Okura Marine Reserve

Okura Marine Reserve - photo copyright Anita Buchan    NZ Bridleways

Looking for somewhere safe to swim with your horse in Auckland? Or a beach ride with a difference? Ride at Okura - where you ride in the sea.

Strictly speaking Okura is a tidal estuary, and marine reserve that provides some fun riding when the tide is out.

Tides are doubly important here because in order to get to the estuary you must cross the boating channel!!!

Be very aware of the sensitive nature of this area; dotterels nest here and it is important to avoid nests to protect these birds, make sure your dogs are also kept away if they accompany you.

Facebook Users check out this group HOOF: Horses on Okura Forever

See more Photos here >> Thanks to riders for providing many beautiful photos!

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Terrain and Trails

Okura is a tidal estuary and therefore consists of mudflats, sandbars and marine rock outcrops covered in oyster shells. This provides a unique horse riding experience; horse riding in the sea rather than on a beach.

There are no specific trails and you should plan on only riding for around an hour at this location, during the lowest part of the tide, or you will be swimming back.

Stay off rocks as these will be extremely slippery and covered in oysters, that can rip you and your horse to shreds if you have problems.

DO NOT ride on the shell banks near the Silverstream shoreline. Dotterels nest on them and a hoof will destroy eggs or young birds.

Access and Parking

Access is from Okura River Road. Park at the Community Hall, which is on your left on the way down Okura River Rd.

  • Be considerate. Clean up all horse manure and any other rubbish.
  • Park considerately. Do not park on any grassy area if it is wet.
  • DO NOT park at the bottom of the hill near the boat ramp - this seriously annoys locals, and may cost us the option of riding here.

Once unloaded, ride down Okura River Road to the boat ramp where you will cross the boat channel to ride on the mudflats on the other side.

Map and Directions

Okura River Rd, is between Torbay and Stillwater. If you are coming from the north, it is a very sharp hairpin turn onto Okura River Rd as you reach the top of a hill on East Coast Rd.

Horse riding is on the north side of Okura River, up the Weiti River (not south).

Help the Dotterels at Okura

Dotterel Nesting: September - Feb

DO NOT RIDE on shell banks or shorelines at Okura

From mid-winter onwards, pairs begin to move back to their nesting territories, which they defend vigorously against other pairs. Nesting usually begins in September. Two or three well-camouflaged eggs are laid in a scrape in the sand, commonly among shells and driftwood just above the high tide mark. Because they are so hard to see, nests are sometimes crushed by people, vehicles, horses or stock.

NZ dotterels commonly try to distract intruders near their nest by pretending to be injured – they will even fake a broken wing - all the time leading the intruder further from the nest. If the eggs are lost to predators, or to natural factors such as storms or big tides, the birds will re-nest up to four times in one season.

Eggs are incubated for about a month.. The parents guard them, but they must find all their own food. When danger threatens, the chicks run to the nearest cover and freeze, crouching low keeping still until the parents sound the all-clear.

Chicks can usually fly by the age of six - seven weeks, but this time may be extended if their feeding is reduced by continual disturbance

Help the Dotterels

People, their pets and vehicles pose a major threat to NZ dotterels. Please stay out of roped-off areas and keep dogs and vehicles off beaches and sandspits when dotterels are present. If you see a NZ dotterel feigning injury, it has a nest or chicks nearby. Please move away from the area quickly - birds will not return to incubate until you have gone and eggs can overheat or become chilled quickly.