A systematic study of the ambient noise in the shallow coastal waters of north-eastern New Zealand shows large temporal variability in acoustic power levels between seasons, moon phase and the time of day. Ambient noise levels were highest during the new moon and the lowest during the full moon. Ambient noise levels were also significantly higher during summer and lower during winter. Bandpass filtering (700-2,000 Hz and 2-15 kHz), combined with snap counts and data from other studies show that the majority of the sound intensity increases could be attributed to two organisms: the sea urchin and the snapping shrimp. The increased intensity of biologically produced sound during dusk, new moon and summer could enhance the biological signature of a reef and transmit it further offshore. Ambient noise generated from the coast, especially reefs, has been implicated as playing a role in guiding pelagic post-larval fish and crustaceans to settlement habitats. Determining a causal link between temporal increases in ambient noise and higher rates of settlement of reef fish and crustaceans would provide support for the importance of ambient underwater sound in guiding the settlement of these organisms.