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Taputeranga Marine Reserve is located 6 km from the city centre on Wellington's south coast, providing easy access to study, interact with and record marine life and habitats.


Over 180 fish species have been recorded on the south coast. Octopus, rock lobsters, crabs and starfish are common. Anemones, sea sponges and sea squirts thrive. There's plenty of beaches and rocky shores to explore at low tide.

Place overview


  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
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Find things to do Taputeranga Marine Reserve

    Diving, snorkelling and swimming

    The reserve is ideal places for snorkelling, diving, swimming and exploring rock pools.

    Divers and snorkelers can explore reefs extending into Cook Strait. The calmer waters encourage forests of kelp, where the big-belly seahorse finds shelter.

    A young snorkeller checks out Wellington's south coast. Photo: Rob Marshall.
    A young snorkeller checks out Wellington's south coast

    The Island Bay Snorkel Trail is an ideal place to investigate the marine life in the reserve. It is conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from the last Island Bay bus stop. Divers can explore the wreck of the F69 Wellington frigate, which was scuttled in 2005 east of Taputeranga Island.

    Snorkel and diving gear can be rented from nearby businesses.

    View a map of the Island Bay Snorkel Trail (JPG, 29K)


    There are boat launching ramps within the reserve at Island Bay and Owhiro Bay. Care should be taken to avoid damaging marine life by dragging anchors. Boaties need to obtain an up-to-date marine forecast, and advise a responsible person of your intentions, including your destination and intended time of return.

    Wellington's south coast is noted for changeable weather and strong currents. Sea conditions can quickly become treacherous. The eastern and western boundaries of the reserve are marked by large, bright yellow triangular signs (transit beacons) on shore. Navigational aids - a compass, chart, or GPS - are required to determine the outer boundaries as they are not marked by buoys.

    Kayaking and canoeing

    Kayaking is also permitted in the reserve.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    No two days are the same at Taputeranga - the weather is changeable and the water churns through Cook Strait, creating a moody and complex undersea environment.

    Blue cod. Photo: Joanne Long.
    Blue cod

    Octopus. Photo: Rob Marshall.

    Kelp forest, Island Bay. Photo: Joanne Long.
    Kelp forest, Island Bay

    The reserve lies along Wellington's exposed southern coastline. It is swept by strong tidal currents bringing nutrients from Cook Strait, and pounded by swells from the southern ocean. This creates ideal growing conditions for seaweeds, particularly the large browns.

    Kelp plants up to 20 m tall grow in sheltered places such as Island Bay. About 400 species of seaweed have been recorded within the reserve.

    Drifting in and out of the seaweeds you will see butterfish, blue moki, marblefish and smaller pickers such as spotty, banded and scarlet wrasse. Long finger reefs separated by gravel filled channels run offshore.

    Beneath the tangle of seaweed the walls of these are channels are covered with sponges, hydroids and anemones. Great places to look for gaudy nudibranchs. Several ship wrecks lie in the reserve, however relentless pounding by ocean swells means little remains to be seen. 

    Getting there

    Taputeranga Marine Reserve is located on the Wellington south coast, approximately 6 km from the city centre.

    Buses run regularly from central Wellington to Island Bay, Houghton Bay and nearby Lyall Bay. There's a walking track along the coastline.

    Know before you go


    Its shoreline boundary winds approximately 5km, from the old quarry west of Owhiro Bay in the west, to just west of Te Raekaihau Point in the east, taking in Owhiro, Island and Houghton Bays. The outer boundary of the reserve is 2.3km out to sea.

    Map of permitted commercial fisher rock lobster holding pot sites in the reserve (PDF, 150K)


    Fishing and the removal or disturbance of any living or non-living marine resource is prohibited, except as necessary for permitted monitoring or research. If you come across any research equipment, please do not disturb it. Do not feed the fish (this disrupts their behaviour).

    There are also penalties for:

    • Discharging toxic substances or pollutants.
    • Disturbing wildlife such as marine mammals and birds.
    • Wilfully damaging marine life or the natural features of the reserve.
    • Building an unauthorised structure.
    • Littering.
    • Using anything that you know has come from the reserve.
    • Failing to give your correct name and address to a ranger.
    • Threatening or bribing a ranger.
    What to do if people remove anything from the reserve

    Please report the activity to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Please also report pollution, oil spills, navigation hazards, and dangerous boating to Greater Wellington Regional Council's Environmental Protection Hotline (0800 496 734).


    Pōneke / Wellington Visitor Centre
    Phone:      +64 4 384 7770
    Address:   18 Manners Street
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