We chose Whitianga area to give our trekking boots a shake and see some stunning iconic landscapes.

After a very wet campsite in Opoutere we were glad we booked a motel with AirBnb (use this link to get $30 free travel). It was $144/ night, but had a decent bed, a hot shower and a washing machine, much needed to give all our damp stuff a wash. The accommodation was in Racecource Rd, 10 minutes away from the small town of Whitianga. If you have a certain wickness for ice-cream (like Darren and I do), you should try the Kapiti ice-cream in Snapper Jacks. The place wasn’t very cheerful, but with one of those cones you are in heaven anyway.

Cathedral Cove

Te Whanganui-A-Hei marine reserve, Hahei beach, Cathedral Cove
Looking over the marine reserve and Hahei beach.
Whitianga cathedral cove carpark
Looking over the Te Whanganui marine reserve

A fairly easy walk and lots of steps took us to from the Cathedral Cove carpark down to the bay. A huge cave has developed from sea and wind erosion and we could not take our eyes off its high carved ceiling. The beach is really good too, even more if you are lucky with the weather.

Cathedral Cove, cave, Whitianga
The Cathedral is a beautiful arch eroded in the rock.
cathedral cove, whitianga, rock, blow holes
Spot the witch face carved in the rock.

Hot Water Beach

Another must of Whitianga is Hot Water Beach. Take a spade with you, most accommodations will give you one if you ask it or there are a couple of stalls which rent them out near the beach.

Then it’s all about digging in the right spot. Once you find that, you can dig a hole and find hot water.

Whitianga, Hot Water Beach, hot water pools
Time to dig and find some hot water, but first lets get our technique right.
Whitianga, Hot water beach
Perseverance and spade mastering will not be enough if you are in the wrong spot.

At Whitianga harbour a ferry takes you to Ferry Landing. You can spend a good half day with the walks starting from there.

Whitianga harbour, ferrylanding
Ferry crossing the Whitianga harbour.
Cooks beach, Flaxmill bay, Shakespeare cliff
Maps for all the walks available around Cooks beach.

Darren and I walked through all the main tracks shown on the map above. We got the ferry around 10am. Among all the faffing we got back around 4pm.

Some of the walks, like the cemetery and the Cooks Beach ones, were easy and relaxing, but others required a bit more clambering, especially the Pa site and Shakespeare Cliff where hundreds of steps help the descent to the bay.

Whitianga, cemetery walk
The cemetery walk only takes 15 minutes, but hides some gothic gems from the 1900.

To make steps less of a trouble the Japanese mathematician Hakio Hizume designed the ‘democracy steps’, with a pattern that facilitates everyone’s walk up and down.

Lonely bay, democracy steps, Shakespeare cliff track
Democracy steps to Lonely bay
Lonely bay is a sweet sandy beach with trees and rocks not far out.
Lonely bay is a sweet sandy beach with trees and rocks not far out.
dotterel nesting, Cooks beach
Some areas along Cooks Beach were fenced to protect dotterel and oyster catcher nests.

Cooks Beach is just an easy walk on a sandy beach. The first 300 to 400 metres are quite unspoilt, with protection for nesting birds.

Cooks beach market,Cooks beach
The Cooks beach market has a fair number of stalls and games, so you can shop and kids can have a ride on the inflated slide, win-win.

The Cooks beach market is held on the 4th of January every year. The stalls sell anything from plants to clothing, jewllery and food. Plenty of entertainment for kids too, and some adults like Darren who wants to defeat the mechanical bull. We all know how that ends up. Sorry Darren, next time we’ll go on the Daisy Dung Drop :P.

The market along Cooks beach had some games to keep Daren entertained. Never mess around with a bull.
The market along Cooks beach had some games to keep Darren entertained. Never mess around with a bull.

What you need to know

There’s loads of accommodation at Whitianga, but it can get booked quite solid in summer.

The beach is amazing and fine for surfing or boogie-boarding

It’s a small town so there are supermarkets and other conveniences.

The ferry is $6 return (adult), and $1 for a sheep.

You can take a water taxi to Cathedral Cove if you don’t have a car. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Whitianga. It’s much easier, however, to take the ferry to ferry landing rather than driving around to Cooks Beach as everything’s within walking distance.

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