School children at a guided snorkel day at Motukaroro, Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve
Image: Samara Nicolas | ©



The marine environment in the Whangārei Harbour is of distinctive quality, and two marine areas are set aside for protection around Motukaroro (Passage) Island and at Waikaraka.

For boundaries, tide and other information download the MarineMate app.

Find things to do and places to stay Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve

The Waikaraka area is notable for its birdlife. It is home to about 10,000 migratory waders, some of them very rare, and many rare New Zealand birds too, such as dotterels, reef herons, fern birds and marsh crakes.

This reserve area is a good spot for diving, with both shallow reefs and a deepwater channel to explore. You will see around fifty species of fish, dense kelp forest, anemones and sponge gardens.

Be careful when entering the water – there are strong tidal currents and back eddies around Motukaroro Island. Less experienced divers should take a guided tour.

The Waikaraka area is almost entirely mangrove forest. Kayakers will enjoy exploring, but be sure to go during high tide or you might get stuck and have a squelchy walk back to open water.

Protect our marine reserves
  • 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.
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