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
  • Protect our marine reserves
    • 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.

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

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
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   995C Kauaeranga Valley Road
Thames 3577
Postal Address:   PO Box 343
Thames 3540
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