Today's outing was something we spotted in the guide book when we were planning our trip: a walk to a sandy beach, where there was a natural stone archway, to be made at low tide. We didn't really know what to expect beyond that, but we decided to make it more of a walk by starting at nearby Hahei beach, rather than the Cathedral Cove car park. When we pulled up at the car park at the back of Hahei beach we were very glad we had decided to start from there: the Pacific was blue, the sand was white, the sky was blue and off shore there were numerous small islands making for a fantastically interesting and varied view out to sea. While we were getting ready to start walking we were staggered to see an elderly couple pull up, get out of their car and take a quick photo and roar off. This was a view to be enjoyed and cherished, and they had experienced it for as long as it took me to get my boots on.
We saw a DOC sign and started walking along the back of the beach, but fairly soon we - alright, I - made a mistake and took a track heading inland and then uphill, parallel to the sea. After quite a steep climb we found ourselves on a road high above the sea. It was obviously the road to the Cathedral Cove car park. Oh dear! However, there were brilliant views back over Hahei beach which we would not otherwise have seen.
Even better, a Monarch hove into view and then landed in a good place for a photo. I was able to get a good picture even without changing to the long telephoto I normally use for butterfly pictures. This was a very friendly and accommodating Monarch - more Prince Harry than Prince Charles we thought.
We now followed the marked trail from the car park - and noted the trail we should have taken joining it from the right - at least we could come back the right way. The route first went downhill through bush for some way, then carried on along a level and then climbed to a view point, with a lovely view along the coastline.
Now the terrain opened out to something a little reminiscent of Dorset heathland. There was a fine view towards the coast.
At the end of the open area the trees closed in again and it was downhill all the way to the cove, which was invisible until you were right there. We made a short detour to Gemstone bay - a small rocky cove, apparently a good site for scuba diving, but a bit disappointing otherwise. We resisted a further detour to Stingray bay.
We emerged onto Cathedral Cove to be immediately overwhelmed by the scale of the stone arch to the left and drama of the view through it to the smaller beach beyond, only accessible at low water.
We walked to end of this beach to admire the curiously shaped sea stack ...
... and photograph the archway from the other side
After a certain amount of paddling and lounging about, we retraced our steps, following the path past the car park on a level round the side of the hill and then down to Hahei beach. We had not gone far enough along the beach at the start.
Conditions: sunny and hot, but cool in the shade.
Distance: four or five miles.
Rating: five stars.
A pair of quiffed Californian Quails, a flock of yellowhammers and a number of Long-tailed Blue butterflies.