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The Goat Island

Marine Reserve

Explore the Worlds first fully protected Marine Reserve

Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve is New Zealand’s best known fully protected marine reserve. It is often called Goat Island (or Leigh) Marine Reserve. Although it covers just 5 km of coastline, it is visited by over 300,000 people a year (last count many years ago). It is also the oldest marine reserve in the country, and the first reserve set up in the Southern Hemisphere, established in 1975 by scientists at the nearby Leigh Marine Laboratory.

The reserve is easily accessible for families. Goat Island itself is located only 100 metres from the safe beach access in the Marine Reserve. It's famous for amazing snorkeling and diving, providing safe and shallow conditions.

With the channel only 2 metres deep and west of the island 3-8 metres deep, this protected environment remains calm and an easy place to explore. You can snorkel and dive straight off the beach all year round making it a convenient way to see an abundance of marine life.You are able to hire snorkel equipment for the day. If you are not feeling confident or would like to join a guided snorkel tour.

Entrance to Goat Island Marine Reserve is FREE! Visitors are welcome to picnic, swim and generally enjoy a day at the beach, but please observe the usual marine reserve rules: don’t take anything away except your rubbish, and if you lift the rocks, please put them back.

Goat Island Marine Reserve, snorkel dive

Photo by Department of Conservation

Extending from Cape Rodney to Okakari Point, the marine reserve includes the waters 800 m from the shore including Goat Island.


Know before you go

The marine reserve is unsuitable for in-the-water activities during east or north-east winds of 20 knots or more, and east or north-east swells of more than a meter. Keep up to date with the weather conditions prior to arriving

To help protect marine life inside the reserve, remember:


  • No fishing of any kind, either from a boat or from shore

  • No taking or disturbing any marine life, including shellfish and seaweeds

  • No taking of any part of the seafloor, including rocks and shells.

  • No feeding the fish as it disturbs their natural behaviour.

  • No crushing open the Sea Urchin or Kina as this is a living organism and is protected within the marine reserve.


Penalties for failure to comply under the Marine Reserves Act 1971 include confiscation of equipment, vessels or vehicles, fines and imprisonment.

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