Takapu Refuge Walk

Takapu Refuge Walk

Muriwai Gannet Colony


13 Rankers Reviews

9 Face-to-Face

4 Kumeu

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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We have lift-off - Muriwai Gannet Colony
Gannets nesting on cliffs above Maori Bay, Muriwai
Gannet families nesting - Muriwai


approx 1.5 km return | 30 minutes return

The Takapu Refuge was established in 1979 to protect the expanding breeding population of the Australasian Gannets, who nested on Oaia Island, 1.6 km offshore.


From the carpark at the end of Motutara Road in Muriwai, follow the boardwalk up Otakamiro Point.

There are toilets, barbecues and picnic tables at the carpark.

Alternatively, follow signposts along Waitea Road to the gannet colony and the carpark above Maori Bay.


From the southern end of Muriwai Beach, the boardwalk snakes up to two lookout platforms, both perched on tips of the headlands. The second, above Motutara Island, can also be reached via an even, metalled track 5 minutes from the carpark at Maori Bay.

A return route through native forest past enormous pohutukawa is signposted 10 minutes form Maori Bay carpark and descends to the main parking area on a well-formed surface.


Above Maori Bay, interesting rock formations in the cliffs give clues to their geological past. The radiating spikes of angular rock are known as pillow lava and formed during the undersea eruption of molten rock.

On contact with cold water, the outer skin of a lava bubble cools, whilst the enclosed molten rock continues to flow under pressure. It penetrates a weakness in the shell of rock and explodes like a water-filled balloon, forming a pillow shape. The examples of the differing sized pillows preserved in the cliffs above Maori Bay are world-renowned.


With increased numbers, the gannets have displaced the white-fronted terns from Motutara (which means ‘island of terns’) Island and formed their distinctive mounded nests atop the spectacular rock stack.

The Australasian gannet (Sula serrator) is a majestic flier and can often be seen diving with aerobatic precision to catch its prey. They only breed in New Zealand, but after fledging, spend 2-3 years around Australia before returning.

Between July and January, you can observe the gannets as they return to their original breeding grounds, establish partnerships, breed, nest and rear their chicks. The close proximity of the viewing platforms allow you to observe courtship displays, aggressive territorial squabbles (where beaks are locked amid much wing flapping) and rearing of nestlings.

The updraught from the cliffs is also harnessed by the birds to aid take off. You can watch them swoop and glide before deftly alighting on the hummocky terrain of their nesting grounds.


Feature Value Info


Auckland Council

Local government organisation


North IslandAuckland RegionKumeu


  • Walking
  • Bird Watching
  • Free


Leonie's avatar



Ranking: 8/10

Great views! Black beach is beautiful!

Reviewed about 5 years ago and experienced in March 2016

Pierre Alexandre 's avatar

Pierre Alexandre


Ranking: 7/10

Very nice place with a lot of birds and beautiful sunset. The point of view from the stairs is really nice especially when there is nobody on the beach.

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in February 2016

Chiara's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

Super sweet beach, nice for a little climb and spotting some wildlife.

Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in January 2016

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Audrey Ripoche's avatar

Audrey Ripoche


Ranking: 8/10

Beautiful beach with black sand. If you go up the stairs you can watch a colony of gannets and some are pretty close! Watch them fly, eat, cuddle, fight..... that is very nice.

Reviewed almost 9 years ago and experienced in March 2013

Hanneke P's avatar

Hanneke P


Ranking: 9/10

lovely view, beautiful coast

Reviewed about 9 years ago

Roeland Driessen's avatar

Roeland Driessen

New Zealand

Ranking: 9/10

Just a beautiful place!!

Reviewed over 9 years ago

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Dogoneit's avatar


United Kingdom

Ranking: 9/10

Feel like David Attenborough for free. You can get reasonably close and they are fascinating to watch. It's at the end of a beach with black sand. Well worth making a detour out to Muriwai and spending a few days on the west coast of Auckland, but whatever you do, don't miss the gannet colony.

Reviewed about 11 years ago

beetley's avatar



Ranking: 9/10

It felt like hours went by as I watched the close quarter routines of these amazing birds. Really worth a look.

Reviewed almost 12 years ago and experienced in March 2010

Nztraveller1's avatar


New Zealand

Ranking: 8/10

Fascinating, beautiful, and free!! Close up viewing in a magical wild location What more could you ask for

Reviewed about 12 years ago and experienced in October 2009

Rachel Widerstrom's avatar

Rachel Widerstrom

New Zealand

Ranking: 8/10

Up close and personal with a beautiful natural wonder. If you are there between November and January you will see newly hatched chicks. Very cool..

Reviewed about 12 years ago and experienced in November 2009

DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick