Pencarrow Lakes


Wellington’s Pencarrow Lakes - Kohangapiripiri and Kohangatera - are New Zealand’s last remaining relatively unmodified wetlands, despite being close to a large urban area. They were formed at least 7000 years ago when earthquakes raised the beach ridges, causing the valleys to fill with water.

Although the lakes are managed by the Department of Conservation, they are nestled within the East Harbour Regional Park which is administered by Greater Wellington Regional Council.

Walkers pause to admire the view of Lake Kohangapiripiri from the hill slopes surrounding the Pencarrow Lakes. Photo: Sue Galbraith.
Walkers above Lake Kohangapiripiri,
Pencarrow Lakes

The beds of the lakes and two esplanade reserves were vested in a governance entity representing the Port Nicholson Block, under the Port Nicholson Block (Taranaki Whânui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika) Claims Settlement Act 2009. 

The space occupied by water in the lakes, and the space occupied by the air above the water remains in Crown ownership


Plants and animals

The Pencarrow wetlands are home to a wealth of native plants and wildlife, including some rare and threatened species.  It's the only area in the Wellington region where banded dotterel nest on the open sand.


View of Pencarrow Head and lighthouse from Miramar Peninsula. Photo: Sue Galbraith.
View of Pencarrow Head and
lighthouse from Miramar Peninsula

The area around the lakes incorporates some unique cultural features, including evidence of early Maori occupation and the first lighthouse in New Zealand. Remains of the lighthouse complex include the decommissioned lighthouse, house sites and the grave of a lighthouse keeper’s daughter.


The Pencarrow Lakes are located on the south eastern head of Wellington Harbour.

Getting there

The Pencarrow Lakes can be reached via a two hour walk or 25 minute cycle ride along the flat coastal road from the locked Burdan’s Gate at the end of Eastbourne.


Mountain biking and cycling Mountain biking and cycling

One of the walks offering spectacular views at Pencarrow Lakes. Photo: Sue Galbraith.
One of the walks offering spectacular
views at Pencarrow Lakes

You can mountain bike along the coastline from Eastbourne to the Lakes, which is a great beginners ride. It's 5 km along gravel road to Pencarrow Head and another 5 km to Baring Head. This return trip takes 2 - 3 hours.

Dogs are only allowed on the road along the coast to the lakes and must be on lead, but are not allowed into the Park and the lakes area.

Around the Pencarrow Lakes are many secluded picnic spots and walks with awe inspiring views of Wellington’s dynamic coastline, harbour, and cityscape, and out to Cook Strait and the snow-capped Kaikoura ranges.


The Pencarrow Heads are exposed to strong winds and can be very hot in summer.

Plan and prepare

Take food and water and warm waterproof clothing. Wear sturdy footwear.

Please remember

Don't light fires. Keep dogs on a lead. Boats are not permitted on the Pencarrow Lakes.

Related links


Find out more


Follow the Outdoor Safety Code:
1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies

Alerts for Wellington/Kapiti places


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