Exploring Hahei’s Cathedral Cove & Hot Water Beach

A truly unique Kiwi experience that every one traveling in Coromandel should experience at least once in their lifetime! Two of the most popular sights are Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, a pair of unique New Zealand beaches that are absolutely worth the trip.

An underground river of hot water flows from the interior of the earth to surface in the Pacific Ocean at Hot Water Beach – a long beautiful white beach located in Coromandel, just a 5 minute drive from the town of Hahei.

Getting to Hahei

When planning my roadtrip through New Zealand’s north island, I knew that Cathedral Cove was a place I wanted to see no matter what. The drive up to Hahei wasn’t the longest journey, but it was one of the windiest roads of the whole road trip. You’ll spend about an hour driving through hairpin turns through the jungle/forest before coming to a small lakeside town where you can get out and grab lunch or take a swim.

From the town, plan for another hour before arriving to the village of Hahei. This is a place that you can see by tour bus, but having your own car makes it so much easier and allows for more freedom to explore the area.

If you arrive to Hahei in the afternoon, I recommend to head straight to Hot Water Beach first. Unfortunately, you can’t walk there from Hahei along the beach, so you’ll have to backtrack about 5 minutes along the coast south-bound.

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach is a very unique beach in which you can dig into the sand to find a hot spring, and clearly I wasn’t the only one who had that idea to go that day; this beach was packed! There were about 100 people on the beach digging holes, bordering their neighbors’ holes by inches. It was a very strange and unforgettable experience.

The beach itself has become quite popular. There are many shops in town that sell shovels so that you can actually dig your hole, because it would take forever to use your hands to dig a hole big enough to sit in. Many hotels will provide you with a shovel because this is one of the most sought after activities to do in the area.

You can surf and swim here at the beach, although the current is quite strong and the water was a little cold to jump in. The day I arrived was also cloudy and rainy, so I opted for the hot water instead. Some of the areas you’ll try to dig in won’t have the hot water streaming through them, so you’ll have to do trial and error before committing.

As a forewarning, some of the water will be lukewarm or cold, and two inches away you’ll dig into near boiling water – so use caution! You have to find that “happy medium.” Keep in mind that the hot springs are only accessible at low tide!

Once the hole is dug, prepare to lay like a beached whale in your shallow pool of hot water. It is quite nice, and a free way to soak for an hour or two. You’ll have to dig every 10 minutes or so because the sand will start to close your hole up again before you know it. Like I said, a strange yet unforgettable experience that I recommend anyone visiting to do!

Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove was one of the major highlights of my north island tour in New Zealand. If you go before the hoards come through, you’ll get to experience a truly remarkable sight in a pretty remote location, maybe even all to yourself!

The main tip here is to go early. If you only have one night in Hahei, going on your way out of town is sort of tricky because you’ll have your car with you, and you’ll mostly likely have to check out of your accommodation. So there are 3 options.

  1. Park in the carpark in town and take the shuttle up to the top of the hill. This option will cost you $5 roundtrip. From here, you’ll walk about 45 minutes up though the forest before arriving to Cathedral Cove. Along the way, you’ll pass Gemstone Bay which is an amazing snorkeling spot and white sand beach!
  2. You can walk all the way from the village of Hahei up the hill to the carpark, and then down through the forest to the beach. The first half of this walk is simply getting to the top of the hill where the shuttles drop off, and is 100% uphill incline. The total hike one way will take about an hour and a half.
  3. Drive up the hill, turn around in the carpark because cars are not allowed to park here, and drive back down the hill keeping an eye out for houses charging for parking. You can find a spot very close to the top for $8 for the whole day. This way you can avoid the hassle of waiting for the shuttle if you don’t feel like the uphill trek.

The walk through the forest to the beach was really more of a hike than a walk, so I recommend wearing walking shoes and bringing water with you. Once you get down to the beach, your breath will be taken away by the beauty. You can swim down in the cove as well, but beware of the strong rip-tides!


The Traveling Yogi

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