There are many who sing the praises of New Zealand, and rightfully so for a good number of reasons. But one location that is truly deserving of a holy blessing or two is the aptly named Cathedral Cove.
Located on the gob-smackingly attractive Coromandel Peninsula, this natural wonder also goes by its Māori name, Te Whanganui-A-Hei, which is an excellent thing to know if you accidentally take a wrong turn on your way up from Auckland and have to ask for directions. It's scandalous that more people don't find the time to wind their way through the forests and along the mountain passes to this magnificent fragment of the North Island, and yet, its ever so slightly awkward location and lack of overtly tourist-orientated tat only adds to its specialness.
Though the bay is part of an area that has been occupied by humans for more than a millennium, it has retained its wild roots — a task no doubt aided by the great respect both indigenous and incoming people have paid to the environment over the years. Now part of an extensive marine reserve, the site and its inhabitants are protected to an even higher degree, but that doesn’t mean you can’t frolic with the bounteous flora and fauna should you wish to do so. A perfect harbour for fish and other aquatic creatures of all shapes and sizes, the cove’s gentle waters are a popular hive for divers, and neighbouring Gemstone Bay even has a unique "Snorkel Trail," which has underwater information points that are perfect for the budding marine biologist or curious swimmer alike.
Gaining increased fame after an appearance in "The Chronicles of Narnia" film series in 2008, Cathedral Cove began to attract a few more visitors than usual to its glorious shores. Many wait patiently in the aquamarine waters in the hope of capturing the key shot of Te Hoho rock through the natural frame of the pyramid-shaped archway (as seen above) or, perhaps, explore the area in the hope of finding an entrance to the fantastical world of Aslan and his friends. Either way, a little bit of strange behaviour isn’t out of the ordinary.
As is the case for getting from A to B almost anywhere in New Zealand, the u-shaped drive from Auckland alone is worth the 140-minute journey. Though in the case of Cathedral Cove, the destination is an equally exquisite cherry on top.
GO BEYOND: A 10-minute detour on your way to or from Te Whanganui-A-Hei will bring you to the uncanny little stop-off of Hot Water Beach — an all-natural oddity where you can dig yourself a thermal bath in the sand while gazing out at the much chillier ocean waters mere footsteps away.