Yellow sponge at Horoirangi Marine Reserve
Image: Anna Barnett | Creative Commons


Horoirangi Marine Reserve lies north of Nelson city along the eastern side of Tasman Bay/Te Tai-o-Aorere. The reserve is a great place for walking, exploring the intertidal zone, snorkelling, diving, kayaking and boating.

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • 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 Horoirangi Marine Reserve


Exploring the marine reserve

The reserve is a great place for walking, exploring the intertidal zone, snorkelling, diving, kayaking and boating.

A climb up Cable Bay Walkway through the neighbouring farmland requires sturdy footwear and reasonable fitness, but will reward you with expansive views over Horoirangi and out across Tasman Bay/Te Tai-o-Aorere. Note the walkway is closed during the spring lambing season. No dogs are allowed at any time.

A walk along the Nelson Te Pokohiwi/Boulder Bank is also worth the effort, though be prepared for windy conditions and rough, ankle-testing rocks.

Bird watching

For bird watchers, variable oyster catchers and blue penguins nest along the rocky shoreline. Over winter, spotted shags roost on the rocky crags at Ataata Point.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    The bluffs overlooking Horoirangi Marine Reserve are more than a dramatic landscape, they are also the source of rocks for the rugged boulder reefs below. The reefs extend offshore up to 400 m and to a depth of around 20 m.

    The boulders on the upper shore, regularly moved by the waves, are mostly devoid of life. Lower down the reefs are much more stable, forming a matrix of interlocking boulders interspersed with occasional patches of bedrock.

    The reefs support a typical array of animals. Shellfish, anemones, sponges and sea squirts cling to the rocks; snails, starfish and crustaceans move secretively amongst the boulders, and various fish patrol above.

    Ambush starfish are unusually common in Horoirangi, and their colours provide a sharp contrast to the subdued hues of the rocks and most of the other reef species.

    Brown seaweeds form a dense forest between Mackay Bluff and the dramatic rocks at Ataata Point.

    Hermit crabs are common on the offshore sediments. Photo: Eric Simmons.
    Hermit crabs are common on the offshore sediments

    Getting there

    The southern end of the marine reserve at Glenduan is a short, 12 km drive from Nelson. From here you can walk along the reserve, but watch for the incoming tide and take care over the boulders, as they can be unstable and slippery. Kayaks can also be launched and retrieved, with care, across Te Pokohiwi/Boulder Bank.

    For larger boats, there are good launching facilities at Nelson and Mapua, before embarking on a 12 km boat trip north along the outer Boulder Bank. While out on the water, keep a wary eye on the weather and sea conditions; there is little shelter along this stretch of coast and stiff sea breezes regularly occur in summer.

    At the northern end of the marine reserve, and well worth the 21 km drive, is Rotokura/Cable Bay. Although you cannot reach the reserve from here on foot, kayaks and small boats can be launched from Cable Bay beach for a pleasant trip across to Ataata Point and into the northern sector of the reserve.

    Large yellow triangles onshore mark the northern and southern boundaries; offshore buoys mark the ends and the outermost corners of the reserve. Note these markers may not always be present due to operational requirements.

    Biscuit star. Photo: Eric Simmons.
    Biscuit star

    Boys looking in rock pools at Horoirangi Marine Reserve. Photo: Andrew Baxter.
    Boys looking in rock pools at Horoirangi Marine Reserve

    Know before you go

    Remember all animals, plants, and the sea bed are totally protected.

    • No fishing, netting, hand gathering, taking or killing of marine life
    • No polluting, disturbance or damage of marine life or the sea bed
    • No removal of any natural material from the marine reserve.


    Whakatū / 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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