Whanganui A Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve: Places to go in Coromandel

Cathedral Cove
Image: Shellie Evans ©


Visitors to this marine reserve will see sandy flats, reefs, boulder and many different sea creatures and plants that live there. Take a walk along the coast to see the very popular Hahei and Cathedral Cove.

Place overview


  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Marine reserves
    Protect our marine reserves

    They are special places that protect the species and habitats within them.

    • No fishing of any kind
    • Don't take or kill marine life
    • Don't remove or disturb any marine life or materials
    • Don't feed fish - it disturbs their natural behaviour
    • Take care when anchoring to avoid damaging the sea floor
    • Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) to report any illegal activity

Find things to do Whanganui A Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve


Diving and snokelling

If you are diving or snorkelling you might encounter large rock lobster, snapper and other coastal species up close.

Try a snorkel trail at Gemstone Bay. Check the marker buoys with information panels depicting which species inhabit each area are anchored from 50 to 165 m offshore

Kayaking and canoeing

Bring your own kayak or rent one locally to explore the area. 


Hahei and Cathedral Cove beaches are excellent for swimming 

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    This reserve has rich and varied marine and coastal life. Hard rock reefs and soft sandy bottoms house communities of plants, crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

    Crayfish and black angel fish hide in the cracks and crevices of the reefs around Mahurangi Island. In the large boulder fields near Motueka Island, curious schools of sweep may follow divers.

    Delicate corals, usually found at depth, are close to the surface in Poikeke Island cave. Closer to shore, brittle starfish might be found on rocky platforms and red moki graze amid forests of seaweed. Predators like the leather-jacket feed on the smaller animals.

    History and culture

    Whanganui A Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve is part of the area first claimed by Hei, a tohunga (priest) on Te Arawa waka at the time of the Polynesian migration to New Zealand, circa 1350 AD.

    Hei settled his people on the area around Mercury Bay, asserting ownership by referring to Motueka Island as 'Te Kuraetanga-o-taku-Ihu' ('The outward curve of my nose').

    It is said he made this claim near the present day site of Hahei. Hei's descendants, as tangata whenua, still retain a strong ancestral and spiritual attachment to the site, and continue their role as guardians, or kaitiaki, of the resources within it.

    Getting there

    Travelling by car, the trip is about one and a half hours drive from Thames in the west, and about two and a half hours drive from Auckland.

    From Thames on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula, travel east across SH25A which then joins SH25. Travel north on SH25 towards Whitianga and follow the signs to Hahei. 

    Know before you go

    • Take care to avoid damaging underwater features or marine life.
    • Fishing or removal of any plants, animals, shells or rocks is not permitted within the reserve.
    • Boaties take care if anchoring. Waste, ballast and sewerage must not be discharged within the reserve. Observe the five knot speed limit within 30 m of other vessels or people in the water, and within 200 m of the shore or any vessel flying a dive flag.
    • Scuba divers driving to the reserve need to be aware that the road rises to over 300 m above sea level so they need to plan dives and surface times carefully to avoid developing decompression sickness (the bends) during the drive out.


    Kauaeranga Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 7 867 9080
    Email:   kauaerangavc@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   995C Kauaeranga Valley Road
    Thames 3577
    Full office details
    Hauraki Office
    Phone:   +64 7 867 9180
    Email:   thames@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   360 Ngati Maru Highway
    Thames 3500
    Full office details
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