Introduction

The 1,404 ha Tapuae Marine Reserve is on the rugged Taranaki coast close to New Plymouth and adjoins the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area. It hosts a diverse and flourishing range of sea life.

Highlights

Tapuae Marine Reserve borders Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area. Be aware that the rules of these adjoining areas differ: 

  • you can't fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve
  • some forms of fishing are permitted within the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area.

Place overview

Activities

  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Marine reserves
    Protect our marine reserves

    They are special places that protect the species and habitats within them.

    • No fishing of any kind
    • Don't take or kill marine life
    • Don't remove or disturb any marine life or materials
    • Don't feed fish - it disturbs their natural behaviour
    • Take care when anchoring to avoid damaging the sea floor
    • Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) to report any illegal activity

In this section

Find things to do Tapuae Marine Reserve

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Boating

For charter services or kayak tours and hire, contact the New Plymouth i-SITE. Access the boat ramp from Ocean View Parade, New Plymouth.

Kayakers and boaties should be aware that the seas in this reserve can be quite wild. You should always check with Coastguard for weather and sea conditions. Coastguard operates on VHF Ch61.

You can't fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve.

Diving and snorkelling

The best time of year to dive is January to April and there is plenty to explore amongst the rocks and canyons of the northern reserve.

On a calm day there are snorkelling opportunities off the beach at the Tapuae stream end.

You can't fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve.

Back Beach.
Back Beach, a popular surfing spot

Surfing

Back Beach, in the northern part of the reserve, is a popular surfing spot. It faces southwest and works 1 to 3.5 metre swells with breaks along a sandy beach front.

The various sandbars and gutters form good beach break waves. It works on north easterly winds and mid to high tides. You can park in the car park next to the Herekawe Stream.

Walking

You can walk the length of the reserve from the Herekawe Stream to the Tapuae Stream. (6 km / 2 hours). The beach is only accessible at low tide so check the tide times before you go. For your own safety you need to reach the other end of the beach no later than 2 hours after low tide. We recommend you leave a vehicle at the opposite end or arrange for someone to pick you up.

Good views of Tapuae Marine Reserve and the Sugar Loaf Islands can be gained from several lookouts along New Plymouth’s Centennial Drive. Centennial Park car park, immediately south of Paritutu Rock, offers the best views.

Wildlife watching

You’ll see New Zealand fur seals/kekeno on and around the islands - pups are born in the summer. Kekeno spend a lot of time on land in their rocky rest areas called haul outs. The males are bigger and more heavily muscled than the females and you may see the dominant bulls defending their territory by glaring, posturing and even fighting.

Remember seals are wild animals and will defend their territory aggressively. Enjoy them from a distance, at least 20 m away.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Jewel anemone.
    Jewel anemone

    The remains of an ancient volcano sit at the northern end of Tapuae Marine Reserve, visible as a series of islands and rocks (their steep sides continue deep down beneath the water). The waters here cover a craggy labyrinth of pinnacles, canyons and caves.

    Their shelter provides a habitat for around 400 species of fish (especially around Seal Rock). These landforms are also encrusted with the usual reef species of sponges and shellfish, and colonies of bryozoans – tiny animals that build skeletons resembling coral.  

    The southern part of the reserve is typical of the wild Taranaki coast – reef, mud and sand below, and black sand beaches above. About a third of the area is rocky reef, mostly cobble and boulder platforms. These scattered reefs shelter many species of marine animals and plants.

    Visitors may see New Zealand fur seals, as well as humpback, pilot and southern right whales, and orcas.

    Getting there

    The reserve can be accessed by boat from the New Plymouth boat ramp on Ocean View Parade.

    Know before you go

    Tapuae Marine Reserve borders Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area. Be aware that the rules of these adjoining areas differ: 

    • you can't fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve
    • some forms of fishing are permitted within the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area.

    View map and boundaries for Tapuae Marine Reserve.

    Marine reserve rules

    Marine reserves are no-take areas. You may not remove any animal or natural form. That means no fishing of any kind, no shellfish gathering, and no removal of rocks, shells, driftwood or plants.

    Information signs marked 'Marine Reserve' are posted at clearly visible locations at the New Plymouth boat ramp and at all major access points along the coastline near the marine reserve.

    GPS descriptions are given for the seaward boundaries and pamphlets are freely available in many locations to further inform the public about the reserve.

    Surveillance and enforcement of the reserve is carried out by DOC. Warranted officers undertake regular patrols and are assisted by Honorary Rangers, from the community, appointed under the Marine Reserves Act.

    However, you can help too. Report offences to DOC on +64 6 759 0350 (office hours), or 0800 DOC HOT (after hours).

    Central area (lower half of the North Island) fishing rules 

    Check fishing rules in the area before you go fishing.  You need to check for: 

    • the set net ban in Taranaki
    • closed and restricted fishing areas
    • temporary closures
    • other set net restrictions
    • food safety closures.

    Be prepared

    You should always check with Coastguard for weather and sea conditions. Coastguard operates on VHF Ch61.

    Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.

    Contacts

    Ngāmotu / New Plymouth Office
    Phone:   +64 6 759 0350
    Email:   newplymouth@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   55A Rimu Street
    New Plymouth 4312
    Full office details
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