Leigh, Goat Island, Pakiri & Whangateau

Escape to the seaside at Leigh, Whangateau or Pakiri. Visit Goat Island Marine Reserve for snorkelling, diving, kayaking. Your Kiwi family holiday at Leigh.  

If chilling by the coast is your idea of heaven, look no further than the historic coastal seaside village of Leigh. Enjoy the many coastal walkways, fresh seafood and pristine coves and beaches, before sitting back and relaxing with live music at the Leigh Sawmill Café.

The highlight of any visit to Leigh is the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Sea life flourishes in the clear waters, rock pools and hidden reed forests of New Zealand’s oldest marine conservation area.  Start your visit at the Marine Discovery Centre, where the kids can pop their hands in the touch tank and learn fun facts from the interactive displays. Then head down to the calm, sandy beach, where you can almost touch the fish just by standing in the shallows. Snorkel or dive amongst an incredibly diverse range of sea creatures, including snapper, kingfish, red moki, banded wrasse, rays and rock lobsters, or hop on a clear kayak or glass bottom boat

To discover  an untouched piece of coastal paradise, carry on to Pakiri Beach. Cast your longline off the beach, walk the 14 kilometres of pristine white sands, or watch for gannets and blue penguins, and fairy terns nesting in the dunes. The surf can be strong here, but when the tide comes in, the kids can hop on their boogie boards and float down the estuary on the warm shallow waters. Pack a picnic, your sun umbrella and plenty of water. 

On the other side of Leigh, take the kids to pohutukawa-fringed Matheson Bay for a day of sheltered swimming, exploring the rock pools and walking the bush track to see giant kauri and swim in the waterfall. Keen walkers can take the spectacular Leigh Coastal Path front surfers’ favourite Daniels Reef, all the way along the cliff to Leigh village. 

On the peninsula to the west of Matheson Bay, you’ll find family favourite the Ti Point Reptile Park, home to an astonishing range of species from rare and ancient tuatara, to iguanas, chameleons, American alligators and giant tortoises. Follow the road down to Ti Point wharf and hike the coastal trail through farmland, along beaches, past ancient pohutukawas and rocky outcrops. The walkway offers stunning views across to Omaha and Tāwharanui and the scenic reserve at the end is perfect for a picnic or a spot of snorkelling if the seas are calm. 

On the road to Matakana you’ll pass through sleepy Whangateau, with its pretty village hall and huge foreshore playing fields running down to the estuary. Protected by Ti Point, the Omaha sandspit and Point Wells, the Whangateau shore is perfect for warm, shallow swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding. The fishing is excellent and there are plenty of spots where you can cast your line off the beach or the rocks.

Wander up to the pretty cemetery on the hill to see the graves of early settlers, or take a stroll to the historic Big Omaha Wharf. In the early 1900s the wharf was a hive of bustling industry as steamships took loads of firewood, produce and kauri gum from the surrounding hills down to Auckland. The wharf is now fully restored and a popular local photo stop.

When night falls, be sure to look up – the stars are amazing! Sample the legendary Leigh fish and chips at Leigh Eats then make yourself at home in a local B&B, motel or cottage, or bring the caravan for a traditional Kiwi beach getaway at Leigh Central, Goat Island, Pakiri or Whangateau campgrounds.  

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Leigh, Goat Island, Pakiri & Whangateau