Cathedral Cove and the Chronicles of Narnia.
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Schedule of the Visit.
- 1A Day at Cathedral Cove.
- 2In Search of the World of Narnia.
- 3The Arch on the Beach.
- 4Diving into the Turquoise Sea!
- 5Adventure Goes on in New Zealand!
A Day at Cathedral Cove.
Have you ever visited a movie set? I am not talking of a reconstitution in a studio, but a true outdoor filming location. In New Zealand, the variety of landscapes is inexhaustible.
This allows many sequences to be filmed on location. In other countries, the same sequence would have required to use a studio or a great deal of special effects. I attended a screening of the Chronicles of Narnia (the Prince Caspian) when I was living in Wellington. This heroic fantasy trilogy proved to be a worldwide success.
Cathedral Cove can be seen in the Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
The New Zealand director Andrew Adamson naturally thought of his home country, to recreate the world imagined by C. S. Lewis.
At the very beginning of the film, the four heroes of the Pevensie family are transported into the world of Narnia.
Brothers and sisters are escaping the darkness of the London Underground, for an idyllic beach, near a gigantic arch carved in the rock.
My seatmate in cinema whispered these words: “It's Cathedral Cove!”.
New Zealand is the perfect setting for fantasy film shootings.
Perhaps this is due to its volcanic relief. Transcribed on the screen, the landscape is a character in itself.
If the beach in the film does indeed exist, I wondered if it would meet my expectations... The Production may have embellished reality with a lot of special effects! The only way to be sure is to go on location.
In Search of the World of Narnia.
The beginning of the World of Narnai II at Cathedral Cove.
I have decided to visit the famous film locations in New Zealand, leaving Auckland early in the morning, in the direction of the Coromandel Peninsula. Just two hours and a half of easy driving are required to approach Cathedral Cove. The scenery is beautiful and varied throughout the trip.
The gigantic limestone arch can't be reached by road.
There are several routes to reach the shore, where it is located. I opted for the hike, which starts from the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Arriving at the car park, early in the morning, I disturbed many Tuis (blue pigeons) sleeping on road signs.
The first observation deck allows to see the beach in the distance.
Even if the view is beautiful, the ark remains essentially hidden from here. But the beach is not so far and the hike is free, you only have to follow the path. It is announced forty minutes of walking in beautiful surroundings. However, I wonder who writes such information panels? In New Zealand, in most cases, one can often halve the travel time indicated.
It will take only 25 minutes to reach the beach of Mare's Leg Cove.
The path that leads to the beach is easy to follow, but hiking boots are required.
Do not follow my example and be careful! We are going to cross a field where sheeps have undermined the ground if you see what I mean...
We continue through a forest of pines and puriris which should delight you. With the morning dew there is a bewitching atmosphere.
One could almost expect to see an Elf from the “Lord of the Rings”, another famous movie filmed in the region.
The rest of the trail descends constantly, and the final step is a large wooden staircase. I love this type of construction!
Wooden stairs are still part of the forest. They blend into the vegetation, and even when we see them, they beautify the landscape. A thought for the film crew that has overcome this obstacle with the filming equipment!
The excitement is at its peak when reaching the shore. The first impression is fantastic!
The visit is even better during the early hours of the day: the rising sun creates a red glow on the limestone. The emerald ocean sparkles.
Such a phenomenon is explained by a long erosion over thousands of years. Trees with bright-red leaves, the famous pohutukawas, grow at the top of the arch. You can cross it to reach the second beach, the very one that the film's heroes discover during their journey into the world of Narnia.
The Arch on the Beach.
You'll probably get the feeling of being transported inside the Narnia universe. The tide has just started to fall, but the waves still come close to the entrance of the arch.
We must take off shoes before crossing barefoot in the water. Te Wanganui-A-Hei “the large bay of Hei”. This is the Maori name of Cathedral Cove and pronounced under the arch, it sounds like a magic spell. On the other side of the arch, we realize that we are all alone, just like in the movie.
