Goat Island’s marine reserve oozes snapper

Goat Island would have to be one of the most accessible marine life reserves and it’s right on our door step, just an hours drive north of Auckland. The marine reserve, oozing snapper and other fish species is in Leigh, just a short distance from the popular Matakana Village.

Before I go any further I need to make a confession about the photography. These fish looked 10 times better than the images suggest.  I took them with my GoPro and clearly need a lot more practice !

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The snapper didn’t seem to mind us and we got up close.

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From the car park the view down to the reserve and Goat Island is enticing.

Goat Island was New Zealand’s first marine reserve and was officially opened in 1977, covering 518 hectares of coastal sea between Cape Rodney and Okakari Point.

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Arty photography – not !

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My snorkelling buddy, Nicky.

Coming over the hill on the Matakana Coast, just three kilometres from the sea is the Goat Island Dive & Snorkel store where we stopped to hire our wetsuits, masks, snorkel and flippers before heading down the hill.

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The kelp and weed were as colourful as the fish.

The car parking area is well serviced with toilets, changing rooms and a cold shower. DOC ( Department of Conservation) has informative billboards with a map of the reserve and large posters displaying the sea life.

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DOC do a great job kept us informed with a map of the reserve and pictures of the fish making identification easy.

The immediate bay is well sheltered by Goat Island which is just a 100 metres from the beach. It is best to enter the water from the shore rather than the rocks especially if the sea is rough. Then it’s all in front of you – masses of colourful fish. The most predominant fish we saw were snapper and some are huge. We also saw goat fish, parore, spotties and red moki.

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On the way home stop at the nearby community of Leigh for a bite to eat and a craft beer. www.leighbythesea.co.nz

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Matakana Village is a great place to stop for a coffee or if you are there over the weekend their famous Saturday morning market is well worth a visit.

Or travel back to the delightful town of Matakana where you cannot miss the famous toilets.

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The toilets in Matakana are hard to miss.

Getting there

Unfortunately, no bus service is available to the township of Leigh so your own transport is necessary.

Hiring gear

All equipment for snorkelling and diving can be hired from Goat Island Dive & Snorkel. They also take snorkelling and diving tours, diving instruction and dive trips to other dive sites.

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