Cape Rodney to Okakari Marine Reserve
New Zealand’s first marine reserve, better known as Goat Island was created in 1975 and officially opened in 1977. It covers 518 hectares of coastal sea between Cape Rodney and Okakari Point.
It will take you a little over an hour to get here but the drive will be worth it! Make sure you go when there is less than one metre swell on the east coast and no wind or offshore wind from the southwest. Visibility underwater is best during late summer when water is also warmest. After heavy rain, easterly swells and onshore winds visibility is usually reduced.
Facilities near the beach include toilets, changing rooms, cold shower, information kiosk and 5-minute loading zone. Shops and cafes are in nearby Leigh and there is a variety of accommodation options, including Albert St B&B. For further information see www.leighbythesea.co.nz or pick up a brochure at the Leigh General Store post centre.
The Leigh coast has long been inhabited by Maori. The bay was known as Whakatuwhenua and the island as Motu Hawere. The coast was a prolific fish, shellfish and crayfish gathering area for local Maori.
In the 1940s large snapper were caught from the beach, and crayfish collected from rock pools by locals. Locals also removed large amounts of kelp that washed onto the beach after storms to use for fertilisers. By the 1950s and 1960s the marine life had been reduced due to fishing and collecting.
Red crab and triplefin
Since becoming a marine reserve, where everything is protected, thousands of visitors have come to just enjoy seeing the prolifc marine life. A marine laboratory was established by the University of Auckland to the east of the beach in 1964. Staff at the university had the idea of creating a protected piece of coast so that their studies of marine life would not be affected.
The marine reserve is ideal for children and others to experience snorkelling and see marine life in numbers not seen anywhere else on the coast.
Goat Island Marine Reserve (officially Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve) is found at the far end of Goat Island Road, which is 5 minutes past the town centre of Leigh on the way to Pakiri.
Leigh is approximately 90kms north of Auckland, off State Highway 1 at Warkworth.