We lay the first footprints on the fresh sand.
It is still early to go swimming like the heroes of the film. On the cliffs above the ocean, there is no castle, of course, as it is just a special effect.
On the other side of the arch, the beach continues.
The landscape fulfills my expectations and even exceeds them. Apart from the castle, the production of Narnia did not add anything to improve the beauty of the place. Upon my return, I found this quote from Anna Popplewell who plays the character of Susan Pevensie in the film:
The water shimmered so clearly audiences won’t believe it’s real water. It appears to be an optical illusion created by VFX in post-production.Anna Popplewell
I walk on the sand to a strange rock that throne in the middle of the beach
This majestic rock evokes the prow of a ship stranded on the beach, thousands years ago. Its base is dark and you feel small in front of it. Delicately carved by the wind, it bears the Maori name “Te Hoho” (the all mighty). A guardian who seems to guard the coast.
I stroll on the beach while drawing in the beautiful white sand. Drawings that will soon be erased by the tide, like thousands of others before them.
Suddenly I spot a blue penguin just in front of me. Probably as surprised as me, the cute animal attempts a comical escape toward the sea
Quietly, I return to the arch of Cathedral Cove. After all, we are not in the world of Narnia, but in a nature reserve.
A few yellow dots are approaching the shore. Until now, we had the whole sandy beach for ourselves, but it's time to share!
Diving into the Turquoise Sea!
Here come other visitors in kayaks ! I observe their latest efforts to reach the beach. This is also a great opportunity to learn more about the kayaking itinerary to Cathedral Cove along the coast from Hahei.
There are two guided tours in kayak each day. And the guides also bring cappuccinos and cookies for everyone. If you are not in a hurry, this is perhaps the best way to reach Cathedral Cove, especially when the weather is nice.
The kayak guided tour is a must, and this is indeed one of the best activities you may practice in New Zealand. This is an opportunity to explore the islands and sea caves before joining Cathedral Cove.
To reach the beach, you just have to paddle until the end.
The only stage a little tricky is the boarding. Two passengers a kayak on this model, it is necessary that someone push at the beginning. But even beginners can succeed with the help of their guide.
Coming by kayak allows you to enjoy an unparalleled view of Cathedral Cove.
Otherwise you will need to reach a rock by swimming.
At 75 meters from the shore, it is an excellent platform to dive into the turquoise waters. In summer, the water temperature is just perfect to swim, especially after a hike.
Near the wooden staircase, a small waterfall falls from the cliff. The water is very fresh, but if you are brave enough, you may have a shower after swimming.
I planned the swimsuit, but not the snorkel and the palms. I hope you'll remember to bring them if you enjoy scuba. Going along the rocks, one can reach Gemstone Bay. An underwater trail was built surrounding fours floats with explanatory panels. Pink sea bream can be observed, and beautiful anemones, lobsters, and even stingrays!
It is an area protected by the Department of Conservation. You will find no shop on site, and that's a good decision. If you plan to stay and relax on the sand, do not forget your picnic and sunscreen! You will find a bit of shade under the trees that line the beach.
Gradually, the beach will begin to be more and more crowded. Other visitors arrive and discover the place with smiles on their faces.
It's time to leave, but I'm sure you will return one day by kayak.
Adventure Goes on in New Zealand!
In the world of Narnia, the children are transported to Cathedral Cove as if by magic. In the real world, the return trip will be a bit more complicated. Starting with the big wooden staircase and its 150 steps to climb!
To come to the beach, he had to go down constantly. Logically, the return in the opposite direction will be more difficult.
The viewpoints of the ocean and the beauty of the forest will keep you motivated. This is a great physical exercise, especially after so much time on the road in a car or camper-van.
Those who have more strength in the arms than in the legs will prefer to come by kayak. This is a great alternative, although it does not allow you to enjoy the beach as long as you may like because guided tours have a schedule to respect.
