Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours, 88 Hahei Beach Rd. Tours of several hours or up to a full day.
Gemstone Bay Snorkel Trail. Ten min from carpark on the Cathedral Cove walk. There are four buoys with interpretation panels attached that identify sea-life. The buoys have handles you can hold on to, if you want a bit of assistance while snorkeling.
Hahei Explorer, south end of Hahei Beach. Boat tour to Cathedral Cove in Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve.
1 Hot Water Beach (6 km from Hahei). Water from two hot springs comes up through the sand on one part of the beach within two hours each side of low tide and you can dig your own hot pool. At the points where the water comes up, it is about 64°C (147°F), which is too hot to bathe in, so you need to dig a pool a little further away and let the hot water run down into it. Spades for hire at the cafes for $5. Coordinates: -36.828333, 175.79 /