Where to Snorkel in New Zealand?

By Kim R – (Washington DC)
I wonder if anyone can tell me where to snorkel in New Zealand. I’m looking for easy-to-access places. I’m as sleek as a seal in the water, and as ungainly on land, so I can’t hike down a hillside or scramble over boulders to reach the snorkeling spot. Any suggestions?

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Anonymous – Mar 4, 2017 – New Zealand

The climate is opposite from the northern hemisphere. We were there in February and there is nothing tropical that far from the equator. We took a sailboat out for a day charter in the Bay of Islands. I went in the water for a swim and it was COLD.

Sue from New Zealand – Mar 5, 2017 – Great Snorkeling in New Zealand

Hi Kim, here are my suggestions for where to snorkel in New Zealand.

There is very good snorkeling at Goat Island near Leigh which I believe was the first marine reserve in NZ. I’ve snorkeled it over 20 times but not for a few years. It is about an hour and a quarter north of Auckland. You will need a car to get there. Go early on the weekend to get a parking spot. Otherwise you should be OK. If it has rained in past five days, it won’t be very good, run off makes it cloudy.

You will need to wear a full wetsuit. You can hire one for I think around $20.00 a day from local shops.

There are two sets of about 10 stairs each and access is pretty easy. The tide going out is not an easy swim back in, so if you can have a look at the tides it will be a nicer snorkel.

You will be rewarded with some huge old snapper, possibly rays, piperfish, possibly maomao, goatfish, maybe a Blue Cod, Red Moki and lots of other NZ species.

There is a swim/snorkel operation where you swim with wild rays I think in Gisborne. It is in pretty shallow water so you could check that out.

There are boats that go out in the Coromandel for snorkeling in Whitianga. I haven’t done this myself as the weather packed in last year when I was booked. But could be really good.

And Poor Knights, near Tukutuku in Northland. You need to go on a boat as it is about 20 kms from the mainland, so various operators there. I think it is about three hours from Auckland. I haven’t done it myself but the write ups and photos are choice. You’ll see NZ fish and also some sub-tropical and tropical species as well in the summer.

Winter you need a wetsuit maybe summer too – winter has even much better visibility.

I hope this is useful.

Ray R (NZ) – Mar 5, 2017 – Snorkeling in New Zealand

I agree with the first post, depending on the time of year water will vary from chilly to cold!!

The prime easy access spot is Goat Island. I was there once and it was quite nice, although of course not tropical fish. Look up Goat Island Dive and Snorkel for an idea of what to expect with a video.

There are a few more places and that you can find on the internet but most involve trips to the islands. I have heard at Whangamata Harbour you can often snorkel with stingrays but haven’t done it myself.

Hope this helps.

Tangata Whenua (NZ) – May 4, 2018 – Snorkel Tips for New Zealand

Kia ora, I am lucky to live in a remote part of the real far north of NZ, right by a beach, and I snorkel all year round, taking lots of photos 🙂

Yes, the water here is cold! I wear a 5mm, two piece wetsuit with hood, gloves and socks all the time, even in summer. This of course allows me about 4-6 hours in the water and in winter about 2-4 hours.

There are a lot of great snorkeling places around NZ, but a lot of them involve rock scrambling or cliff climbing. But if you base yourself in Leigh, about an hour north of Auckland, you can go to Goat Island as it is a good place and has easy access. But snorkeling there is dependent on the winds.

If the winds are in the wrong direction then go to Mathesons Bay, which has very easy beach access – just a walk across a grass area and then you are on the beach.

In the same area you can also snorkel the Whangateau Harbour. Enter at the Whangateau reserve (again a grass area by the harbour) then go up the harbour and float back down to your exit point.

I stayed a few nights in February 2017 in Leigh at the B&B run by Tony and Jenny Enderby. They are avid marine photographers and authors of marine books for NZ and know their area well. I got in two snorkels a day as well as one the day I arrived as I worked my arrival time in relation to the tides 🙂

Another place that is good, although I have not been there yet, is the Poor Knights but you would have to do a boat trip out, but they do run snorkel boat trips. Naturally they take you to great places to snorkel, wind dependent 🙂

1 Comment

  1. I agree with everything that was said above. Poor Knights and Goat Island are great spots and in summer not that cold.

    However there is another – one of Wellington’s best kept secrets is on its southern shore – the Taputeranga Marine Reserve at Island Bay and surrounds. Here are three websites with information about the reserve:
    Department of Conservation
    Island Bay Marine Education Centre
    Friends of Taputeranga

    While the water isn’t exactly tropical, once you get in you are rewarded with an abundance of scenery and aquatic live that shows what our oceans used to look like before we started robbing the seas. Highly recommended!


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