White sand, huge white rock formations and the most incredible sunrises in New Zealand all come to mind when thinking of Cathedral Cove, one of the most iconic and beautiful attractions in the country.
Made famous by the movie, The Chronicles of Narnia (see it for yourself here!), Cathedral Cove is located in Hahei, in the stunning Coromandel Peninsula, and is about a three hour drive from Auckland. The only way to access the beach is by foot via a 30-45 minute walk, kayak or boat. If you prefer to use the track, there are a few other beaches you can visit along the way, like Gemstone Beach and Stingray Bay!
Thousands of people travel thousands of miles from all around the world to visit this location, so as you can imagine, it can get pretty busy during the day, sometimes with hundreds of tourists at a time!
Fortunately, a small amount of people visit the Cathedral during the early hours of the morning, making sunrise the perfect opportunity to get some peace and quiet while exploring the area by yourself.
On this morning, I set my alarm for 2:45am, and left my home in Auckland at 3am, aiming to make it to the Cove by sunrise with my friend, Ash. After three hours of driving in the dark, we made it to the carpark to find it fenced off.
We obviously hadn’t done our research. A quick look on the DOC website would’ve informed us that the carpark at the start of the track will now be closed from October 1 – April 30, due to the high number of traffic during summer. We noticed a few houses along Grange Road, the road where the track begins, were already preparing for the busy season, advertising parking spaces in their driveway for just $10. Kiwi ingenuity at its finest!
Using my iPhone’s flashlight to guide the way, we made it to the beach in about 30 minutes. To our surprise, a small group of people had already beaten us there! They had set up shop right inside the cove to capture a time-lapse of the sunrise. It was about 6:50am, and still blue hour, so I didn’t mind waiting for them to finish. I used that time to take in the sights and sounds, as it was my first ever visit!
The walk from the car had warmed me up so much that I had forgotten how cold it actually was. Wanting to feel the sand between my toes, I took my shoes off on the beach, feeling the freezing temperatures instantly and quickly losing the feeling of my feet.
Despite the cold weather, a bunch of parties on the beach found a spot to sit and have breakfast. Talk about a scenic meal! While everyone was munching on sandwiches, Ash and I left Cathedral Cove to check out Stingray Bay, which was on the way back to the start of the track and where we parked our car.
Pushing ourselves through bushes of gorse, we found ourselves perched atop a little cliff overlooking the bay. As I sat down and watched the calm waters beneath me, listened to the birds singing behind me and felt the sun shining on my face, I believed this was happiest I had ever been in my life. Funny how nature really makes everything better, isn’t it?
As this little road trip, was solely to see Cathedral Cove, we didn’t have any time to visit other locations in the Coromandel area. but I’m already planning a trip back to see Hot Water Beach and climb the Coromandel Pinnacles!