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
  • 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.

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Parininihi Marine Reserve

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
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   55A Rimu Street
New Plymouth 4312
Postal Address:   PO Box 462
New Plymouth 4340
Back to top