Visit the remnants of an extinct volcano and discover a rich diversity of marine life in the reefs and islands off the rugged coast of New Plymouth.
Explore Sugar Loaf Marine Reserve near Port Taranaki, which comprises 1,850 acres (750 hectares) of seabed, water and foreshore and offers recreational opportunities for the whole family. Above the water, a group of sea stacks and seven small islands are the eroded remains of a large volcano that dates back nearly 2 million years. Below the surface, find magnificent canyons, caves, rock faces and boulder fields, as well as a large variety of marine life.
Take a boat tour from one of the charter companies that visit the islands and learn about the history of the area. Local Maori people were living on the islands when European settlers arrived. The reserve owes its name to Captain Cook, who thought that the group of islands resembled the sugar loafs he put in his tea. The sugar he referred to is actually bird guano. A whaling station was established on one of the islands, Moturoa, in the 1820s.
Discover the spectacular underwater scenery of the reserve by renting snorkeling gear or going on a diving expedition. Swim among nearly 100 different species of fish that live in the reefs and look out for a resident breeding colony of New Zealand fur seals. Summer and autumn months are the best to dive, when underwater visibility can reach 65 feet (20 meters).
Rent a kayak or canoe from the town and go out on the water to appreciate the wildlife up close. Alternatively, enjoy a favorite pastime of locals and tourists alike and go fishing in the area. Catch kingfish, blue cod, snapper and many other species. Be aware, however, that this marine reserve borders the northern edge of the Tapuae Marine Reserve, where fishing and the removal of marine life are prohibited.
The Sugar Loaf Marine Reserve is close to New Plymouth and readily accessible by car. The island group is close to Paritutu Rock, which offers magnificent views of the ocean and coastline. Visit the tourist information center in the city center for guide hire and kayak rental details.