Tonga Island Marine Reserve exists between Bark Bay in the south and Awaroa Bay in the north. The reserve boundary reaches one nautical mile out to sea. Fishing or collecting shellfish in the reserve is strictly prohibited with stiff penalties for those caught breaking the rules. The reserve is named for the island it is based around which supports a year round Fur Seal population.
The clear warm waters of the reserve make it incredibly popular with kayakers and swimmers, and trampers on the coastal track will sometimes pop into the water with a snorkel to cool off. Underwater visitors will see tumbled rock and bedrock reefs, inhabited by numerous grazing invertebrates, with sandy-bottoms extending beyond.
Kayakers will often see little blue penguins along this coast and may occasionally be rewarded with an encounter with a pod of dolphins. Because many local estuaries are also protected, visitors may see some of New Zealand’s rarer shorebirds.