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“A bit of a gut buster, but well worth it”

Cathedral Caves Walk
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: <1 hour
Owner description: Always check the website for changes that might affect your trip.
Reviewed January 4, 2014

We parked our car, paid our fee and started the descent to the beach. It seemed to go for a long time, but in reality was only about 20 minutes. Then out onto the wild southern sandy beach for a trek across the sand to the most amazing caves I have seen in a long time. They are big and long and echoy and everything a cave should be. Then for the hike back this time up the hill. This took somewhat longer than 20 minutes and as I consider myself of average fitness and was carrying the baby on my back would suggest that the majority of people could do this walk.

1  Thank Tania S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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"low tide"
in 51 reviews
"car park"
in 17 reviews
"check tide times"
in 6 reviews
"gravel road"
in 5 reviews
"whistling frog"
in 4 reviews
"lovely walk"
in 3 reviews
"beautiful forest"
in 2 reviews
"mother nature"
in 2 reviews
"worth the trip"
in 2 reviews
"great place to visit"
in 2 reviews
"opening times"
in 3 reviews
"challenging walk"
in 3 reviews
"min walk"
in 2 reviews
"average fitness"
in 3 reviews
"wearing shorts"
in 2 reviews
"per adult and per child"
in 2 reviews
"parking attendant"
in 2 reviews
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63 - 67 of 101 reviews

Reviewed January 2, 2014

To get here you drive several km along a private gravel road, for which a modest fee is charged, then tramp for 20 minutes down through the bush. The caves are another 5 to 10 minutes along the beach, and are only accessible around low tide. Frankly, I have seen caves just as good in Scotland for which I didn't have to pay, and which are easier to get to, though to be fair I went just as the tide was going down and if I had gone a little later I might have been able to get past the main caves and see if there is anything else of interest beyond. I don't think I would bother going back - as far as I am concerned the caves are not worth the time and effort needed to get there, and there are plenty other things to do in the area.

Thank Bean-astair
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 31, 2013

The advertising material states you need to arrive within two hours prior and after low tide. This is incorrect.You Must be there ONE hour after low tide if you want a chance to go. We arrived around one and half hours AFTER low tide, and were refused entry. Upon arrival you can not park until the person who is collecting the money from you, decides IF you are allowed to go and see the caves. She decided that it would take us too long to walk to see the caves and return. We disputed this. We are trampers and fit though not young. We explained and that we had travelled from Curio bay especially to see the caves since the tides were wrong enroute to Curio bay. In frustration we said that the advertising was wrong, and crap.. At this point, she got angry. Said it was up to her to decide who could go and no way were we going. She also went on and on about how we spoke to her. Obviously this person is on a power high and expects everyone to plead and be grateful. Incase you think we were cutting the time fine, there was a camper van in front of us. This group of young people were allowed to go. According to the notice board at the entrance we arrive over an hour prior to closing of the gate, and the drive only took us 8 mins approximately following a campervan.
NOTE the board by the entrance, has the time as two hours either side of the tide. Please explain?

Thank smithnz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 30, 2013

First of all, I would like to address some of the negative things mentioned by other reviewers:

