Tapuae Marine Reserve
Located in the Taranaki region
IntroductionThe 1,404 ha Tapuae Marine Reserve is on the rugged Taranaki coast close to New Plymouth and adjoins the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area. It hosts a diverse and flourishing range of sea life.
The Tapuae Marine Reserve borders Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area and the rules of these adjoining areas differ. In Tapuae Marine Reserve, you can't fish or remove marine life or natural material. In Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area, some forms of fishing are permitted.
Find things to do and places to stay Tapuae Marine Reserve
You’ll see New Zealand fur seals/kekeno on and around the islands - pups are born in the summer.
Kekeno spend a lot of time on land in their rocky rest areas (haul outs). The males are bigger and more heavily muscled than the females. You may see the dominant bulls defending their territory by glaring, posturing and even fighting.
Remember seals are wild animals and will defend their territory aggressively. Enjoy them from a distance, at least 20 m away.
Access the boat ramp from Ocean View Parade, New Plymouth.
The seas in this reserve can be quite wild - always check with Coastguard for weather and sea conditions. Coastguard operates on VHF Ch61.
Keep an eye out for divers and swimmers. You must not exceed a speed of 5 knots (a fast walking speed) if you are:
- within 200m of the shore
- within 200m of any structure
- within 200m of a boat displaying a diver’s flag
- within 50m of any other boat
- within 50m of a person swimming
Always wear lifejackets, carry two separate waterproof ways of communicating, check the weather before you go, and avoid alcohol. More about water safety.
The best time of year to dive is January to April - there is plenty to explore amongst the rocks and canyons of the northern reserve.
On a calm day, there are snorkelling opportunities off the beach at the Tapuae stream end.
Tapuae Marine Reserve is an unpatrolled surf beach and as such can be subject to large swells and rip currents. Know your limits and if in doubt stay out. More about water safety.
Before you dive, think DEEP:
- Don’t drink alcohol
- Equipment working properly
- Exercise and fitness – make sure you’re fit and healthy enough for the dive
- Partner up, never dive alone
Learn more about staying safe underwater on the Water Safety NZ website
The reserve can be accessed by boat from the New Plymouth boat ramp on Ocean View Parade.
Tapuae Marine Reserve borders Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area. Be aware that the rules of these adjoining areas differ:
- you can't fish or remove marine life or natural material within Tapuae Marine Reserve
- some forms of fishing are permitted within the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Islands Marine Protected Area.
Marine reserve rules
Marine reserves are no-take areas. You may not remove any animal or natural form. That means no fishing of any kind, no shellfish gathering, and no removal of rocks, shells, driftwood or plants.
Information signs marked 'Marine Reserve' are posted at clearly visible locations at the New Plymouth boat ramp and at all major access points along the coastline near the marine reserve.
GPS descriptions are given for the seaward boundaries and pamphlets are freely available in many locations to further inform the public about the reserve.
Surveillance and enforcement of the reserve is carried out by DOC. Warranted officers undertake regular patrols and are assisted by Honorary Rangers, from the community, appointed under the Marine Reserves Act.
However, you can help too. Report offences to DOC on +64 6 759 0350 (office hours), or 0800 DOC HOT (after hours).
Central area (lower half of the North Island) fishing rules
Check fishing rules in the area before you go fishing. You need to check for:
- the set net ban in Taranaki
- closed and restricted fishing areas
- temporary closures
- other set net restrictions
- food safety closures.
You should always check with Coastguard for weather and sea conditions. Coastguard operates on VHF Ch61.
The remains of an ancient volcano sit at the northern end of Tapuae Marine Reserve, visible as a series of islands and rocks (their steep sides continue deep down beneath the water). The waters here cover a craggy labyrinth of pinnacles, canyons and caves.
Their shelter provides a habitat for around 400 species of fish (especially around Seal Rock). These landforms are also encrusted with the usual reef species of sponges and shellfish, and colonies of bryozoans – tiny animals that build skeletons resembling coral.
The southern part of the reserve is typical of the wild Taranaki coast – reef, mud and sand below, and black sand beaches above. About a third of the area is rocky reef, mostly cobble and boulder platforms. These scattered reefs shelter many species of marine animals and plants.
Visitors may see New Zealand fur seals, as well as humpback, pilot and southern right whales, and orcas.