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  • Writer's pictureGoat Island Marine Reserve

Goat Island Walkway: A nature lovers' guide

Updated: Jul 1

Discover the Scenic Beauty of Goat Island Walkway

Views from the walk at Goat Island

Embark on an unforgettable journey along the Goat Island Walkway, a picturesque coastal trail nestled within New Zealand’s oldest and most renowned marine reserve. This moderately challenging 1.5-kilometre return walk offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline, Goat Island, and the expansive Hauraki Gulf, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

Starting Your Adventure

Your adventure begins at the main Goat Island car park. From there, follow the driveway to the University of Auckland’s Marine Laboratory. The well-signposted start of the walking track is located on the right-hand side of the driveway. As you set out, you'll find yourself on a gravel path that winds its way behind the Marine Lab, gradually leading you to the cliff-top. Here, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of Goat Island and the distant Pakiri coast.

A Walk Through Nature

A photo of the forest on the Goat Island Walk

The Goat Island Walkway takes you on a journey through diverse landscapes, from open paddocks and remnants of coastal broadleaf forest to the dramatic cliffs overlooking the marine reserve. As you traverse the trail, keep an eye out for the vibrant native flora and fauna that call this area home. You might even encounter some stock grazing in the paddocks, adding a charming rural touch to your walk.

Cows in the paddock on the Goat Island Walk

Panoramic Vistas and Natural Wonders

Views of little barrier from Goat Island Marine Reserve

From this vantage point, you can see Hauturu Little Barrier Island, a rat-free nature reserve teeming with tuatara, giant weta, and a plethora of native birds. The trail descends into lush coastal broadleaf forest before ending at Tabletop Reef, where more stunning views stretch out to the Hen and Chicks islands.

Fun for the Whole Family

After completing the walkway, take some time to explore the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre. The centre offers engaging exhibits and touch tanks that are sure to delight children and adults alike. Learn about the incredible marine life that inhabits New Zealand’s oldest marine reserve and the conservation efforts that have helped it thrive.

For those looking to get even closer to the underwater wonders, snorkeling gear can be hired down on the beach. Dive into the turquoise waters and experience the vibrant sea life up close, from friendly snapper to lush kelp forests. If you prefer to stay dry, consider a tour in a glass-bottomed boat or a paddle in a transparent kayak for a unique perspective of the marine environment.

Historical and Cultural Significance

Te Hāwere-a-Maki, also known as Goat Island, holds a rich history both culturally and environmentally. Originally established in the 1970s to combat overfishing, the Cape Rodney-Ōkakari Point Marine Reserve has become a sanctuary for marine life, flourishing with crays, fish, and kelp forests. Early European seafarers released goats on the island to provide food for stranded sailors, but long before their arrival, the waters were a vital seafood source for the Ngāti Manuhiri iwi.

Practical Information

The Goat Island Walkway typically takes about an hour to complete one way, so allow up to two hours for a leisurely return journey. The track is usually well-maintained, but sturdy footwear is recommended due to the varied terrain. Also, be very careful of slippery surfaces, especially after rainfall.

Don’t forget to bring water, a hat, and sunscreen, especially on sunny days.

Whether you’re a local looking for a scenic escape or a visitor eager to explore New Zealand’s natural beauty, the Goat Island Walkway offers a rewarding experience filled with awe-inspiring views, rich history, and abundant wildlife. Plan your visit today and immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of this coastal gem.


How long does it take to complete the Goat Island Walkway?

  • Depends on how far you decide to go! The main walk is roughly 40 minutes return. If you're really keen, there's a loop that takes you to the top of Goat Island Road which is about 3 hours covering additional clifftops and paddocks, and coastal broadleaf forest.

Is the Goat Island Walkway suitable for children?

  • Yes, the walkway is family-friendly, but the walk probably isn't suitable for young children (unless you're prepared to carry them). Obviously, supervision is recommended near the cliff edges.

What should I bring for the walk?

  • Sturdy footwear, water, a camera, and sun protection are essential.

Can I swim at Goat Island?

  • Yes, the waters are ideal for swimming, snorkelling, and diving.

Are there guided tours available?

  • No, there aren't currently any guided walking tours offered at Goat Island Marine Reserve but plenty of other things to do like Clear Kayaking, Snorkelling, Diving and a Glass Bottom Boat Tour!

Is there a fee to access the walkway?

  • No, access to the Goat Island Walkway is free.

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