Enter the magical (if somewhat packed) land of Narnia...
The Crowds of Cair Paraval
Whether you've seen the films and read the books or not, we all know of Narnia: the fantasy kingdom beyond the familiar and ordinary wardrobe world. A place of magic and adventure ... or at least it used to be.
No doubt about it, Cathedral Cove is a magical place, but you might have to beat the crowds by heading over at the crack of dawn because this little bay has become the hottest tourist attraction on the Coromandel Peninsula. These days in summer the entrance to Narnia experienced by the Pevensie kids in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is crowded with girls in g-string bikinis, tourists with selfie poles (and maybe even the occassional sunburnt local - that's me).
If you're picking up on my slightly acerbic tone, I'll confess - I'm feeling a little bitter about about a lost love. You see, I spent every summer holiday of my youth camping at nearby Hahei beach. The summer pilgrimmage to Cathedral Cove was always a special day out and we had the beach to ourselves, come to think of it just like those kids in the movie...
These days a summer outing to the Cove means parking down in Hahei and getting bussed up the hill to the entrance of the track (which is no longer a dirt trail through native bush), but an even tarmac that you can tread with jandals (aka: flip-flops) or even heels if you like.
There are a couple of alternative routes to this Narnian Cove. One is a water taxi ride from Hahei beach. As we were travelling with our almost 5 year old, this option seemed tempting until I saw the price tag ($25 return per adult for a five minute ride). In addition, the queue seated on the beach in the blazing sun waiting for their return ride convinced me the tarmac hike was the better option. Kayak companies also offer trips to the Cove and beyond.
So film fans, is it worth the trip? I have to admit it: absolutely. This is a heart-stoppingly beautiful spot. But if you're going, choose your time wisely. If you can go off-peak, great. If crowds don't worry you, even better. And don't forget: a hat, plenty of sunscreen, water, snacks and your togs (that's Kiwi for swimsuit). The crystal clear water is as good as it looks.