Collecting Cockles at Okoromai Bay in New Zealand

As the tide retreated we could see a few people collecting cockles at the water’s edge. I pointed them out to our Italian AFS exchange student, commenting that it is generally a summertime activity. It was only 12c yesterday, not a day I wanted to step into the water even with protective rubber boots. She, however, seemed excited by the idea, so we added a few layers and headed down to Okoromai Bay. Being too cold for me, I opted to photograph from shore as they collected cockles.

What is a Cockle? 

A small, edible, saltwater clam, a burrowing marine bivalve mollusc with a strong ribbed shell.

Ready to collect cockles (small clams) on Okoromai Bay in Auckland New Zealand

Bucket in hand they are ready to walk out to the waterline, stick their hands into the wet sand, and feel for cockles.

Collecting shells on Okoromai Bay in Auckland New Zealand

Before looking for cockles the shells on the beach caught her eye.

Collecting cockles (small clams) on Okoromai Bay in Auckland New Zealand

I imagine the black swans they were walking towards were more interesting than the cockles they would collect from the shallow water.

Collecting cockles (small clams) on Okoromai Bay in Auckland New Zealand

The crisp cold day offered a hazy distant view of the city of Auckland.

Collecting cockles (small clams) on Okoromai Bay in Auckland New Zealand

Despite the cold weather, this dad and boy walked out barefoot. Looks like our families are dressed for two different seasons.

Cockles in New Zealand

Interested beach goers take a look a hubby’s cockle collection.

Cockles in New Zealand

Seems like a big effort just for this small number of cockles.

The sign on the beach reminding collectors of the limit of only 50 cockles per person.

This sign on the beach reminds collectors of the limit of only 50 cockles per person.

Practical Information:

  • Okoromai Bay is one of three major bays at Shakespear Park. Located at the end of Whangaparaoa Peninsula, it is about 50 km from Auckland city centre in New Zealand. It is one of only a handful of Auckland bays that still allow the collection of cockles.
  • The best spot to find cockles is at the water’s edge at low tide, just below the surface. Stick your hands in the soft sand slowly, as there may also be jagged, sharp oyster shells.
  • Cockles are great on the BBQ but even better boiled. Remember to rinse them well before you cook them. They open when they are ready to eat. Never eat cockles that don’t open on their own.
  • As with most fishing in New Zealand, there are strict limits as to the numbers collected. At Okoromai Bay the limit is 50 cockles per gatherer per day. For our group of three that translated to a maximum of 100, as I was not gathering.
  • The limits are strictly enforced, the penalties for violation are huge. According to this article in the New Zealand Herald “Anyone who is caught with three times their daily limit, we seize all fishing equipment including vehicles, boats, dive gear, etcetera.” The Ministry of Primary Industries is out patrolling often enough that most violators get caught.
  • The limits are put in place to protect the shellfish stocks.
  • Want more? Check out: Clams: How to Find, Catch and Cook Them.

Have you ever collected cockles or any clams? Would you try it in the winter?

If you enjoyed this post, please pin it:

Collecting cockles (small clams) on Okoromai Bay in Auckland New Zealand

This post is linked at BeThere2Day for Wordless Wednesday on Tuesday, Monday Escapes, Through My Lens, Life Thru the Lens, Our World Tuesdays, Travel Tuesday, Ruby Tuesday Too, and Outdoor Wednesday.

Sarah's Snapshots - Soy Bean Farm in Rosario Argentina
People Watching on Arbat Street in Moscow Russia


  1. says

    Beautiful images. The view of the city in the background is amazing. I remember how cold it can get in Auckland in winter but I’m sure your guest still found it an adventure to be on the beach in your part of the world.

  2. says

    I don’t think I’d ever had cockles or muscles, but I’ve had fried clams and love them! Despite the fact Egypt has two coasts (the Mediterranean and the Red Sea) there aren’t many shellfish here. They do have shrimp and prawns, but they don’t taste as nice as the ones I got living on the East coast of the US. There are a ton of fish here, but I don’t like fish. My hubby is a big fish fan, so he’s a happy camper! Thanks for the great pics and the explanation of “cockles.”

  3. says

    Intriguing post. Only a week ago I was interested in viewing an oyster and mussel boat moored at Mornington. Two ways to collect thse fish delicacies it seems. Lovely photos.

  4. says

    Hi Rhonda – I haven’t had clams for years … we used to go beach foraging when I was a kid … probably for whelks and cockles … but these are stunning photos and I bet the Italian student will be enamoured by this experience … gorgeous … love the view of Auckland … It’s good to see the warning sign … cheers Hilary

  5. says

    Nice photos Rhonda I haven’t actually picked cockles but I love eating them here they are popular with Londoners with vinegar and white pepper over them delicious 🙂

    Have a cockletastic day 🙂

  6. says

    Yes, I went with my uncle and cousins once to the Oregon coast and we dug for cockles. Actually, my youngest cousin and I search for cockles while my uncle and other cousin dug for clams. Amazing how fast those suckers can burrow.

    • says

      I was just a lunch with the Oregon tourism board, and we were talking about the similarities between New Zealand and Oregon. I guess this is one more to add to the list.

  7. says

    I definitely would get into doing something like this, I love shellfish….but the 50 limit would be gobbled up in just a few minutes.

    • says

      They didn’t make it out to the waters edge where the cockles would have been bigger. Plus it’s 50 per gatherer, so they could have brought in 100. It’s generally enough for a meal – with lots of sides.

  8. says

    What a unique and interactive experience that looks like! A great write up!

    I think it’s fantastic that there’s a restriction on the numbers you can pick. If only that applied to the harvesting of other sealife which are known to be endangered (eg blue fin tuna) or at least in danger of becoming so.

    • says

      Here is applies to just about everything taken from the sea. There are different rules for each type of seafood and both size and number limits on fish. The ministry is very protective of our waters and measures everything when they stop people.

  9. says

    That looks like fun! I haven’t collected them. That’s just because I live in Nebraska. If I lived where Cockles are – I’d for sure be out there collecting them. 🙂

  10. says

    I’m surprised at the stiff penalties for going over the limit, will mention it to my cuz who’s a big fisherman to see what the fines are like around here for bass, perch, walleye etc. Good to mention they have to open on their own I bet some people don’t know that. I laughed when I saw what 12c translated into, so I’m guessing you wouldn’t join in the Polar Plunge haha, me neither, (I read it can get to .5c depending on when you have it, ours is in the middle of February, so brrrr.)

    • says

      Yes, and we enjoyed them. We didn’t eat from the bay for about 3 years after they poisoned the nearby park (despite they said after 6 months there was no trace), but now we feel confident it is fine, fresh and delicious. If you do gather and eat, remember don’t eat it if it doesn’t open on its own when cooked.

  11. says

    Sounds chilly, but fun. I bet your exchange student had a blast. I have never been to a beach where you could find any sort of food, I would like to visit a beach like that sometime.

    Lisa @ LTTL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.