Paddle boarding in Te Matuku Marine Reserve
Image: Ross Adventures, Waiheke ©

Introduction

Te Matuku Marine Reserve protects one of Waiheke Island's largest and least disturbed estuaries, along with an area outside Te Matuku Bay in the Waiheke Channel. 

Highlights

Within Te Matuku Bay, the most rewarding activities are above the water. It's a great place for bird watching, kayaking or paddle boarding, because the water itself is shallow and muddy. A few bays are suitable for swimming.

Place overview

Activities

  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
  • 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
    • Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) to report any illegal activity

Find things to do Te Matuku Marine Reserve

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Bird and wildlife watching

Te Matuku Bay is home to a variety of birdlife, including the New Zealand dotterel. Do not approach nesting birds.

Kayaking

Kayak rentals are available on the island.

Swimming and snorkelling

For those who like to get into the sea, there is good swimming (and beaches) within the reserve at White’s Bay and Otakawhe Bay. A varied seabed and clear water makes Otakawhe Bay fun for snorkelling, but beware of strong currents in Waiheke Channel.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    This marine reserve consists of saltmarsh, mangroves, small longshore spits, tidal creek habitats and extensive intertidal flats, and represents a rare continuity of conservation from freshwater to briny.

    Bird watching from a kayak.
    Te Matuku is a great place to bird watch while kayaking

    Te Matuku Bay almost dries at low tide exposing extensive sand and mudflats. These mudflats provide rich pickings of sea snails, cockles, crabs and worms for wading birds at low tide. As the tide rises, juvenile flounder and mullet move in to feed on this abundant invertebrate life.

    A notable feature of the reserve are the spiny tubeworm (Pomatoceros caeruleus) colonies dotted over the intertidal flats. This species used to be abundant in the inner Waitemata Harbour but is now rare there.

    Three small shell spits on the eastern side of Te Matuku Bay are roosting and nesting areas for native and migrant shorebirds. The bay is named after the now-rare Matuku - Australasian bittern – and these can sometimes be seen in the adjoining scenic reserve wetland.

    Offshore, fine muds extend out into Tamaki Strait and around Passage Rock. The greatest depths in the reserve occur off Otakawhe Bay at the entrance to Waiheke Channel. Here strong tidal currents expose patches of shell that are colonised by sponges, anemones and soft corals. Juvenile snapper and trevally are abundant around the reefs. Rig (spotted dogfish) and flatfish are common in Te Matuku Bay.

    See Monitoring at Te Matuku Marine Reserve.

    History and culture

    The area is of historic interest, having been settled since pre-European times (Ngati Paoa), and there is a colonial settler cemetery above the bay.

    There is a small oyster farm within the deeper waters of the reserve - this is technically not a part of the reserve, as it was a pre-existing business when the marine reserve was established.

    Getting there

    The reserve is located at the far south-east corner of Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. It extends into Tamaki Strait and can be accessed by land and sea.

    By land, access is best by car - there is no public transport on this part of Waiheke Island. The drive to the reserve takes about 25 minutes from Kennedy Point (the vehicle ferry wharf) via Orapiu Road, which skirts around Te Matuku Bay.

    Once in the Orapiu area, take Anzac Road which joins Nepean Ave and leads down to Otakawhe Bay where there is parking available. Note that nearby Hunterville Road begins at Orapiu Wharf and ends at Otakawhe Bay. It is more like a gravel walking track than a road. 360 Discovery run a ferry service from Auckland city to Orapui Wharf on it's way to the Coromandel.

    Otakawhe Bay is the eastern-most beach of the marine reserve. With easy access from the road it is the perfect place to launch kayaks, although be aware of the tidal currents that effect this bay.

    Location map of Te Matuku Marine Reserve.
    Location map of Te Matuku Marine Reserve

    Know before you go

    • Dogs are not allowed in the marine reserve.
    • Avoid walking over the mud flats as this disturbs the flats and damages marine life.
    • Take care not to crush the tubeworm colonies, these can be relatively easy to overlook and can appear dead when exposed at low water.
    • There are large beds of Pacific oyster around the shoreline and the shells are very sharp.
    • Do not approach the endangered New Zealand dotterel that breed on the shell spits.

    Fishing is prohibited

    Fishing of any kind is prohibited in a marine reserve, as is the taking or disturbing of any marine life, including seaweeds or shellfish. It is also an offence to take any natural form - this includes shells, rocks, wood or plants, or any part of the seafloor.

    Information for boaties

    Navigation within the reserve is not restricted. Passage Rock is an important navigation aid and boats commonly pass between it and Te Matuku Bay through the marine reserve.

    Care should be taken to avoid damaging marine life by dragging anchors.

    Boaties should not allow their boats to rest on the tidal flats at low tide as this can damage fragile intertidal species, particularly the tubeworm colonies.

    Plan around tides

    If exploring the bay and estuary, note that Te Matuku Bay is tidal and care must be taken to plan around the tides as areas dry out at low water. Mud towards the head of the bay is very soft and you can sink up to your waist in it.

    Swimming

    Otakawhe Bay, Orapiu - accessible by vehicle. Be aware of the tidal currents that effect this bay.
    Pearl Bay - a pleasant walk over the hill from Otakahwe Bay. Good at high tide.
    Whites Bay - only accessible by boat.

    Maps and boundaries

    The boundaries of the Te Matuku Marine Reserve are marked with yellow, land-based triangular markers and floating yellow buoys. Boundaries are also marked on all recent maritime charts and GPS. Make sure you are aware of the boundaries of this marine reser if planning to fish outside it.

    Map of marine reserve boundaries.
    Map of Te Matuku Marine Reserve showing its boundaries

    Boundary marker on land.
    A land-based boundary marker

    A B. C. D. Waiheke Island. Omaru Bay. Awaawaroa Bay. Te Matuku Bay. Passage Rock. Kauri Point. Pearl Bay. Waiheke Channel. Marine Farm. Whites Bay. Sandy Bay. Orapiu Bay. Ponui Island. Otakawhe Bay.

    Marine reserve boundary GPS points (WGS 84)
    1. 36° 50' 48.91" S, 175° 06' 44.29" E
    2. 36° 51' 43.34" S, 175° 07' 23.54" E
    3. 36° 51' 43.01" S, 175° 09' 09.47" E
    4. 36° 50' 54.46" S, 175° 08' 37.86" E

    Total fire ban on Hauraki Gulf islands

    There is a total fire ban on islands in the Hauraki Gulf. The exceptions are Waiheke, Great Barrier, Kawau and Rakino, if you have a permit. Check the Auckland Council website.

    Contacts

    Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland Visitor Information
    Phone:   +64 9 379 6476
    Address:  
    Email:   aucklandvc@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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