Is The Little Mermaid your homegirl? Do you have dreams of befriending a flounder and brushing your hair with a fork? Well, Ariel, do we have news for you: you can make all your mermaid dreams a reality with snorkeling.
Because Auckland is super cool and we technically live on an island, there’s no shortage of spots to dive into the deep blue. Here’s where to experience the best snorkeling in and around Auckland.
Kicking off the best spots to get your snorkel on is none other than everyone’s favourite snorkelling spot, Goat Island. A five-minute drive north of Leigh, the marine reserve is home to masses of colourful (and super friendly) fish. If you’re lucky, you might even see one of the reserve’s famous snappers—Monkey Face and Charlie Lip. Monkey Face has—you guessed it—a face like a monkey and has been living in the reserve for more than forty years. Charlie Lip has a similar appearance and both snappers are more than one-metre (!) long. After a day in the water, pop into Leigh Sawmill for a pizza and a cold bevvy.
Just a fifteen-minute drive east of Matakana, you’ll find Tawharanui marine reserve. This spot is home to the likes of snapper, crayfish, kelp forests and even the occasional stingray. Those rocking snorkelling gear can explore the rocks close to the shore, while divers can drop onto the reefs further out with depth ranges of up to 25 metres. Check the sea conditions before you head out as there is often some swell. If you prefer to stay on land, the pohutukawa-lined beach is the perfect spot to curl up with a book. The littlies will enjoy exploring the rock pools here.
Also around these ways is Whangateau Harbour. The estuary here is home to an abundance of marine life. Kick off from the sports’ ground and swim towards Horseshoe Island or the large mangrove trees to the south. Expect to see schools of yellow-eye mullet, flounder, shrimps and cockles. The best time to snorkel is around an hour before high tide when the water is still flowing in. The water clarity here is consistently good and quite often things are crystal clear—perfect for getting some decent shots on the GoPro.
Great Barrier Island
Snorkelling (and diving) enthusiasts should must get their booty over to Great Barrier Island. While we admit the island is QUITE off the beaten track, the marine life here makes the trip well worth it. Visibility? Excellent. Sea life? Abundant. There’s a vast array of locations to explore, suited to both snorkelers and divers of all experience levels. There are also the remains of several shipwrecks for divers to explore including the historic Wairarapa and Wiltshire. Keep an eye out for Ariel—we know she loves exploring them shipwrecks! Travel by ferry or enjoy a bird’s-eye view and catch a flight with Fly My Sky.
Jump on board a ferry and nip over to Rakino Island. This picturesque spot is renowned for its beaches that are great for swimming, fishing and—of course—snorkeling. The water is crystal clear, giving you perfect visibility of the snapper and stingrays that live there. Make sure you BYO snorkelling gear and picnic because there are no shops on this secluded island. It’s hard to believe this getaway is just a 45-minute trip away from the hustle and bustle of Auckland’s CBD.
You don’t even need to leave the city to get your fix. In fact, you can snorkel with sharks (yes, sharks) at Auckland’s very own Kelly Tarlton’s. Get amongst the shark cage adventure where you can snorkeling alongside sharks from the safety of a submerged cage.
Image credit: Adam Eperjesi