Insider’s guide to Tawharanui
The Tawharanui Peninsula is just one hour’s drive from Auckland city, and is undoubtedly one of the most stunning jewels in the region’s bright crown.
With the mainland decorated with coastal forests and white-sand beaches and the marine reserve brimming with incredible sealife, this area is a must-visit for locals and foreigners alike.
The mainland island
On the mainland, Tawharanui is a regional park. However, it’s also a very special place because it’s the first in New Zealand that combines its open sanctuary with conservation, farming and recreation.
In total, Tawharanui is 588 hectares, and it is a place where people can come to enjoy the parkland through camping, hiking, birding, and other outdoor pursuits.
The open sanctuary here was created in 2002, and two years later, a 2.5 kilometre fence was built across the peninsula to cut off the entire area. The sanctuary now operates free from pests, and is a place where species such as kiwi, kaka, takehe, bellbirds and whiteheads can live and breed in peace.
The marine reserve
The Tawharanui marine reserve runs alongside the northern side of the park on the Takatu Peninsula, and is one of many in the Hauraki Gulf. The area has not been open for fishing since 1981, and it has officially been a marine reserve since 2011.
One of the most appealing features of the reserve is that it isn’t shut off to the public, so you can visit and spend time in the reserve. You can launch a boat from the nearest ramp at Omaha and take a slow (five knots max) tour of the shoreline, swim and dive around the beaches such as at Anchor Bay, or explore the rockpools at the reserve’s edge.
Wildlife in Tawharanui
With the help of the marine reserve and the open sanctuary, the wildlife at Tawharanui offers a great variety of incredible land and ocean species.
On land, the wildlife is abundant. Without pests, species such as the bellbird thrive in this area, and others have been re-introduced such as the rare takehe. You might see the morepork (also known as the boobook or the ruru), or even the highly recognisable weta. There are also whiteheads, pateke, and the North Island brown kiwi and robin. The Auckland green gecko and forest gecko have both also been re-introduced to the area since the predator fence was built.
As many as 50 different fish species have been recorded in the Tawharanui marine reserve. Plus, both orcas and bottle-nosed dolphins are known to frequent the area, and there is a large population of lobster living here, too.
Trees in Tawharanui
The plantlife in Tawharanui is full of iconic New Zealand trees. There are beautiful pohutukawa trees dotted around the peninsula, as well as kauri and rimu trees growing on the ridges. You will also find species such as nikau, tawa, rewarewa, puriri and taraire throughout the coastal forestland of Tawharanui.
Farming in Tawharanui
You can also view a real working farm at Tawharanui, with grazing sheep and cattle on site. Walking tracks and areas allow visitors to get up close and personal with the animals, although they are asked to stay out of restricted areas and leave gates as they found them.
Tawharanui is a fantastic attraction and a point of pride not just for Aucklanders, but for New Zealand as a whole.
Tristan Cullen - Passionate Conservationist