Snorkelling in New Zealand
Snorkelling in New Zealand is a very popular activity for locals and visitors despite the country's lack of tropical reefs (and tropically warm waters). New Zealand's best snorkelling spots offer snorkellers a wide variety of habitats and fauna, as after all, the country is located between three oceans and has a coastline of over 15,000 kilometres. Many of New Zealand's prime snorkelling sites are just offshore offering easy and free access, which makes snorkelling a very budget-friendly activity suitable for the whole family.
North Island Snorkelling
Some of the best snorkelling spots in New Zealand's North Island are:
- Bay of Islands – Clear and protected waters that during the summer are between 18 and 22°C (in winter, temperatures can drop to 14°C). There are lots of bays to choose from with local operators offering trips to popular Roberton Island.
- Auckland / Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park – Covering over 1.2 million hectares including 50 islands, this marine park is located on the Auckland and Coromandel coast. Most of the islands are open to the public for recreation and dive shops can provide snorkel gear hire and transportation. The marine park includes popular sites for snorkelling including:
- Goat Island – 92 kilometres from Auckland is the township of Leigh. One of New Zealand's best dive and snorkel sites, Goat Island is known as the Coastal Aquarium. Entrance to the reserve is free and the shallow waters offer safe snorkelling for all the family.
- Kawau Island – With moderate visibility of 5 - 9 metres, the best spots for diving and snorkelling are Fairchild Reef, Māori Rock and Nelson Rock.
- Other islands in the reserve offer great diving opportunities including: Waiheke Island, Little Barrier Island, Great Barrier Island and Mokohinau Islands.
- Bay of Plenty / White Island – White Island is New Zealand's only live marine volcano and is situated 48 kilometres from the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, in the Bay of Plenty. Its top snorkelling and dive locations include:
- Volkner Rocks – Open water dive location 5km north west of White Island.
- Club Rocks – Reef and pelagic fish abound on the western side of Crater Bay.
- Liason's Reef – Open water diving offering views of reef and kingfish.
- Cavalli Islands – Lying off the coast of Matauri Bay, the islands offer peaceful snorkelling beaches in the summer.
- Poor Knights Islands – Off the east coast of Northland, this is one of Jacques Cousteau's top ten dive sites and can be reached from Tutukaka Harbour, 30 kilometres from Whangarei. Snorkelling and diving are the best ways to enjoy sponge gardens, gorgonian fields, shellfish, urchins and anemones. Nursery Cove and parts of the South Harbour are the best places for novice divers.
South Island Snorkelling
Snorkelling off New Zealand's South Island coastline offers snorkellers the chance to snorkel alongside fur seals or the world's smallest dolphins, Hector's Dolphins.
- Kaikoura – Experience the unique experience of snorkelling with the curious, playful fur-seals off the coast of Kaikoura on the South Island's east coast.
- Akarao – The southern coast around Akaroa Harbour (90 minutes drive south from Christchurch) has good visibility and popular dive and snorkelling sites include: Magnet, Tokoroa and Tumbledown Bays, whilst Damon's Bay and Pompey's Pillar are regarded as the top dive spots.
- Fiordland – 7 millimetre wetsuits are required for snorkelling or diving in the beautiful Sounds of Fiordland, situated in the south-west corner of the South Island.
- Abel Tasman National Park / Nelson – Head up to the north of the South Island to enjoy snorkelling and diving at one of the many marine reserves including:
- Tonga Island Marine Reserve – The best snorkelling is among the rocks between Tonga Quarry and Foul Point.
- Horoirangi Marine Reserve – Some of the best diving and snorkelling is found towards the north of the reserve, especially near Ataata Point. Look out for crayfish, wrasses, triplefins, goatfish, blue cod, blue moki, tarakihi, and snapper.
- Kokomohua Marine Reserve – Dolphins and seals are frequent visitors and snorkellers can explore the rocks close to the shore.