Looking for a Year Round Diving Spot? Try Goat Island, New Zealand

Seeking the best of all holiday destinations that is possible to go diving year-round? Head to New Zealand’s Goat Island, a cozy spot off the North Island coast! Goat Island is located in Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve, New Zealand’s first marine reserve, and a place you will definitely want to cross off your bucket list – it’s fantastic year-round diving is not to be missed!

Goat Island or Te Hāwere-a-Maki in Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve is a tiny island in New Zealand, north of Auckland, north east of Warkworth, and west of Little Barrier Island – and it’s a magnet for divers looking for the next great dive spot!  The Cape Rodney-Okakari Point Marine Reserve, better known as Goat Island was established in 1975 and opened it’s doors, so to speak, in 1977. The reserve itself spans 518 hectares of coastal sea between Cape Rodney and Okakari Point.

Ideal time to visit Goat Island is when there is less than one metre swell on the east coast and no wind or offshore wind from the southwest, but visiting Goat Island can be done any time extreme weather isn’t prohibiting a tour. The visibility underwater is absolutely the best during the late summer when the water is also warmest, but again, diving can be accomplished year round – and that’s the great thing about Goat Island. There are a number of facilities near the beach, such as toilets, changing rooms, a cold running shower, and an information kiosk. A 5 minute loading zone is next to the beach, and several shops, restaurants and accommodations have popped up around the area –  including several camping grounds for those wishing to pitch a tent for the night or bring along their camper van.

The Leigh coast has a long history of being home to Maori. The bay was originally referred to as Whakatu Whenua, and Goat Island itself was called Motu Hawere. The coast was an iconic fish, shellfish and crayfish meeting area for the local Maori. In the 1940s, huge snapper were fished from the waters, and crayfish collected from rock pools by locals. They would remove enormous amounts of the kelp that would wash up onto the beach after the storms and use the material as fertilisers. By the 1950s and 1960s the region’s marine life had been very much reduced due to all of the fishing and collecting. The University of Auckland established a marine laboratory to the east of the beach in 1964, and staff of the university came up with the plan to create a protected piece of coast, to ensure that their studies of marine life would not come to an untimely demise!

Goat Island marine reserve

Goat Island marine reserve

The Goat Island marine reserve is an ideal place for anyone to experience snorkelling and diving adventures and see marine life in numbers not seen anywhere else on the New Zealand coastline. You can come and experience it for yourself through a number of different tour operations such as Goat Island Dive and Snorkel.


Goat Island Dive and Snorkel
Address: Goat Island Dive & Snorkel , 142a Pakiri Road, Auckland, 0947, New Zealand

Tel: +64 9 422 6925

Goat Island Dive and Snorkel Facilities and Features


Proximity to airport: 2 hours from Auckland International Airport

Proximity to coach terminal: 20 minutes from Warkworth

Proximity to city: 1 hour north of Auckland City


Get friendly with New Zealand’s famous fish! Head out into the Goat Island waters on a snorkelling or scuba diving tour around the famous Goat Island Marine Reserve. This recommended and reputable PADI 5 star dive resort offers guests snorkel tours, try dives, diver training as well as boat dive trips. PADI is the world’s leading scuba diver training organization, and the PADI System of diver education focuses on a progressive training program which introduces skills, safety-related information and local environmental knowledge to prospective divers in stages. The PADI courses are student-oriented, providing as much practice as possible, and implementing a realistic application approach to their courses. PADI Professionals strive to ensure that underwater exploration and scuba diving adventures are possible as they maintain the highest standards for safety, diver training, as well as customer service. PADI’s “Four E’s Philosophy” they use for their diver training is that the dive lifestyle requires four elements, all of which are implemented during Goat Island diver training, and Goat Island diving tour operations:


Education: Beyond simply learning to scuba dive at Goat Island, you expand your capabilities as a diver through continued education.  Education is key, and Goat Island’s trained experts never stop learning.


Experience: PADI dive shops offer a variety of experiences from local dive tours to exotic dive travel. Diving at Goat Island is a social activity, one which offers a range of amazing experiences.


Equipment: Goat Island PADI trained diving tour operators know about all the fun gadgets and new scuba equipment available to you, and strive to bring you quality equipment.


Environmental Conservation: It’s vital that a healthy underwater environment is taken into consideration, and it’s essential to the diving experience. Goat Island diving tour operators are terrific advocates for the health of the marine resources, and throughout PADI courses, divers are schooled in the importance of protecting the fragile aquatic ecosystems, and are encouraged to become a part of Goat Island and global conservation efforts. For more than twenty years, PADI has been partnered with  Project AWARE®  – a world wide nonprofit organization which is dedicated to protecting Goat Island and the rest of our ocean planet. Rest assured that your diving experiences at Goat Island are in capable, caring hands!

