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Enjoy swimming and snorkelling in the Abel Tasman National Park. It is renowned for its golden sand beaches, intimate coves, and excellent summer weather.

Place overview


  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming

In this section

Find things to do Tonga Island Marine Reserve

    Guided activities

    Diving and snorkelling

    The best snorkelling is among the rocks between Tonga Quarry and Foul Point. Scuba diving is most rewarding on the reefs around Tonga Island or in the north of the reserve.

    Kayaking and canoeing

    Kayaking, rock-pooling and picnicking around the golden sandy coves at Tonga Island Marine Reserve is an idyllic way to spend a day.

    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Visitors can easily combine land and sea adventures in their holiday. There is also a New Zealand fur seal colony on Tonga Island. Keep your distance as human encounters may disturb seals natural habitat.

    Kayakers will often see little blue penguins along this coast and may occasionally be rewarded with an encounter with a pod of dolphins. 

    Monitoring: how marine reserve status has helped sea life

    Significant increases in the abundance and size of marine species in Tasman Bay marine reserves confirm their conservation benefits. Research shows that 20 years after the Tonga Island Marine Reserve was created, there are more than seven times as many crayfish and 40 times as many blue cod over 30 cm. Tonga Island Marine Reserve report  (PDF, 1,750K)

    View a factsheet on shags living in Abel Tasman National Park: A shag count in Abel Tasman National Park (PDF, 11,830K)

    Getting there

    Transport services

    The Abel Tasman coast is well served by bus, boat and kayaking companies. Find out how to book.

    Travelling by private boat

    The nearest boat ramp is at Totaranui, 5 km north of Awaroa Head. There are others at Tarakohe near Takaka, and at Kaiteriteri and Marahau in the south.

    Water users should be wary of unmarked reefs and tidal changes. Sea conditions are often calm in winter but stiff sea breezes occur daily in summer and there is little shelter to be found along rocky sections of the coastline during storms. 

    If this visit is part of your Great Walks experience, see Abel Tasman Coast Track for a map. 

    Before setting out, check the tide tables because it is only safe to cross Awaroa Inlet within one hour 30 minutes before low tide and two hours after. 

    From Awaroa Hut, head east to the mouth of Venture Creek and climb up to Tonga Saddle. From here there is an easy descent to Onetahuti Beach - your first contact with the marine reserve. Tonga Island lies directly offshore from here.

    Know before you go

    • Before you board the boat or start the Abel Tasman track check for pests, such as mice, rats, non-native ants and weeds.
    • Keep distance from seals (at least 20 m). Seals can move fast and can bite
    • No fishing or shellfish gathering from either boat or shore.


    Nelson Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
    Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
    79 Trafalgar Street
    Nelson 7010
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    Motueka Office
    Phone:   +64 3 528 1810
    Address:   Cnr King Edward & High Streets
    Motueka 7120
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