In summer, this little paradise on earth, tends to be crowded by tourists. Of course, you will enjoy the splendor of the arch and the singular beauty of the place. But you will lose the feeling of being at the end of the world. Another good reason to travel early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
The Chronicles of Narnia, as imagined by C. S. Lewis, is incarnated in New Zealand.
And the reality goes beyond fiction. A clear blue sky even improve the landscape, but cloudy skies should not dissuade you from coming.
We'll talk about cinema and New Zealand in a forthcoming article. You are probably aware thatPeter Jackson's Trilogies of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, were both filmed in the country. You are less likely to know that Tom Cruise's “Last Samurai” was recreated near Taranaki (a ski resort). The Mount Fuji that can be seen in the film is in fact a mountain of the North Island of New Zealand!
Cathedral Cove is one of the many film locations in New Zealand.
The beaches of "The Piano Lesson" by Jane Campion and the village of Hobbiton are both located on the North Island.
Meanwhile, the next wonder that I will show you is called Hot Water Beach. A name that should arouse your curiosity ... It is a few minutes by road from Cathedral Cove and a must-do.
On Kiwipal we will publish your best photos. So, you know what you have to do!
Our guide Ben Kiwi just join us and he is unbeatable about New Zealand. You have a question? He has the answer! He may be stubborn sometime, but he loves to help people to plan a trip to his country.
Questions & Answers.
What can I do for you? There are great information boards at the car park to read before the hike. Be careful not to slip on the wooden steps of the first grand staircase (they are often wet in the morning).
- All topics ... 25 answers in total
- Planning the Excursion 11 answers
- How to Reach the Beach 7 answers
- Swimming and Activities 6 answers
- Cathedral Cove in Movies 1 answer
Planning the Excursion
- What is the best time of the day to come?
I recommend traveling during the early hours of the day to enjoy the beauty of the ark alone. In good weather, the sunrise makes the cliffs glow in red. At the end of the day, the place is finally free of the tourist crowd, but you will still meet a lot of people on the hiking trail. You should come at low tide.
- What is the tide schedule?
The ideal is to come during the low tide which lasts about 3h. You can find the tide schedule on this page:Tides
- Is there a toilet on site?
There are toilets near the car park. Rustic toilets have also been installed near the beach. They are secretly hidden at the entrance to the forest.
- Is it free?
Most outdoor activities are free in New Zealand. This one is no exception to the rule: It's free !
- What fitness level does it take to follow the hike?
We will always find people who will tell you the opposite, but I consider it as an easy itinerary. I have already met people who travel with a baby on their backs. The 5-year-olds do it from one end to the other. In bad weather, some trails can be slippery. The hike is not suitable for handicapped persons in wheelchairs, they will have to go by other means (by boat for example).
- What type of shoe should you wear?
Hiking shoes are preferable. People wearing sneakers may have to wash them in the tiny waterfall at the right of the ark. And then the wet soil in the forest can be slippery (not to mention sheep droppings in the field near the farm).
- Is the beach crowded by tourists?
Cathedral Cove is close to the seaside resort of Hahei, whose population rises from 400 to 5000 during the peak season. This explains why the beach at Cathedral Cove is crowded during the summer. At the end of the day, she empties little by little.
- Why is there a warning sign near the ark?
It is used to warn you of possible stone falls. Access to the arch was closed between April 2010 and December 2011, because of landslides due to erosion. To remedy this, the conservation department deliberately caused the most fragile blocks to fall. As a precaution, when you cross the arch, walk along the side closest to the ocean.Video of the work on the ark
- Can we buy food on site?
To finance the maintenance, the Department of Conservation (DOC) had granted a selling license an ice cream dealer. This decision has greatly annoyed the local population. It is unpleasant to find beach sand soiled with dirty papers. But it is even more annoying to be disturbed by a traveling merchant when one contemplates a wonder of nature. A petition was successful, and the license was not renewed.
