Three people were left clinging to their boat after it capsized about 500m off the Northland Coast this afternoon.

It is understood the 12 foot boat capsized just after 1pm and police were alerted.

The incident happened off Mahanga Road in Pataua South, Whangarei.

The boat "righted" itself and the three people managed to climb back on board.

Coastguard and a police search and rescue team are heading to meet the boat as it comes ashore.