Northwest of Nelson in Tasman Bay, the snorkeling in Tonga Island Marine Reserve is known for its amazing marine life. Located inside of the Abel Tasman National Park, there are several scenic coves to snorkel with colorful branching red algae. The Tonga Island Marine Reserve is only accessible by hiking in through the Abel Tasman National Park, by shuttle boat service, or by kayaking.
If you plan to hike into the snorkeling coves, there is a carpark in Awaroa and the trail runs along he coast. When hiking, keep in mind that you need to cross the Awaroa Inlet within 2 hours of low tide. It takes about a full day to hike from the carpark to reach the snorkeling sites. If you plan to kayak, the nearest boat ramp is located at Totaranui. Sea kayaking is a great way to explore many snorkeling sites. But watch out for the afternoon winds and keep in mind that there is little shelter from frequent storms.
The best snorkeling is between Foul Point and Tonga Quarry near the rocks. During Tonga Island Marine Reserve snorkeling, you may encounter moki, wrasse, snapper, cod, dolphins, seals and penguins.
To reach the snorkeling on the south island of New Zealand by air, fly into Nelson Airport (NSN). Alternately, you could fly into Christchurch on the south island, or into Wellington which is just across the straight and accessible by ferry into Nelson.
Overall, Tonga Island Marine Reserve is the 5th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 10 snorkeling dives in New Zealand.