- Can we picnic on the beach?
Of course, as long as you leave the place in the state where you found it. If you observe an abandoned paper, even if you are not responsible, throw it in a trash can.
- What is the name of the tree with red leaves?
These are known as pohutukawas, a tree species common in New Zealand. They bloom in spring, hence their nickname "Christmas Tree".
How to Reach the Beach
- Where is Cathedral Cove?
You'll have to visit the Waikato region and go to the Coromandel Peninsula. Near the town of Hahei in Mercury Bay. This area was famous among gold and coal prospectors. It is now a region where ecotourism is booming. There is also the Te Wanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve (the Maori name of Cathedral Cove).
- How to get there by car?
Head for Hahei Town and its paradisiacal beaches. From Auckland, it takes 2 hours 30 minutes, if you drive continuously. Join the Grange Road car park. The rest of the circuit will be to complete on foot.
- Is there a car park on site?
It is located at the end of Grange Road. It is quite small, and easily crowded during the high season. Parking on the roadside will end with a $60 fine... Try to come early or late in the afternoon. Why not consider the longer hike since Hahei? You can also come by kayak or bus!
- How to get there by kayak?
You can rent a kayak in Hahei or Whitianga (if you are not a beginner). Otherwise, I recommend traveling with Sea Kayak Tour (88 Hahei Beach Rd). Two people per kayak is ideal. The kayaks are equipped with waterproof pockets to store food, cameras, and bath towels. The half-day excursion (3:30 am) costs $145 per adult, and $85 per child. You will cross caves, along islands, until you reach Cathedral Cove. Another route goes through a tunnel, and you will observe sea geysers. Departures at 8:45 am or 1:45 pm.Sea Kayak Tours
- Can we come here by boat?
Group tours are organized by Hahei Explorer. The rate is $65 per adult and $40 per child.Hahei Explorer
- Can we come here by bus?
The Naked Bus and the Tairua Bus Company stop at Cathedral Cove. The Naked bus joins Coromandel (90 min) via Whitianga (30 min) and Tairua (30 min) via Hot Water Beach. It will cost you a few dollars per person.Naked BusTairua Bus
- Can we come from Hahei?
At the northern tip of Hahei, a two and a half hour round trip takes you to Cathedral Cove. The path is steep in places. Do not forget to bring water and food, it is a rather physical trek that requires energy.
Swimming and Activities
- Can we swim at Cathedral Cove?
It is an excellent gently sloping beach, suitable for swimming but without a lifeguard. A rocky platform that can be climbed, 75 meters off the beach allow you to dive into the ocean.
- Can we swim in Gemstone Bay?
Gemstone Bay does not really have a beach, but a submarine trail for diving.
- Can we swim in Stingray Bay?
It is a pleasant corner, in half-moon, where it is easy to bathe. Because some rocks fell from the cliff, the northwest of the area is currently closed.
- Is it possible to dive on site?
Cathedral Cove Dive & Snorkel (Hahei Beach Road) organizes daily outings, including for beginners. This will cost you $105 per adult, and $69 per child (including equipment).Hahei Diving
- Can we visit Hot Water Beach the very same day?
The two sites are a few kilometers apart. So it's perfect for the same trip. Watch out for the tide schedule, especially for Hot Water Beach.
- Is fishing allowed?
Te Whanganui-A-Hei is a marine reserve on the Coromandel Peninsula since 1992. The protected area extends from Cathedral Cove to Book Bluff. It aims to protect the marine environment of the Motukorure, Moturoa, Motueka and Mahurangi islands. In this perimeter of 9 square kilometers, fishing is prohibited.
Cathedral Cove in Movies
- In what movie can we see Cathedral Cove?
The sequence is at the very beginning of the film: "The World of Narnia: Prince Caspian" which was released in 2008 (the second film of the trilogy).
On the Country Map
Cathedral Cove is located on the North Island in the Coromandel Peninsula (Waikato region).
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