Cape Rodney - Okakari Point Marine Reserve (Goat Island Marine Reserve)

So much more than a picnic at the beach, a day at Goat Island Marine Reserve is unforgettable.

Goat Island, the local name for Cape Rodney/Okakari Point Marine Reserve, was New Zealand's first marine reserve. It was established in 1975 and in less than 10 years it became a rich ecological area, teeming with fish and other sea life. Previously the area had been overfished, so this transformation illustrated the value of conservation.

Beneath the waves habitats range from rocky shores and sandflats to deep reefs, underwater cliffs and canyons. Each habitat has its own community of sea creatures.

The best way to experience the reserve and its inhabitants is to get into the water. With a mask and snorkel you can explore the sand and rocks close to shore while scuba divers can visit deeper areas further out. Divers need to be careful not to break off small fragile animals such as gorgonian fans, lace corals and sponges - some of these are hundreds of years old.

In shallow areas of the reserve, particularly off the main beach, you will see many varieties of fish and shellfish. At low tide you can explore the rocky shore, taking care not to disturb rock pool creatures.

Two coastal walkways leading from Goat Island Bay through coastal forest offer spectacular coastal views and quiet picnic spots. One walkway leads from the western end of the car park, the other from the driveway to the marine laboratory.