Nature and conservation
The area has been off limits for fishing since 1981, but it was only made a marine reserve in 2011. It sits within the much larger Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.
Its unique feature is geological – greywacke rock is exposed forming huge grey-green rocks. These ancient rocks from the Jurassic period are studded with rare marine fossils.
Tāwharanui contains extensive intertidal and subtidal reefs typical of the moderately exposed coast of the outer Hauraki Gulf. About 50 species of fish have been recorded in the reserve, which also supports a thriving population of lobster. Bottle nosed dolphins and orcas often visit the area.
The marine reserve is picturesquely situated alongside sandy beaches and gentle farmland, with some stands of native bush and large regenerating wetlands (outside the reserve).
History and culture
Tāwharanui was originally occupied by ancient people known as Ngāti Kui, Tūtūmaiao and Tūrehu. A small hapū of the Te Kawerau tribe, called Ngāti Raupō, lived in the area until the 1870s. Tāwharanui was rich in food resources on land and sea, and Ngāti Raupō, Ngāti Manuhiri and related hapū came to the area to fish until well into the 20th century. The cliffs above Waikōkōwai (Anchor Bay) were also a valued source of kōkōwai (red ochre), which was traditionally mixed with oils to make sacred red paint.
After 1870, Tāwharanui was farmed by the Martin, Jones and Young families. Kauri trees were milled for timber and shingle was extracted from the area for 100 years. The former Auckland Regional Authority purchased the land in 1973. A 2.5 km pest-proof fence was constructed across the peninsula in 2004, creating an open sanctuary, in which the Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary Society now carries out restoration work.
Many archaeological features have been found near Tāwharanui. These include five pā, terraced hillsides for housing, food storage pits, groves of karaka trees (planted for their edible fruits) and shell middens. Fish bones (particularly snapper) are commonly found in the middens and 18 species of shellfish have also been identified. Some evidence of the nine ships wrecked around the Tāwharanui coastline also remains.
Tāwharanui Marine Reserve is on the northern coast of the Tawharanui Peninsula in the Rodney District, approximately 90 km (one and a half hours) from Auckland City.
Take State Highway 1 north to Warkworth. Follow the signs to Matakana. Just past Matakana turn right at the Omaha turn off and drive along Takatu Road, following the signs to the Tawharanui Regional Park.
Once you reach the regional park, continue through the predator proof fence to Anchor Bay, where parking is available.
What to bring
Bring good walking shoes, warm clothes, swimming and snorkelling gear, sunblock, sunhat and food and drinking water. Bring your surfboard or boogie board if the waves are right!
Know before you go
Do not exceed five knots in a boat or on a jetski within 200 m of the mainland, a dive flag, or within 50 m of a boat or person in the water.
Dogs are not permitted in the Tāwharanui Regional Park or the marine reserve at any time.
Do not light fires on the beach or on the grassy areas.