A ‘Te Ara O Hei’ (the path of Hei) Coromandel Walks project reached a milestone in 2020. The completion of the Lees Road track near Hahei and ferry crossing at Purangi River at Cooks Beach provide a stunning coast walk for all ages. In this article All About Whitianga team member, Kat Neilson-Jones donned her hiking boots and took to the trail.
Exploring Hahei to Cooks Beach on foot with views to savour
Living at Cooks Beach and spending time at the picturesque Purangi Estuary in the summer, I often wished that I could easily just pop across the river and explore the Hahei area. And that wishful request has now been granted with the extension to the Te Ara O Hei track which now includes a ferry service across the river available October to Easter, or by appointment.
Across the Purangi river
Recently I grabbed my walking boots, husband and a couple of friends to join me adventuring across the Purangi river. I didn’t check the tides but managed to pick a perfect morning for the expedition. The tide was in, the water was crystal clear and not a breath of wind. Ferryman Shannan, of Coromandel Paddle Boarding, was there to greet us, ready with drybag for our boots and phones. The four of us climbed in the dingy ready for our adventure.
The trip across the river only took a few minutes. We disembarked and as we dried our feet, Shannan, the ferryman, gave us a little history of the area. He then gave us a map of the Stella Evered Memorial Park and pointed us in the right direction.
Stella Evered Memorial Park and Lees Road section
We started exploring the Park on our way to Lees Road. There are a number of lookouts and historical sites to view on the way. Take your camera with you, there are some stunning views to snap!
The path along Lees Road is marked with Cathedral Cove Walk markers, but the track is quite clear. It tracks along in and out of native bush beside the road and we were grateful for the shade on a hot summer’s morning. There was much entertainment and discussion as my male companions seemed to enjoy debating various names of plants along the way.
The first part of the walk has a gradual rise, and then you cross over the road for a descent of quite a few steps! I wasn’t looking forward to walking back up those later in the day. About halfway down the Lees Road, on the opposite side of the walk is a stream that in the after rain or in winter has a small waterfall. Quite picturesque, so keep an eye out.
We had a rest on the seat at the Lees Road Carpark while we paid the $2 per person charge for using the private farm track that connects to the public Cathedral Cove path. We didn’t have cash to put into the postbox on site so we made an internet transfer to the bank account number posted on the fence.
If you don’t want to use the farm track the other option is to continue your walk out of Lees Road and into Hahei, catch the bus or walk up Grange Road. This would add a few more kilometres to your walk.
Private farm track, WW1 Memmorial Forest to Cathedral Cove public path
The private farm path was wide and easy to walk. No shade, so make sure you have your hat. The landscape and view is a contrast from the first section of the walk, with farmland and animals. The path joins the main public path on the ridge just after the WW1 Memorial Forest plantings before the descent to Cathedral Cove itself.
As it was the height of summer our crew decided to avoid the stunning but busy Cathedral Cove. And, without sounding too blasé we have all been to the cove numerous times. However, Cathedral Cove is a must if you have never visited before and a fantastic place for a rest and dip in the ocean. We took the newer track out to the north-west, about 1km, to the coast. The viewing platform gave us amazing 160 degree panoramic views of the Mercury Bay coast, islands and Cathedral Cove.
After the required selfies and stop for water and snack, we calculated we had walked nearly 7km.
Cathedral Cove Macadamias and ice cream stop for the home stretch
Off we set on our return trip and it was decided that we’d take up Shannan’s suggestion and stop in at Cathedral Cove Macadamias for a refill of water bottles and a tub of macadamia ice cream. The lure of ice cream kept us focused on the return walk and up the steps. Although there were no children in our group, there was still a fair bit of ‘are we at the top yet?’ going on!
The ice cream was a definite highlight, delicious and hit the spot. Now just a short walk back to Stella Evered Park and to our awaiting ferryman. Sitting back on the beach waiting for Shannan to row over, our feet enjoyed soaking in the tide.
Te Ara O Hei walking track conclusions
Walk time and distance: we took our time and the Te Ara O Hei walk took about 3 hours , clocking up close to 14 kms.
The groups review: this was an interesting and different half day walk. Not too onerous if you are of reasonable fitness.
The best views of the Mercury Bay: are at each end of the walk – Stella Evered Park and Cathedral Cove. It is definitely worthwhile to take time to explore Stella Evered Park and read about the history of the area. I recommend that you take the track out to the Cathedral Cove look out – it’s stunning.
Extending your walking time: for those really keen, you can walk from the passenger ferry at Ferry Landing, this will add approximately another 5km to your trip.
Final word - and finally do take some time to stop for an ice cream under the macadamia trees!
More about the Coromandel Walks Project
The Coromandel Walks project is managed the Thames Coromandel District Council and has been developed to link the district via walking tracks along the Mercury Bay coast and throughout the Coromandel Peninsula.
The project’s aim is to link Whitianga through to Hot Water Beach with a walking track. Showcasing the beauty of our area as well as supporting tourism and economic opportunities.
"Walks are a huge and growing part of recreational tourism around our district, with social and economic benefits for our communities, and we anticipate the finished Te Ara o Hei walkway will be well-used and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike,"
— Thames Coromandel District Council Economic Development and Communications Group Manager Laurna White.
You can read more about the project on the Thames Coromandel District Council website.