Visiting Goat Island Marine Reserve, New Zealand

Last Updated on August 14, 2022


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Goat Island, New Zealand is a national gem. In the summer, the Goat Island Marine Reserve is packed because of its beautiful surroundings and the not-so-shy creatures that loom in the sea.

On Goat Island, snorkelling and beautiful marine life can be found everywhere you look, and are part of what make the island the perfect getaway.

Arrive early with a packed lunch and a good under-water camera and partake in some Goat Island snorkeling, swimming and sightseeing.

Goat Island is an incredibly popular day trip from Auckland, but if you are looking to make a weekend of it, there are several Goat Island accommodation options available.

Visiting Goat Island Marine Reserve, New Zealand, view of island from the shore on a sunny day with boats in the nearby water
Goat Island Marine Reserve, NZ

Goat Island Marine Reserve is situated around 1 hour north of Auckland, NZ so a great day trip if you’re getting bored with the city.

All of the wildlife on the Goat Island reserve is protected, and it is illegal to catch any of it. This means there is a healthy amount of beautiful fish that come say hello inches from your face!

It really is an experience to be that close to the sea life. Goat Island was also New Zealand’s first marine reserve!

I have been on a Goat Island getaway twice now and both times I was blown away by how amazing this place is.

The first time I was there the weather was absolutely beautiful and I saw some really fascinating colourful Goat Island fish. I even swam over a stingray!

The second time wasn’t as good because it was showering randomly and the water turned murky.

Sadly, Goat Island, NZ is miserable in inclement weather, so if you are thinking of heading there on a cloudy and possibly wet day I wouldn’t bother. You will only be disappointed!

Oh, and watch out for the ducks who will pinch your food and also the dodgy fat-looking seagull that looks like it has eaten way too many pies.

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Below I’ve laid out everything you need to know about Goat Island, including how to go to Goat Island, how the island got its name and what to do on Goat Island once you get there.

Why is it called Goat Island?

So why is Goat Island called Goat Island, you’re probably asking. And are there goats on Goat Island?!

Well, the name Goat island came about because goats were released on the island to feed early settlers who were marooned.

Today Goat Island in New Zealand remains a sanctuary for animals and wildlife, and you can see a lot more than goats!

One of the most interesting facts about Goat Island is that while you are actually unlike to see any goats on land, goatfish are very common in the surrounding waters.

getting to goat island, view of cars on road from front window of car
On the way to enjoy a Goat Island getaway

How to get to Goat Island Marine Reserve, NZ

If you’re wondering how do you get to Goat Island from Auckland, the good news is that Goat Island Marine Reserve is only an hour and 15-minute drive from Auckland.

Getting to Goat Island from Auckland is also very straightforward – just follow the SH1 until Warkworth and then turn right to head towards Goat Island Marine Reserve. 

However, in the summer the traffic from Auckland to Goat Island can be very bad all the way from the turn-off, until the reserve.

🧳 MUST-HAVE: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have travel insurance. I recommend either SafetyWing or World Nomads.

This place is super packed in the summer so make sure you get here early to reserve a parking space and get some peace before it gets busy!

what to do on a goat island getaway, people on the shore of stony beach with medium-sized boat moored nearby and backdrop of grass-covered hills in the distance

Things to do at Goat Island Reserve, NZ

I highly recommend you take a picnic and have lunch while you’re at the Goat Island Marine Reserve.  The views are really beautiful, so you can sit and enjoy while you eat. 

The main things to do on Goat Island are snorkelling and swimming! In fact, Goat Island has some of the best snorkeling in New Zealand!

Because it is a marine reserve, the underwater life is thriving and there are so many interesting fish and creatures which will allow you to swim right up to them.

You may see octopus, sea urchins, stingrays or if you’re super lucky a dolphin or a whale!

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Another option is to do a glass boat tour if swimming or snorkelling aren’t your thing. These Goat Island tours are truly a spectacular way to see the ocean life!

There are plenty of boats to take you out on the water and it’s a great way to see life underwater on the Goat Island marine reserve without getting wet!

If you know how to dive then you can take a full-day scuba diving charter. As this is a reserve fishing is prohibited so you will see an abundance of beautiful Goat Island fish!

Equipment hire at Goat Island Marine Reserve

I encourage you to bring your own snorkel and flippers to Goat Island reserve if you have them.

Otherwise no worries, you can rent them at the stores which are at the marine reserve.

You can also rent wetsuits and a range of other equipment on Goat Island beach if you need it.

💡 PACKING TIP: Make sure you bring a good snorkel, water shoes and a fast-drying towel for all of the beach-going you’re about to do!

What to do on Goat Island, sand-covered rocks next to large body of water with people standing on the shore under a cloudy grey sky

Accommodation on Goat Island, NZ

Most people visit Goat Island Marine Reserve as a day trip and won’t be interested in Goat Island camping & accommodation.

However, if you would like to stay longer, there are several Goat Island accommodation options available.

The most popular accommodation on Goat Island is a camping ground. Goat Island camping is a great budget option for those who love the outdoors.

There are also a few Goat Island hotel accommodation options on Booking.com that are nearby too!

🛌🏼 Check accommodation near Goat Island Marine Reserve

Goat Island Marine Reserve is a fantastic NZ day trip option if you are exploring Auckland and want to get away from the city.

If you love nature, it is an absolute must! It’s a beautiful, scenic spot and a fantastic option for families. Don’t forget to indulge in some Goat Island snorkelling when you visit!

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ Can you drive to Goat Island, New Zealand?

Yes, you can drive straight onto the island and park up for the day and walk around. However, you cannot drive around Goat Island, you must park and walk.

✅ Why is Goat Island called Goat Island?

The island got its name from the practice of releasing goats onto the island to feed marooned settlers.

✅ Where is Goat Island?

The Goat Island Marine Reserve is located about an hour and 15 minutes north of Auckland, NZ just off the coast from Leigh, NZ.

Have you been to Goat Island Marine Reserve in New Zealand? What did you think? Did you see any goats?

Let me know your thoughts on Goat Island or any interesting Goat Island facts I missed in the comments!


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The Comments

  • darwinontherocks
    April 17, 2015

    Why is it called goat island, was it full of goats at one point ? 😀

    • ahdykstra
      > darwinontherocks
      April 19, 2015

      Back in the day they used to fill the island with goats to provide food for those who were marroned on the island!

      • darwinontherocks
        > ahdykstra
        April 19, 2015

        Oh i see ! 🙂

  • Debz
    October 1, 2015

    I have been camping in Goat Island quite a few times (I live in Auckland). The camp site is just up the hill from the beach. Thanks for sharing.

  • Agness of Fit Travelling
    November 5, 2017

    Goat Island is so picturesque and magical. Excellent pictures and a very inspiring post!

  • Beth Jensen
    January 13, 2021

    How wonderful to have preserved this as a marine reserve! From the pictures, the rocks seem shallow. I wonder what effect rising sea levels will have on the size of this island. Beth Jensen