Formally designated on June 8, 2014, Akaroa Marine Reserve lies at the mouth of Akaroa harbour. It is 512.15 hectares, about twelve percent of the harbour area. Akaroa is visited by many marine mammals including the world’s smallest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphin.
Sheer cliffs dotted with caves form the backdrop of the reserve, and huge room-sized boulders lie in the water at their base.
There are also numerous small reefs. Giant beds of bull kelp and red algae surround these landforms, which are encrusted with communities of sponges, anemones, sea stars and sea tulips.
The reef around Gateway Point is of particular scientific interest as it supports an extremely rich and diverse fauna and flora - at least 10% of the benthic species found in this area are 'undescribed'.
The sea floor is mostly gently sloping between 18-30 metres deep, rising steeply to the rocky platform which fringes the shore. The usual array of burrowing animals inhabit the sandy bottom, mostly various tubeworms, molluscs and bivalves.
Smaller whale species often visit the reserve, and occasionally larger whales such as humpback, southern right and blue.
It is easy to visit Akaroa Marine Reserve, as the township supports numerous water-based tourist businesses. There are regular boat tours - some offer swimming with dolphins. You can also hire kayaks.
A walk or drive on the cliffs with a pair of binoculars is an excellent way to observe the birdlife. However be aware that the weather can turn very quickly, and the roads are rough.
Area Notes: http://www.saveakaroaharbour.co.nz/downloads/Akaroa_Harbour_MR_application.pdf, page 14 has original boundaries http://beehive.govt.nz/sites/all/files/Map%20of%20Akaroa%20Marine%20Reserve.pdf has final boundaries