This 1,800 ha marine reserve encloses a typical slice of the north Taranaki coastline, as well as the possibly unique sponge gardens of Pariokariwa reef.

The diversity of species encrusting the reef is amongst the highest recorded anywhere in New Zealand and ranks highly internationally.

Place overview


  • Diving and snorkelling
  • 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 Parininihi Marine Reserve


Diving and snorkelling

Diving is allowed within the reserve, and the sponge gardens are well worth a look. However sea conditions are often rough and there can be very poor visibility. The best time of year to dive is January to April.


A good view of the reserve area can be gained from the cliffs above the reserve on the Whitecliffs Walkway.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    The main underwater feature of Parininihi Marine Reserve is Pariokariwa Reef. This extends north from Pariokariwa Point towards the reserve’s seaward boundary, and is surrounded by fine sediment and mud. 

    Most of the reef lies in the south west of the reserve at between 5 to 23 m depth. Submerged parts of the reef rise up to 9 m from the seafloor, and form a network of small caves, over-hangs, canyons and pinnacles. These are encrusted with large bryozoan (Celleporaria agglutinans) colonies, and a diverse, colourful assemblage of sponges, as well as hydroids, anemones and soft corals. 

    At high tide the sea reaches the base of the spectacular, 245 m high cliffs (Whitecliffs /Parininihi) that stretch between Pariokariwa Point and Katikatiaka Pa. These cliffs form short headlands and small bays, with black sand beaches dotted with boulders at their base. Small reefs surrounded by gravel occur offshore. Sand flats are the dominant habitat type between depths of 20 to 30 m.

    it is home to a variety of fish species, large rock lobster populations and a colourful tangle of rare and exotic sponges that spread across the reefs of the area.

    History and culture

    In pre-European times this area was known to Ngati Tama as a rich fishing ground, and several areas were excluded from the marine reserve to allow for customary as well as recreational fishing.

    Getting there

    The reserve can be accessed by boat from the Tongapurutu River, Urenui River, Waitara River (bar crossings), or by travelling one hour north from the New Plymouth boat ramp. There are no charter boats servicing this area.

    Road access to the area is via Pukearuhe Road, north of Urenui.

    Know before you go

    It's illegal to take anything from a marine reserve, including fish, shellfish, lobster, rocks, shells, driftwood or any other natural feature, plant or animal.

    You should always check with Coastguard for weather and sea conditions. Coastguard operates on VHF Ch61.


    Ngāmotu / New Plymouth Office
    Phone:   +64 6 759 0350
    Address:   55A Rimu Street
    New Plymouth 4312
    Full office details
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