When visiting New Zealand you can expect to find an abundance of fresh seafood, shellfish, and plenty of other goodies from the ocean. We’ve always been big time clam lovers so when we decided to stay in the Bay of Plenty we knew we were in for a treat! The beaches here are filled with the popular tua tua clams that can be found everyday at low tide. So how exactly do you harvest New Zealand clams? Clamming in New Zealand is actually a super fun activity, and we’re here to tell you all about it!
Pin For Later ↓
Clamming in New Zealand
The sacred art of clamming in New Zealand has been going on for centuries on the shores of the north island. Specifically in the Bay of Plenty you can find mussels, oysters, and other tasty shellfish.
However, the one that’s found and eaten most frequently are the tua tua clams. Rich in minerals and vitamins, tua tua’s are great for dinner or an afternoon snack. Everyday around low tide it’s common to see locals wading into the ocean with buckets to collect these delicious New Zealand clams.
Where to Find Tua Tua Clams
You can hunt for tua tua clams throughout New Zealand, but there are certain places where they’re found in the hundreds. For your first time clamming in New Zealand we recommended heading to Mt Maunganui Main Beach and nearby Papamoa. This large stretch of sand is not only filled with tua tua clams, but also is a popular area to visit while traveling around the north island of New Zealand.
Checking for Low Tide in the Bay of Plenty
The most important thing to know about how to find clams in the Bay of Plenty is that timing is everything. Low tide is when the water should be at its calmest, and when you can walk as far as possible to where the New Zealand clams are hiding in the sand. Search local websites like Tides NZ to find low tide times so you don’t miss out. If you’re lucky enough to get an early low tide you can even be eating clams by dinner!
How to Find New Zealand Clams
After you’ve looked up when low tide is it’s time to learn how to dig for clams! Affectionately called “the wiggle” by locals, this strategy is the first step to clamming in New Zealand. First walk as far as you can out into the ocean water until you’re at least knee high. Next, dig both feet into the sand and wiggle them in until you feel the shells.
If you’re in a good spot for tua tua clams you’ll feel them right away. Then all that’s left to do is dig your hands right in and pull them out! Don’t fret if you don’t find any on your first try. Some days it took us a few minutes to find a good spot, so move onto the next area and keep wiggling.
Also, keep in mind that the tua tua clams like to burrow themselves in the soft muddy areas. We’ve found them in as little as a few inches of water, but on some days had to go out waste deep.
New Zealand Clams Restriction: The law states you’re only allowed to take 150 tua tua clams a day per person. That’s obviously plenty for most people. Just don’t go over your limit or you could be subject to a hefty fine.
Letting the Clams Purge
Once you collect your bucket of clams they’re still not quite ready to eat yet. It’s important to let them purge for a few hours, or else you’ll be having a sandy meal! If we got them first thing in the morning they would usually be good by dinner.
When we collected clams in the afternoon we typically would wait until the next day to enjoy them. Make sure to store the clams in fresh ocean water, and in semi-cool place not directly in the sun.
Cooking Up Your Delicious New Zealand Clams
Now that you know how to find clams it’s time to get them ready to eat! Give them a quick rinse with fresh water to get all the sand off. Don’t be alarmed by the green color on the outside of some of the shells as that’s a normal feature of the tua tua’s.
You can actually prepare your New Zealand clams countless ways. We loved steaming them with lots of garlic, olive oil, and white wine. If you steam the clams in a large pan just long enough it will cause them to pop open their shell. We also grilled our tua tua clams, and even made clam fritters!
Looking for more food inspiration? Check out “Eat Up New Zealand: Recipes and Stories” which is sure to make you hungry!
Have any questions about how to find clams in the Bay of Plenty, or want to share your own New Zealand clam recipes? Please do so in the comments! We have also recommended several places to stay below. If you plan to cook the clams you may want to secure a house rental to ensure you have a kitchen.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Where To Stay In Maunganui New Zealand
Ultra Luxury– Pavilion Beachfront Apartments – Gorgeous beachfront apartments with balcony views of the Pacific Ocean. Each unit is self-contained and includes a spacious living room and full kitchen.
Fun Vacation – The Pacific Apartments – Just a 5 minute walk from the town center, and 2 minutes to the base of the Mount Maunganui hike. Pool, hot tub, and fitness center are just some of the great amenities you’ll get at the Pacific apartments.
Budget Travel – Seagulls Guesthouse – Located just outside of town across from beautiful Blake Park. Seagulls has a family friendly feel and a wide range of private room options.
Hostel Life – Mount Backpackers – Situated right on the end of the main street in town, and around the corner from the Mount Maunganui summit walk. The best bars and restaurants are steps away from Mount Backpackers. Bicycles, surf boards, and skateboards can be rented at the front desk as well.
For more places to stay in Mount Maunganui New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!
New Zealand Travel Planning
Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.
Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll need a car to see this country. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around.
Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go to if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from tickets to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves to a Hobbiton movie set tour, and even a Northland hole in the rock dolphin cruise!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
North Island New Zealand
Travel Tips & Guides: 10 Helpful NZ Travel Tips – North Island Itinerary – South Island Itinerary – 25 Beautiful Beaches – Wellington to Picton Ferry – 15 Freedom Camping Tips – 27 Delicious Food & Drinks
Auckland & Northland: Piha Beach & Kitekite Falls – Cape Reinga Lighthouse – Russell – Mangonui – Mount Eden – Devonport Day Trip – Waiheke Island Guide – 9 Best Waiheke Wineries
Lake Taupo: 17 Fun Things to Do – Mount Tauhara Hike – Best Street Art – Taranaki Falls – Huka Falls Walk – 14 Tongariro Crossing Tips
New Plymouth: 10 Fun Things to Do – Dawson Falls – Te Rewa Rewa Bridge – Paritutu Rock Hike – Egmont National Park
Wellington: 10 Fun Things to Do – Mount Victoria Hike – Best Breweries – Cable Car & Botanical Gardens
Bay of Plenty: Tairua – Hot Water Beach – Cathedral Cove Walk – 8 Maunganui Things Not to Miss – Mount Maunganui Hike – East Cape Road Trip
Rotorua & Raglan: Kerosene Creek – Redwoods Treewalk – 8 Raglan Things to Do – Bridal Veil Falls
→ Explore all our South Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides
*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What months are best to hunt for them?
While you can find them year-round we personally collected them from March to May. Good luck!
Would there be a chance to find any at waihi beach or down bowentown ways? Thank you.
We don’t know for certain if they’re at that beach, but we found them nearby! We’ll have to ask someone locally on our next trip about these specifically.
Not that I am aware of, there are usually a lot at Doubtless Bay – but they move around from year to year