I woke before the dawn in Whitianga to make the drive out to the famous Cathedral Cove. It’s only a short distance down the coast, but you have to drive inland and back out because of a significant inlet that branches off of Mercury Bay. A German girl staying at my hostel asked for a ride, so we hit the road as the sun rose.
I had to stop to capture the glorious, mist-shrouded fields along the way.
When we made it to the carpark near the path to Cathedral Cove, it was clear the place wouldn’t be crowded. That’s the beauty of traveling during the off-season.
The trek down to the secluded stretch of beach took about thirty minutes. Cathedral Cove is one of those rare places that truly lives up to, and even surpasses, all the hype. It was used as the gateway to Narnia in the Prince Caspian film, and it’s easy to see why.
The rock formations have an otherworldly air to them, standing guard over the pristine white sand beach.
The sun emerged from the clouds and lent an even greater sense of surreality to my surroundings.
I would’ve liked to have had more time here to take pictures, but the drawback of having someone with you is that you can’t always take your sweet time. On the other hand, it’s great to have an actual human to replace your self-timer once in a while. Thanks, random German friend-for-a-day!
Cathedral Cove doesn’t cover that much beach, but the sheer grandeur of this small stretch of sand is mind-blowing.
I’d love to come back and visit again, perhaps in the summer.
I asked my companion to take one last shot before we headed back up the carpark.
Cathedral Cove manages to look just as impressive from above.
Next, we decided to check out the similarly hyped (even “world renowned”) Hot Water Beach, which was only a short drive south. We rented a couple shovels and headed towards the hot water portion of the beach with high hopes.
Needless to say, this spot was a huge letdown. Because of the phase of the moon, the low tide wasn’t low enough to allow us to dig in the very small section of the beach where hot water flows up from under the sand. Also, do you know how hard it is to dig a hole large enough to double as a hot tub? HARD. I had places I wanted to see before I ran out of daylight, so I parted ways with my German comrade, and she found some fellow Germans (not hard in NZ) to hitch a ride back with.
I headed south towards my destination for the night, Mount Maunganui, with plans to make pitstops on the way. I decided to visit Opoutere first. This small seaside town is home to a wildlife refuge, which my research told me is a great spot to explore. First, I got lost on the road to said wildlife refuge, but luckily it made for a great picture.
I turned around and managed to find the carpark. I then set off through coastal forest towards the beach.
The sand stretched endlessly in either direction and I reveled in the unseasonably warm day.
I also happened upon another stick shelter, which seems to have become a theme on this trip.
I explored a bit more along the marshy inland portion of the reserve.
I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the phenomenal bridge that lead back to the carpark as I finished up my trek.
Next, come along to the stunning, historic Karangahake Gorge and charming Mount Maunganui as I continue my North Island road trip.