Swimming in Matapouri Mermaid Pools
Do a Google image search for ‘Matapouri Mermaid Pool‘ and you’ll see numerous photos of a tranquil tidal rock pool with stunning emerald green water. That’s at low tide. At high tide it’s a very different story as you can see from the photo above. Think of it as nature’s rinse cycle. Common sense dictates that you want to stay out of there while nature does its thing but when we visited, common sense was clearly taking a break as some joker in his underpants decided to take a dip and was nearly washed out to sea. And we’re not referring to one of us if that’s what you’re thinking. For those of you who like to be a little more prepared, you can check the tides at Matapouri here.
Update (April 2019) – Rāhui closes access to Matapouri Mermaid Pools
A rāhui (cultural closure/prohibition) has been put in place by Te Whanau ā Rangiwhakaahu Hapū, a local Māori subtribe. This has been done to protect the delicate ecosystem of the Matapouri Mermaid Pool which has been significantly impacted by the high volume of visitors. The following video will give you some idea of what the pool should look like, and how it looks now as a result of human waste and sunscreen.
It’s not lost on us that by sharing our own experience of this beautiful taonga (national treasure) online, we did in some small way contribute to the problem. This is our opportunity to be part of the solution and so we ask you to respect the rāhui and not visit the pools.
But don’t let this put you off visiting the area. The beach in Matapouri Bay is beautiful and great for swimming, and nearby whale Bay is definitely worth visiting. Perhaps in future we’ll see access restored but in a controlled manner and with the proper facilities in place so that we can continue to experience all of the beauty that New Zealand has to offer.
Matapouri Bay is around 195 km / 121 miles north of Auckland, heading up on State Highway 1 (SH1) towards Whangarei. The drive to Matapouri Bay from Auckland takes on average around 3 hours but it’s always best to check the NZTA journey planner for updates on delays or road closures before heading north. There is also a toll road just north of Auckland but this can be avoided by a slightly longer but more scenic route via Orewa.
While you can drive through Whangarei, it’s quicker to bypass the town on SH1 until you see a sign to the right for Whangarei Falls and Tikipunga/Tutukaka Coast. From here it’s just 35 minutes to Matapouri Bay.
So what were we doing there at high tide when all the travel guides clearly state that visiting Matapouri’s mermaid pool is a low tide activity? We were heading back home to Auckland after an epic weekend in the Bay of Islands walking the Cape Brett Track, and with time on our hands we decided to stop in at Matapouri. The tide was still heading out when we arrived so we figured we would relax on the beach until it was low tide and then stroll over to the headland at the northern end of Matapouri Bay. The thing is, we don’t do relaxing very well, so I did a bit of scouting and found that with some well-timed rockhopping we could actually make it all the way to the point without wading so we figured ‘why not?’.
Getting to the pools from Matapouri Bay
From the carpark at the end of Morrison Road it’s a 600m stroll to the northern end (turn left) of Matapouri Bay’s white crescent beach until you reach the saddle between the two headland hills of Rokoaweke and Rangitapu Points. A few years ago it seems there was an easy path which led via an archway to the pool but the archway has since collapsed which means there’s now a more arduous route. This involves climbing up and over the point and definitely requires some human four wheel drive action as it’s a pretty steep, and in places slippery climb. Fortunately there are lots of branches and roots to hold on to, plus some thoughtful (we assume) locals have tied ropes between the trees which definitely makes things easier in both directions.
Once over the steep section, there’s a short, easy walk through palms and with the sound of the ocean below and a growing sense of anticipation, we almost felt like we were on a remote island movie set and that at any moment, some ridiculously handsome actor would come crashing through the underbrush. Nope, not this day. In fact, as it turned out, apart from a few fishermen and a rather Bohemian looking woman and her dog who both disappeared randomly into the bush, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Oh yes, not forgetting the previously mentioned underpants wearing muppet.
Avoiding the crowds is definitely one of the many benefits of exploring New Zealand out of peak season. However, there was one downside which was the fact that despite it being sunny, it was still fairly cool, not surprising given that it was still technically winter. Nevertheless, there was no way we were going to come all this way without one of us swimming. That ‘one of us’ was me while Debs captured the evidence as you can see below. It was a short swim in every sense of the word.
Unfortunately, time and the tide was against us on the day we visited so we really didn’t get to experience Matapouri’s Mermaid Pool at its best. The sea was also a little dirty so we suspect that even at low tide the pool would not have become the crystal clear emerald beauty we were hoping for. But we weren’t disappointed as it was still a great place to relax and soak up some winter sun and once the weather gets a little warmer we will definitely be going back to swim and while we’re there, visit nearby Whale Bay.
More Adventures Near Here
At the far northern end of Matapouri Bay beach, before you head across to the point, keep a lookout for a path leading off to the left. This is the path to Whale Bay, another beautiful beach nearby that’s definitely worth visiting if you have time. It’s about 1.5 km to Whale Bay which is only accessible on foot or from the water so it’s quite secluded.
Looking for more ideas on things to do and places to see when visiting the Northland region? Have a look at our guide, Top things to do in Northland.
Best of New Zealand
If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration for your next holiday, you should definitely check out our New Zealand Travel Guide. We’ve got practical advice to help you plan your trip and region guides to help you decide where to go and what to do. We also share some of our favourite experiences from our own travels around the country. Click below to find out more.