- timing: you have to check with the information centre at Waikawa or Owaka (or perhaps drive past by the sign on the main road leading to e Cathedral Caves) to check for low tide times. And btw I havent been to the information centre at Owaka yet but the museum at Waikawa is interestingly nostalgic and the lady there is really lovely and helpful. Access to cathedral caves is usually restricted to an hour prior and after low tide times. I knew about all these because they are printed on every one of those flyers brochures or information booklets that i have picked up and also reminded by some innkeepers so i don't quite understand why anyone would complain about not knowing that they have to go at a specific time and being disappointed because they went at the wrong time. I've also seen the comments about not being able to get in even though they went within the stipulated 2 hour period. Here is what I think: After you drive the 3km gravel road to the car park and entrance point (where the attendant collect your $5 or $1(if you are a child or student)), there is a downhill walk of approximately 20 to 30 minutes to beach, and then you walk a little to find the cave entrances but you would want to wait a couple of minutes to make sure the waves are going out before attempting to get in the cave entrances, otherwise you will get very wet. And then you would definitely want at least 15 minutes or so looking at the caves and taking pictures before getting out (again, try to get out when the tides are going out) and then take another half hour uphill walk to return to the car park. We went there right before access open at 5:06 p.m. and we only returned to the car park at 6:45 p.m. Granted we were really enthusiastic about the caves and have spent longer than usual time in there but I reckon you would need at the veryleast an hour. So...if the information centre told you that access is from 5 to 7, you would probably want to be there before 6 otherwise the attendant may not allow you to go down... And I feel that they are right for every reason to do that. Even at low tide, the waves can still come in pretty strong sometimes and if you are not careful you,d be wet up till waist area. The rocks can be slippery so if you are not careful and slipped when the waves come in... Oh well as they told us, once you are down there on the beach, you are responsible for your own safety. Also I saw some kids and old folks and I myself don't know how to swim so I think it pays to be more careful about safety. I had my slippers swept away by the waves even though I had placed them on (what I thought were) high enough rocks... Of cos i wasnt stupid enough to try to go against the waves to catch them but Fortunately they were swept by the waves out and then back into the caves so I managed to recover them when the tides die down. Thought I had to walk back footed for half an hour uphill to return to the car park... Also, when we went there we had to wait a couple more minutes as the sign said "no access until attendant returns from checking track" and the attendant returned a couple minutes later than the designated time. But I think that was for good reason as she round us up and briefed us on the conditions of e caves which was, kind of more turbulent than usual and she warned us that we are almost certainly going to get wet before giving us some really useful advice on how to safely and most effortlessly get into the caves. And after taking her advice we went to our car to get changed into shorts and slippers which turned out to be really good idea (other than the part where I did not leave them on the beach and insisted on taking them into the caves and they got swept away by the waves lol)
.
- fees to access the private road: I don't know who the owner is and I think we can't control what he or she decides to charge and personally $5 seems a really good bargain to see the interesting caves plus some adventures (it was fun observing the tides and figuring out what is the mot opportunistic moment to get in and get out) especially since many other attractions charge a few times that price and aren't even as interesting. But in any case, if the money does all go to the land owner, then I wish to express my appreciation for the attendant who does the daily safety track check and all the people who work to maintain the access road plus providing daily tidal information... Since we aren't really paying them so they are either volunteers or getting paid by New Zealand resident tax payers and we as tourists are getting the benefits.

My personal opinion of the caves: they are fascinating and the beach is beautiful. May not be really magnificent stuff but it was worth seeing and I may be the only one but I really thought at the walk to get to the beach plus the battling with the tides was what made the whole experience really fun!

Finally, I personally would recommend that when you reach the beach you take off your shoes and roll up your trousers (or better still change into shorts regardless of temperature) cos you are more than likely going to get a bit wet... Below the knees if you can manage the timing of the waves or wet till the waist line if you like to be a bit more adventurous. And I recommend doing this even in cold weather... You'd rather be wet and cold for a bit and then change into something warm and dry afterwards than being wet and cold and having soaked shoes socks and trousers for the rest of the day. I had changed into sorts and slippers even before walking down but I find that it is probably better to keep your hiking shoes on to do the 30 minute forest walk you don't want to slip and fall downhill. Also I could have had my legs warmer for an extra half hour although that would have meant having to bring down my backpack and leaving the stuff on (the dryer part of) the beach while exploring the caves.

And second that comment on the toilet not being satisfactory. Try to avoid it if you can.

3  Thank tinywingz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 25, 2013 via mobile

Surly this spectacle of nature shouldn't have months of operation so the misses and I jumped the fence to walk the hour long trek up the road. We'd planned it for low tide so when we arrived we'd be able to look around the caves. It was no coincidence then that at the same time as low-tide a maintenance worker drove up the road and stated 'Cant you read the sign?' To which we replied we could but didn't understand why this beach and road were private when every other one in the area was free?! He then told us we couldn't walk any further so that was an hour walking up a wooded road for nothing, we didn't even see the beech! Next time we'll bring our $5 and come at a convienent time for nature. Don't bother giving it a go if the road is closed. They're waiting for and watching you. Won't be back in the summer, we'll keep the five bucks!

3  Thank MattSmith1982
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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