Visit Captain Cook's anchorage and enjoy the thriving native birdlife on pest-free Moturua Island in central Bay of Islands.


Beautiful bays and picturesque beaches provide plenty of opportunities for swimming and picnicking. Alternatively, you may simply want to relax and enjoy the views especially from Hikurangi pa.  

Place overview


  • Walking and tramping

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Moturua Island Scenic Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation


Moturua Island is a scenic reserve with rapidly regenerating native forest. The dominant vegetation is manuka and kanuka which creates an ideal nursery for young shrubs and tree ferns. Young pohutukawa thrive along the coastal fringe.


Pause a moment, look and listen. You may be lucky enough to see and hear the North Island robin/toutouwai, North Island saddleback/tīeke, whitehead/pōpokotea and red-crowned parakeet/kākāriki. They share Moturua with fantails, silver eyes, finches, sparrows, tuis, blackbirds and thrushes who enjoy the sheltered, lush habitat.

There are also some special threatened species who roam the island. New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu can be seen and heard on the beaches, having been reintroduced to the island after becoming regionally extinct. In the bushes, you may even catch a glimpse of a North Island brown kiwi as it rushes past. 

DOC's work

History and culture

The island has had a long association with humans from the earliest Polynesian settlers through to the early European explorers such as Cook and du Fresne.

More recent features include a Mine Control Station built during World War II.

Māori settlement

The island currently has 27 recorded archaeological sites (Central Index of New Zealand Archeological Sites, CINZAS) including headland pa, midden (food refuse), gardening sites, terraces, and pits. The density of archaeological remains indicates that prehistoric Māori thrived in this island environment. Very early midden is recorded on this island, one even containing moa bone, indicating the presence of some of New Zealand’s earliest settlers.

European explorers visited the island

Early explorer Captain Cook anchored off Moturua in 1769 and traded with Māori for food.

Three years later, French explorer Marion Du Fresne and his crew set up temporary camp on the island for three months in Wai-iti and Waipao Bay. As indicated in the “Plan Du Port Marion” of the Bay of Islands, the French set up a hospital, forge (iron working), a small tent for the officers and quarters for the guards located near a little stream (Lee 1983:20).

Due to various occurrences, relations soured as Du Fresne and some of his crew were attacked while they were fishing in Te Kuri’s cove in Manawara Bay.

The French retaliated, and Paeroa pa was sacked and burnt to the ground. It is estimated that 250 Māori warriors were killed during the battle.

A week later, the remaining French sailed out of the bay and left a claim to the land in a bottle that was buried next to the little stream in Waipao Bay.

Although the French destroyed Paeroa pa they did however map it in great detail, and this remains one of the best examples of an early post contact pa (Groube 1964).

The Navy occupied Moturua in World War II

The Navy operated a mine control station in Army Bay of Moturua in World War II as part of the coastal defence strategy for the Bay of Islands.

The remains of these structures are a mine observation post built on top of Hikurangi pa, concrete pads for the ablution blocks and barracks on the back beach flats. 

As you walk up the track to the pa there are below ground structures represented by square concrete platforms with entry hatches these were the radio rooms and ancillary room (Salmond and Reed Architects, 2004). 


Lee, J. 1983. I have named it the Bay of Islands. Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. Auckland, New Zealand.

Ross, R., 1946.  New Zealand’s first capital. Department of Internal Affairs. Wellington, New Zealand.

Groube, L. Archaeology in the Bay of Islands 1964-65. Anthropology Department, University of Otago. 

Salmond and Reed Architects, 2004. Defence building structures Moturua Island, Bay of Islands, Northland. For the Department of Conservation.

Getting there

Moturua Island Scenic Reserve is situated in the central Bay of Islands. 

The four main bays, Otupoho, Waipao, Mangahawea and Waiwhapuku all offer safe anchorage for visitors.

This stunning island has four lovely beaches and an easy walking track around the island. You can access the archaeological sites from the track.

Know before you go

The reserve is part of the Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park.

  • Walks in this area can include sections near steep cliffs. Supervise children when near cliffs and keep on the track at all times.
  • Bay of Islands Maritime and Historic Park bylaws apply.
  • Rubbish is not collected – take your rubbish with you. There may be rubbish facilities during summer.
  • Camping in the Bay of Islands is only available on Urupukapuka Island.


Pewhairangi / Bay of Islands Office
Phone:   +64 9 407 0300
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   34 Landing Road
Kerikeri 0230
Postal Address:   PO Box 128
Kerikeri 0245
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