Muriwai - Gannet Colony
The gannets start nesting in August and stay latest until April when the chicks are fledging.
- The mating rituals are spectacular to observe and occur at the beginning of the nesting season.
- The breeding population reaches the peak in November.
- In summer; around December to February, you can watch how the chicks get fed.
- In March/April, the juveniles leave the nest.
- Late autumn and beginning of winter; from May until July; most of the gannets migrate to Australia.
The summertime is the peak season from December to March. Weekends are more crowded due to beach visitors and surfers. Limited parking, therefore, visit the colony either early in the morning or late afternoon at weekends; mid-week and spring are less busy. More crowded on sunny days and very few visitors during cold, rough days.
Warmest months are in the summer from December until March often with pleasant temperatures around 20 °C at daytime and 10-12°C in the night. The coldest months are in the winter from June to August, but it's not freezing. Most precipitation in winter but it already starts in May with the peak in July. Driest months are during the summer from November to February/March. The best months for swimming at Muriwai Beach are January until March, but the sea temperature is still lower than 20 °C.
Be prepared for the windswept coastline and bring a warm jacket. If you are downwind, you experience the penetrating smell of gannet poo.
It's just a forty minutes drive from Auckland to Muriwai. From the car park leads a short walking track to the main gannet colony and a viewing platform. More than a thousand pairs of gannets nest at Muriwai each year.
The gannets are common to New Zealand. Most of the gannetries occur on the Northern Island with the biggest colony on Cape Kidnappers. Muriwai is one of only three mainland gannet colonies. This bird sanctuary is easily accessible, and you get relatively close to the birds which make Muriwai unique.
Facts about the Australasian Gannets and the Nesting Season
- Gannets often live in large colonies on cliffs, islands and coastal rocks completely or almost surrounded by the sea.
- The male birds return first to their nest. The mutual bill fencing between the gannet pairs is an impressive greeting ceremony.
- They may remain together for several years, some mate for life.
- Each gannet pair has one egg. If the egg gets lost or broken within the first weeks, a gannet can lay a second egg.
- The incubation of the egg lasts more than 40 days.
- The chicks hatch naked and blind. After one week they are already covered with fluffy down.
- One of the parents is always guarding the nest while the other is hunting for fish.
- The juveniles leave the nest roughly after 100 days and migrate to Australia. They return to their home colony after 3 to 5 years.
- The gannet lifespan is extremely long with more than 25 years.
- They weigh nearly 2.5 kg and have a length of almost 90 cm.
It is a very rare opportunity to watch the blue-eyed gannets close. You may also spot seals, dolphins or even penguins in the sea. There isn't any entrance fee requested.
The popular Muriwai Beach is patrolled during summer. Swimming between the flags is allowed.
If your itinerary allows consider to stay north of Auckland for a couple of days. We spent three nights close to the famous Piha and Karekare Beach, well known from the movie "The Piano". If you are into hiking and fond of the Neuseeland rainforests, don't miss the Fairy Falls and the Waitakere Ranges. We had a lovely stay at the Piha Beach House with low budget and luxury rooms within walking distance to the famous beach.
Supplement: Unfortunately, parts of the Waitakere Ranges got closed due to the Kauri Dieback disease in May 2018. Check out which trails in the Waitakere Ranges are open and which ones are closed. PDF Hiking Trails Waitakere More information about the disease and the status of closures for hikes and campgrounds can be found here.