Pauatahanui Inlet is the largest in Porirua and the most extensive relatively unmodified estuarine area in the southern part of the North Island.
The area around the inlet has been inhabited for at least the last 600 years and is rich with wāhi tapu, archaeological sites, and historic places.
Among four areas administered by DOC within the inlet is the beautiful Pauatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve, a coastal wetland containing a mosaic of tidal flats and indigenous marsh vegetation.
The reserve is bisected by the Pauatahanui-Plimmerton (Grays) road which has influenced tidal movements, drying out an inland portion.
Day-to-day management is undertaken by a management committee under the auspices of Forest and Bird which operates a nursery, an information kiosk and a car park on land it owns adjacent to the reserve.
In the eastern half of the inlet is the Pauatahanui Inlet Wildlife Refuge, set up to protect wildlife from disturbance, especially hunting.
Duck Creek Scenic Reserve - on State Highway 58 where Duck Creek flows into the inlet - is a shallow wet basin mainly covered in rushes and is surrounded on three sides by roads.
The Horokiwi Wildlife Reserve is an estuarine wetland to the west and south of Grays Road near Horokiwi Stream.
- Information centre
- Picnic area
Pauatahanui Inlet is an east-west running arm of Porirua Harbour, 30km north of Wellington.
Public access to the Pauatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve is via the Forest and Bird reserve at Pauatahanui village from State Highway 58.
Parking is available. From State Highway 1. You can get onto the route around the estuary by turning off at the Paremata roundabout or at Grays Road in Plimmerton.
Bird and wildlife watching
Within the Pauatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve there are viewing hides, tracks, a visitor centre and a picnic area.
Bird and wildlife watching
The Pauatahanui Inlet is home to waterfowl, both local and migratory waders, with occasionally a rare visitor such as the bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica, for the birding enthusiast.
The inlet is the only large area of salt-marsh and seagrass in the Wellington region. Look into the water and try to see small snails crawling about. These are the mud snail, Amphibola crenata. These walnut-sized animals hold a critical place in the wetland food web: as they chew on the organic material that forms their food, they stimulate the growth of bacteria that return nutrients into the water.
If you keep still, you can also see mud crabs scampering timidly about.
A careful walk along the rush-lined streams can also offer you a glimpse of the banded kokopu, a beautifully-patterned native fish that can reach up to 250 mm.
Forest and Bird has produced these guides and a bingo game to help you identify animals and plants that can be seen at Pauatahanui Inlet:
Tracks and walks
A number of walking tracks lead from two car parks, with information boards to guide visitors. These provide options for walking along rush-lined streams (with a possible glimpse of the native fish, banded kōkopu), through marshy areas and even a stretch of coastal forest.
Many tracks include a bird hide for quietly watching for birds - or in some cases, mud snails and crabs.
Places to stay
There are no places to stay within this reserve. To find out about accommodation in the Porirua area contact the i-SITE Porirua City visitor information and travel centre. Details can be found on the Porirua City Council website.
Plan and prepare
The reserve protects rare species and habitats.
Dogs, fires, hunting, trail bike riding and mountain bike riding are not permitted in this area.
Other places to visit
Taupo Swamp - a lowland freshwater mire with a walkway/cycleway connecting the seaside settlements of Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay along State Highway 1.
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Guides and commercial tourism providers