If you’ve never gone diving before, you can’t even begin to imagine the thrill. Breathing underwater, and floating around, hovering in a weightless world – it will leave you feeling completely ecstatic! There are half day or full day options off the boat, or you can join the tour operator’s four day intensive course and learn to dive off the coast of Goat Island.

Certified divers coming to Goat Island can enjoy the tour operator’s dive trips or travel to Outer Gulf Islands. A fast and comfortable dive boat is ensured, complete with a PADI certified crew, and all diver experience levels are

Goat Island Dive and Snorkel

Goat Island Dive and Snorkel

welcome along the diving tour.

Are you ready to snorkel or scuba dive with the colourful and fun fish in New Zealand’s very first marine reserve? Goat Island Dive and Snorkel features a comprehensive range of equipment for rent, and their tours cater to divers of all ages, sizes and levels of expertise. If you’re new to snorkelling, their PADI Snorkel Experience is recommended as being the perfect tour for the budding divers who would like a guide along with them, and a great lesson on how to snorkel. For those seeking a little more adventure, there’s the PADI Try Dive Experience.

Snorkelling or scuba diving are the best ways to immerse yourself into the marine world that exists around Goat Island. At Goat Island Beach you can easily access into the cool blue waters from off the beach. If you’re lucky, you will immediately start to notice the snapper and other fishes, lit by the dappled sunlight in their beautiful natural habitat that has been under protection since 1975. In the summertime great schools of kingfish, kahawai and jack mackerel will make an appearance and flit about eagerly before you, daring you to capture them on your underwater camera. Along Goat Island’s reefs the red moki, banded wrasse, spotties, kelpfish and goatfish all cooperate together to share their precious habitat alongside more nippy leatherjackets and blue cod. Schools of blue mao mao will periodically mingle with sweep, trevally and parore, each seeming to vie for your attention as you float through the spectacular blue world.

Spiny rock lobster, otherwise known in the area as crayfish, are extremely common in the marine reserves at Tawharanui and Goat Island than the rest of the New Zealand coast. Rock pools situated around Goat Island, Matheson Bay and Tawharanui can be explored at low tide if you want to see crabs, sea shells, small fishes, shrimps, and nudibranchs.

The dolphin and whale populations are frequent visitors to Goat Island and the surrounding coast. Beautiful bottlenose dolphins will quite often pass close enough to shore to view from land, and in recent years have spent hours or sometimes days at Goat Island showing off, playing, and interacting with the Goat Island snorkellers. Common dolphins are visibly smaller, and are spotted away from the coast where they move together in greater pods. The common dolphins often feed where the sea birds are diving for food in large numbers, hinting at a good meal. Pods of orca or killer whales can also be seen frequenting Goat Island, as they hunt for rays quite close to the coast. The orcas are known as the largest species of dolphin and are being studied in NZ by Dr Ingrid Visser. During wintertime, the New Zealand fur seals will often winter over on the outer rocks of Goat Island, where you can witness them for yourself up close. Occasionally a more aggressive leopard seal has made an appearance on the beaches, but it is merely a reminder that all seals, no matter what species, are wild animals and should never be approached within 5 meters for your own safety as well as the seal’s.

Goat Island is home to Bryde’s whales, some of the most popular whales witnessed in the Hauraki Gulf, and it is becoming considered that they are actually resident in the area, moving further out of the gulf at points during the year or closer into the gulf towards the coast when there is much plankton to be feasted upon. Otherwise, different species of whales are occasionally spotted around the Goat Island region – including majestic humpbacks, beautiful southern rights, great blues and relatively smaller minkes. To witness them up close, you simply need to be at Goat Island at the right time.


Need a place to stay while you’re touring lovely Goat Island? Book a caravan, cabin or tent side through Goat Island Camping and Accommodation:


Goat Island Camping and Accommodation

123 Goat Island Road RD5 Warkworth, Leigh 0985 New Zealand

Website address : www.goatislandcamping.co.nz

Tel: 09 422 6185


You’ll have access to a recreation room, a tv room, kitchens, bathrooms, barbecue areas with shaded seating, kids play area and sand pit, and even a skateboard ramp.


A Coastal Leigh Bed and Breakfast

5 Penguin St, Leigh, Goat Island New Zealand

Tel: 09 422 6681


You’ll enjoy clifftop panoramic views of the entire coast, with easy access to the Goat Island waters and snorkelling gear available. This accommodation is suitable for 1 to 4 persons, and it’s a family friendly establishment with a few amenities provided. It’s also known to have good access to swimming areas.


Take the time to explore Goat Island and its surrounding protected natural habitat. Take the plunge and go diving, even if you’re a beginner. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss!

Visit the New Zealand destinations category to learn more about other places to visit in New Zealand!