Tonga Island Marine Reserve
Located in the Nelson/Tasman region
IntroductionEnjoy swimming and snorkelling in the Abel Tasman National Park. It is renowned for its golden sand beaches, intimate coves, and excellent summer weather.
Find things to do and places to stay Tonga Island Marine Reserve
The best snorkelling is among the rocks between Tonga Quarry and Foul Point.
Diving is most rewarding on the reefs around Tonga Island or in the north of the reserve.
Kayaking, rock-pooling and picnicking around the golden sandy coves at Tonga Island Marine Reserve is an idyllic way to spend a day.
The Abel Tasman coast is well served by bus, boat and kayaking companies.
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.
- Before you board the boat or start the Abel Tasman Coast Track check for pests, such as mice, rats, non-native ants and weeds.
- Keep your distance from seals (at least 20 m) – they can move fast and bite.
- No fishing or shellfish gathering from either boat or shore.
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.