I’ve been searching for top snorkelling places to take the kids in New Zealand before the summer ends. Anchor Bay Beach at Tawharanui Regional Park has caught my attention with its hundreds of good reviews raving about the beach.
Being a local on the north shore of Auckland, I’m surprised we haven’t been to this place before. So this Easter Sunday, our family is exploring Anchor Bay and Tahwaranui Regional Park.
The first things we’ve learned about Tawharanui Regional Park is, it’s the first New Zealand’s open sanctuary since Tawharanui was converted into a regional park from a private farm back in the 70s.
How far is Tawharanui from Auckland?
About 80 minutes drive north of Auckland when there’s no traffic. During public holidays and peak seasons, expect traffic delays around Warkworth.
Are dogs and pets allowed at Tawharanui Regional Park?
Many native bird species such as the Kiwis, New Zealand dotterels, and Brown Teals are protected here and free of predators. As such, dogs, cats and pets are not allowed at Tawharanui Regional Park.
Accommodation at Tawharanui Regional Park
If your family loves camping, Tawharanui campground^ would be the perfect place to set up the tents with kids. Situated on the northeastern side of the coast and behind the dunes, the campground is steps away from Anchor Bay Beach. There are water taps and basic facilities, most suited for families who are here to enjoy New Zealand’s nature at its best.
Upon booking, you will receive a combination code that will grant you access to the locked gates. Adults are about $16 and children about $6.50.
Other accommodations like a family Bach at Jones Bay and vehicle parking are available. Please check the council’s website^ for more information.
For a luxury stay at one of the most beautiful regional parks on North Island, check out Koru Hideaway^ for availability.
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Things To Do with Kids
On top of the activity list would be swimming and water play at one of Tawharanui’s sandy beaches. The sands on the eastern coast are known to be smooth, perfect for the kids to build sandcastles or dig a small pool.
If you’re a New Zealand local, bring your boogie boards, surfboards, kayaks and SUP, as there will be no short of water activities here at Tawharanui Regional Park.
Snorkelling is a popular activity amongst adventure seekers. We didn’t get a chance to snorkel ourselves this time, but we saw many people around the headlands, assuming that was the gem pocket to see beautiful fish. We will update this post next summer as snorkelling at Anchor Bay is on top of our family’s bucket list.
Picnics are a must in a regional park like this. There are hardly any shops around, and we had to order pizza from Matakana – the closest town 15 minutes drive from here. So load up your food and drinks on the way here, especially if you’re staying overnight.
If you’re travelling from overseas with young kids, it may be an opportunity for them to get up close with farm animals like sheep and cows. You may also spot some native birds like Pukeko, Dotterel, Oyster Catcher, Native ducks and even Kiwi birds!
Short walks and hikes to viewpoints and lookouts are a must-do activity. Some small walks are stroller-friendly with a bit of a push. As my preschooler said, she was so happy because it was so beautiful up the top surrounded by green pastures and blue seas!
Below you can view a map of Tawharanui Regional Park from the council which outlines all the hikes and trails you can do with the family.
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Anchor Bay Beach
There are 4 white sandy beaches at Tawharanui Regional Park, but the most well-known would be Anchor Bay Beach. Anchor Bay Beach has smooth ivory-white sands that are divided into sections by Flat Rock.
On the eastern side of Anchor Bay Beach, there are 2 caves that you can possibly walk through to the other side with kids during low tides. Alternatively, try the self-guided Ecology trail that takes you to the other side of Anchor Bay Beach and back in a loop.
Most people are swimming near Flat Rock, but we preferred to stay away from the crowd closer to Monayii Lookout. The kids had a great time playing in the shallow waters and although there are beginner surfers catching small waves in the distant, we felt pretty safe keeping the kids within arms reach.
You won’t miss this little hill on Anchor Bay Beach, it’s an easy climb up to the top for a panoramic view of Anchor Bay Beach from east to west. We managed to get up to this viewpoint with 3 tots, one toddler on our carrier, and two 4-year-olds climbed up themselves, bare feet with a bit of help. Some parts are slippery and steep, but if we could do it, you could too!
As parents, we always look for a playground for the kids near the water. We found a quiet and calm bay with a playground on the Southern side of Tawharanui peninsular.
This beach is much smaller and quieter compared to Anchor Bay Beach. If your family is looking for a picnic area or a playground by the beach, we recommend stopping here for a snack and maybe even a swim!
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In the meantime…
Which regional parks are your favourites?