Visiting Coromandel Peninsula – top accommodation, cathedral cove and when to go
Coromandel Peninsula, famous for its Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, is one of the top places to visit in the North Island. It is only a 2 hour drive from Auckland, hence making it a popular holiday destination for Kiwis and tourists alike. We had first been in this region in the winter month of September during the Whitianga Scallop Festival. I wrote about our winter experience visiting the Hot Water Beach, famed for being in the top 10 beaches in the world, as well as the beautiful walk we did to Cathedral Cove on 100% Pure New Zealand. The entire walk you see the blue sea, fringed with coastal forests and the water looked so inviting – crystal clear at each of the bay we stopped at!
The best part of going here in the off-season is that you get cathedral cove, including the stunning walk through Te Whanganui- A-Hei marine reserve to get here all to yourself. We were lucky with the weather as it didn’t rain that day – having ben here three times now, we know it rains a LOT! However, the weather was too cold then to partake in any water activities. Coromandel Peninsula has some of the best snorkelling and kayaking experiences in the North Island. The water is crystal clear and thanks to the fact that it is a marine protected area, the rich diversity of marine life in these waters makes for a memorable snorkelling experience.
We went back to Coromandel region end of January and I was bracing myself for hoards of tourists and lot of traffic getting there. We left Friday morning and spent 4 days as it was a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday. Last time we had stayed at the Hot Water Beach Top 10 Caravan Park, very convenient for visiting the hot water beach, short drive to cathedral cove and an even shorter ferry to Whitianga. This time we stayed on the other side of the Coromandel Peninsula – at Pohutukawa Coast B&B – a lovely place located right opposite the beach. The owners were wonderful, they let us use their kayaks, fishing boat and paddle board. We had a great time staying at their house, shared our meals together and had fun conversations late into the night. We made good use of the spa everyday 🙂 I would highly recommend staying here if you are in the Coromandel region. There are several activities to do nearby, mainly swimming, fishing and hiking. We did the 2 hour Waiomu Kauri Grove hike, the boys went fishing early morning and most of all we enjoyed sitting in the verandah, looking out at the sea, and enjoying our meals here.
On the Sunday we drove through this crazy windy mountain ride to get to the other side of the Peninsula – several parts of the road was not paved, all gravel and rocks, with several twists and turns, definitely not for the light-hearted! We ate lunch at this Hot Waves Cafe near the Hot Water Beach and then set off for Cathedral Cove.
You can only access the cove by walking, boating or snorkelling there through the beautiful Te Whanganui- A-Hei marine reserve. From the car park to cathedral cove takes about 45 minutes and you pass through Gemstone and Stingray bay. After having seen the crystal clear water in the winter months, we were so looking forward to snorkelling here this time. But alas…the weather was not that great, it was very cloudy, the water was really murky and choppy, and even though the views during the walk were still lovely, we didn’t get to snorkel again 🙁
Thankfully, even though the earlier part of the day was cloudy, by the time we got to the cove, the sun came up and the colour of the water was just the perfect turquoise shade again 🙂 It was quite crowded compared to when we came here last, the best part of cathedral cove is the lack of amenities, shops, or toilets. Despite how popular the place is, they have kept it as pristine and undeveloped as possible, a truly gem of a place. We had so much fun swimming in the sea with the waves crashing all over us. The kids had never experienced such high waves and even though we didn’t get to snorkel, swimming and playing in these crazy waves made for a very memorable experience.
Having now been to Coromandel Peninsula in both the winter and summer, and having heard all the ‘horror’ stories of how insanely busy cathedral cove and the surrounding area gets during the peak season, I can honestly say it wasn’t all that bad. Have a look at the pictures below, same spot, different season, we didn’t find it bad at all. I think the main factor is the weather – the other time we had come between these two trips end November, it was raining cats and dogs and we didn’t get to do anything. If I were to plan another trip here, I would definitely go for four days at least to allow for few days of good weather (hopefully.) The drive to get here is so stunning, you go through gorges, mountains, waterfalls, and of course the beautiful sea on both sides of the peninsula. Coromandel Peninsula is really a very special part of New Zealand and would be in the top 10 of all our travels here.
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