Tourists in NZ frustrate the hell outta me. The Cathedral Caves is a case in point. Charge admission in NZ and “they” will come. Huge deep sea caves stud a cliff band on this low-tide only beach. The local Maoris charge $5 pp to access their road and track down to the cave beach. No access to the beach is allowed except for two hours either side of low tide. This rule actually helps people to not be stupid and get bashed by waves as they try to enter the sea-swamped caves at higher tides.
Here’s my frustration with typical tourists: the “Cathedral” cave is just a 5-minute beach walk after the 15-minute track descending through the forest to the beach. It seems that about 95% of the people quit right there and stand around taking dull pix of everyone else standing around the mouth of the first big cave. Just around the corner, but with no blinking neon pointing the way, are more caves, deeper caves, further mysteries …but it’s the rare traveler who ventures through the ankle-to-knee deep water to investigate…even just 200m away! Are tourists afraid a rogue wave may bash them against the cliffs? Are they afraid they’ll get their calves wet?? Are they afraid because no tickettaker is there to tell them that there may be something more to see just a few meters away??
Simply scamper over the barnacled rocks and you’ll find more caves and way less people. How many footprints do you see? Probably none. The only person I’ve seen past the first cave was a frightened little penguin chirping at me in the far back of the dark cave (I was as scared as he!) Then, another 200m over another tidal shelf and through more knee-deep wave-slosh comes a beach cove with…nope, I won’t tell…but it did inspire stripping off the togs for a rousing rinse! The walk back to the main cave from this “off-the-beaten-track” cove took all of 8 minutes, and sadly, back at the first cave there were 40 people aimlessly milling about. Don’t people come to NZ to explore??
Given that you bought my book, I know that you’re adventurous. This is the reason I’ve written this guide. I hope to lend some insight on these sorts of places and encourage you to be a bit prepared to leave the beaten path.
Come and see the caves. Be warned that the carpark may have 30-90 cars! If you’re an explorer try to arrive 1-2 hours before low-tide. Wear a swimsuit and water sandals and slosh past the first cave before true low tide (when other people might try the same). You’ll find some neat exploring beyond.