Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve beach
Image: Jamie Quirk | DOC


This is a special marine reserve as it's home to eight different marine habitats including inshore reef, rocky intertidal platforms and sediment flats.


Snorkelers can explore the rocks close to the shore. Divers will see a variety of seaweeds, kina, marine snails, sponges and many other marine animals.


Place overview


  • 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 Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve


Diving and snorkelling

At low tide, deep channels and pools are exposed in the reef, which are ideal for snorkelling. It’s a wonderful place to wander over and explore the rock pools, where you will see anemones, small fish and the large crayfish for which the area is renowned.

Underwater visibility can be low, but if you strike a calm day the deep channel running through the reef is a good place for scuba divers or snorkelers to see species such as blue moki and crayfish.

During the incoming and outgoing tide, there can sometimes be a current in the channel draining the reef platform. If you plan to snorkel or scuba dive in the channel, check the tide times beforehand and plan your dive accordingly.


Enjoy a beach walk to the northern end of the marine reserve – it takes around 1 hour 30 min. You will see remnants of the old coach road along the beach, and the remains of the pa (village) on the cliffs above. You will also get a great view of Whangara Island/Te Ana o Paikea.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    The subtidal area of the reserve contains several distinct habitats. Down to about 10 metres in depth, a variety of seaweeds such as flapjack and kelp can be found and kina, marine snails, sponges and other animals are common. Fish species include spotties (paketi), banded wrasse (tangahangaha), red moki (nanua), hiwihiwi, butterfish (greenbone, marari), marblefish (kehe) and parore.

    You may see hundreds of tiny crayfish in the crevices and overhangs, depending on the time of year. At between 10 and 20 metres depth, there are extensive kelp forests, which are home to many different fish species, such as scarlet wrasse (puwaiwhakarua), scorpionfish, sweep (hui) and leatherjackets (kokiri). Sponges, hydroids, anemones, soft corals and sea squirts thrive on the rock faces and overhangs.

    History and culture

    Getting there

    Te Tapuwae o Rongokako marine reserve is on the east coast of the North Island, approximately 16 km north of Gisborne.

    You can get to the reserve from SH35, public access at Pouawa.

    Know before you go

    Be aware of private land. The beach above the strand line of the seaweed is private land. The pa and farmland are private property and there is no public access.

    Don't take, disturb, kill or damage anything within the reserve - it's illegal. If you see people taking anything from the reserve, report the activity to DOC as soon as possible. You can call 0800 4 POACHER (0800 476 224) or 0800 DOCHOT (0800 362 468). It is also an offence to pollute or litter the reserve, discharge any firearm in or into the reserve or erect any structure in the reserve.

    Low tide is best for beach-walking and also for snorkelling or shore-diving, as the reef platform can be almost completely cut off from the open sea at low tide, creating a shallow and sheltered area for entering the water and for exploring the rocky shore.

    Weather and sea conditions can change rapidly - be prepared by checking the local tide tables and the weather forecast.


    Turanganui-a-Kiwa / Gisborne Office
    Phone:   +64 6 869 0460
    Email:   gisborne@doc.govt.nz
    Address:   63 Carnarvon Street
    Gisborne 4010
    Full office details
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