"Te Ara O Hei" - The Path of Hei

Te Ara O Hei "The path of Hei" is part of the Coromandel Walks Project. The walk being proposed when fully complete will go from Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove, on to the Purangi Estuary and through to Whitianga and north.

An economic and business feasibility study presented to Council on December 18 2013 on a proposed a walk between Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove and onto the Purangi River and Whitianga. Extending the walk further north to Kuaotunu and further south from Hot Water Beach into Tairua, Pauanui and Whangamata is also being investigated.

The proposed  route covers Public Conservation land, Council Reserve and Stella Evered Reserve Land. It will have significant economic benefits to the wider Coromandel. The official name for the overall route, when it is fully complete, will be "Te Ara O Hei," which means "The Path of Hei." This references Hei, their first ancestor who came to New Zealand on the Te Arawa canoe and settled at Hahei.

The concept

In 2012 our Council commissioned an independent report investigating the viability and economic impact of a walkway from Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove and on to the Purangi River. This was undertaken by two of the country's top tourism marketing specialists from Miles Marketing Destinations and TRC Tourism NZ.

Their summary statement predicts 55,000 visitors generating up to $18M by the third year of operation. The report also covers the impact of parking, shuttles, business opportunities and the health and social benefits and trends of short and medium day walks.

The route

Te Ara O Hei will be built in stages.

Stage 1A and 1B  is approximately 10km in length between the iconic "Blowhole," at Te Pupuha Recreation Reserve at Hahei through to the Purangi Estuary at Cooks Beach. It takes in Public Conservation Land (DOC), Council reserve and Stella Evered Reserve Land. Getting from the Blowhole through to Cathedral Cove Hot Water Beach also remains a priority.

Proposed walking route for Stage 1A and 1B.

Great Walks Project Map June 2016
(Click on the map to open a larger version.)

Preliminary survey work revealed the ideal route of walking around the coastline and cliffs from Hot Water Beach to Hahei was unworkable. At three pinch points the 'Queens Chain' does not exist as it has fallen away into the water.

We had the surveys done early as we needed to know for sure if we could or could not gain access around the coastline. Now that we know we can't we will continue discussions with the private land owners over gaining access through their properties  Until these discussions are completed and easements have been agreed to there is little we can do at that section of the walk.


Works being planned

We are proposing Te Ara O Hei be built in stages which will require four consents.The four consents proposed are:

  • Stage 1A. From the Hahei Village Entrance car park at Pa Road to the Blowhole site. At this stage we are proposing this consent would be limited notified to directly affected parties.
  • A Lees Road car park, proposed kiosk and associated works, including the central track. Given the high public interest, it is proposed that this consent application would be publicly notified.
  • Stage 1B, the western track and the walking track along Lees Road through to Stellar Evered reserve to the Purangi estuary. We are proposing lodgement of this consent would be limited notified to directly affected parties.
  • Stage 1C, the track from Purangi to Ferry Landing. We are proposing at this stage this application would be non-notified

A draft traffic management report (see download at right-hand side of page) was completed in 2015.

Potential options for crossing the Purangi Estuary are being investigated. A low-tide option for crossing the Purangi Estuary currently exists and with a general track tidy up, appropriate safety warning, directional information and signage, we believe this could provide an interim feasible "wet feet" option for walkers while further stages for a more viable "dry feet"  crossing are under consideration. Council staff have been in discussions with residents and property owners closest to the Purangi Estuary and the Cooks Beach Residents and Ratepayers Association, to provide updates. To remove the perceived "dead end,  there are a number of other measures being implemented to help reduce any potential traffic issues beyond the proposed car park at Lees Road.  These measures include a Signage and Tourism Management Strategy, clearly highlighting access to the Cathedral Cove walkway and our walk which will go from Hot Water Beach through to Whitianga and then north. A high level options report can be downloaded on the right-hand side of this page.

Building consents have been lodged for the major viewing platform structures, which is on the coast both north and south of Hahei village. There is no intention of any construction starting at this time.


Ancillary work completed 

  • Coastal planting, at the Te Pupuha Recreation Reserve, Hahei. This was an opportunity to work with all the landowners to plant native coastal vegetation.
  • Construction of an old planned route through the Cathedral Cove Recreation Reserve to McHanns Bay. This newly built track brances off the existing Cathedral Cove Walk and is a loop return, with a viewing platform, which is the centrepiece of the loop and provides spectacular views down to McHann's Bay and across the wider Mercury Bay. Directional signs have been put in place and an early morning blessing was done by Joe Davis from Ngati Hei acknowledging that the area of land the track sits on (which is under Ngati Hei's kaitiakitanga), is now open to the public..
  • Improvements to the Stella Evered Memorial Park.This is a private reserve administered as a publicly accessible natural, cultural and historic reserve. We're currently working with the park Trustees and administrators on fencing, tree removal and landscaping.
  • Improvements to the existing track leading up to the Te Pare Pa and Hereheretaura Pa at Hahei. Ngati Hei are exploring options for funding cultural interpretation promoting the rich cultural and historical features and significance of the area.  

Car parking issues around Hahei/Cathedral Cove.

The Hahei VIsitor Entrance car park has capacity for more than 100 car parks. The car park operates a park and ride system over peak summer so people can park and be shuttled up to Grange Rd, which is a main feeder into the already well-established Cathedral Cove Walk. 

Our Council has signed an agreement with DOC to manage the Grange Rd car park which is feeds into the existing walkway to Cathedral Cove

You can find out more about parking and shuttle services around Hahei here.

Meanwhile an agreement was signed by a private landowner and Council for land on Lees Rd that is being proposed for a car park on the route of Te Ara O Hei Council endorsed the agreement in May 2016 meeting. The report was in public excluded as the contract for the car park is commercially sensitive

The car park could be a major key to the project, taking congestion away from Cathedral Cove and promoting the link towards Whitianga.


In 2015 Council endorsed a Project Board Governance Model for the Walks project to cover the District made up of 2 Council representatives (Mayor and 1 other) 1 DOC representative and 1 tangata whenua representative.

At a simple level the Walks Project Board can make decisions on Council's behalf as the project progresses, and will report back to Council at key milestones for the project, This fosters a flexible and creative environment to progress projects within time frames, but provides Council with the ability to approve major project variances,

Meanwhile other stakeholders have the ability to engage with either directly through Council or the Project Board.

The individual representatives may, and will, change as different Walks are established around the Coromandel. Critically, community groups will be contacted early to ensure appropriate representation from the community and for their input at the beginning of any new Walk as it moves around the district.

We also want to pay tribute to Peter Johnston Snr who passed away in 2014. As well as being an integral part of the development of this Proposed Cathedral Coast Walkway, he helped with the establishment of Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve, led by example and was a man many in the community looked up to.


The total cost for the construction of the walk is $4.77M. Our Council has allocated $2.5M, DOC is contributing $450,000. We received $1M from the Lotteries Significant Project Fund and $330K from Trust Waikato.

Giblin Group, a consultancy specialising in major project funding has been working on a revenue generation strategy. This includes scoping out government investment, sponsorships and grants which will help pay towards the walk. We have funding applications in with Central Government and Trust Waikato.As important as external funding is, we are also need the support and buy-in from our communities.

It has taken 35 years and many attempts by many groups to build a connecting walk between these two iconic sites and beyond, all have failed for one reason or another. This walk has so much potential to increase visitor numbers and create business growth and job opportunities for our local communities. We will also be able to promote and preserve the environment and showcase what is so beautiful about the Coromandel.