Tonga Island Marine Reserve: Places to go in Nelson/Tasman

Kayaking in Tonga Island Marine Reserve
Image: Kelly Herkert ©


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
  • 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 Tonga Island Marine Reserve


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.

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    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. 

    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 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.


    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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