A New Zealand summer on the Coromandel Peninsula sets a picture-perfect scene, with brilliant red pohutukawa trees, soft white sand and sparkling blue seas - small wonder the area has become a favoured Kiwi holiday destination. But it’s much more than that because the soul of this place reaches back to a time now known only in stories. Each part of the cove is full of meaning and history for its Maori custodians.
Cathedral Cove, a recreation reserve near the town of Hahei that is accessed by foot, boat or kayak, is the jewel in the Coromandel's crown and a historical taonga (treasure) to its local Maori guardians.
Named for the arched cave that links the cove to the nearby Mare's Leg Cove, Cathedral Cove has another name steeped in lore and legend – te-whanganui-a-hei (The Great Bay of Hei). The headland is the site of an ancient Maori Pa (fortified village) while the nearby coves served as meeting places and sanctuaries.
The short journey from Hahei to the cove shows off some of New Zealand's most spectacular coastal scenery, including a chain of offshore islands that were believed to be the footsteps of the gods. The cove's beauty extends below the waterline as well, with Cathedral Cove harbouring a staggering abundance and variety of marine life living among spectacular reefs, sea caves and rock formations.
The geology here is special, we see it through 'Matauranga Maori' or through indigenous eyes. Within those rocks are the memories of our ancestors, every cove, nook and cranny had a name and a purpose, a lot of the caves were safe sanctuary.