Pohatu Marine Reserve

Image: Danica Stent | DOC


You will see many of New Zealand’s most charismatic marine animals at Pohatu Marine Reserve, which hosts both penguin and seal colonies.


Akaora Marine Reserve is located 3 km from Akaroa Marine Reserve. View a map

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Protect our marine reserves
    • No fishing of any kind.
    • Don't take or kill marine life.
    • Don't remove or disturb any marine life or materials.
    • Don't feed fish - it disturbs their natural behaviour.
    • Take care when anchoring to avoid damaging the sea floor.


Akaroa and Pohatu marine reserves map
Map showing both Akaroa and Pohatu marine reserves 
View larger (PDF, 2,798K)

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Pohatu Marine Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation

Pohatu Marine Reserves rock pools contain dense communities of the smaller sea creatures, and beneath the waves it has a wide range of water depths and seabed types.

This combination of interesting topography and abundance, both above and below the waterline, make Pohatu well worth a visit in spite of its remoteness.


About 2,600 korora (white flippered penguins) and some yellow-eyed penguins breed at Pohatu – the largest little penguin colony on the mainland. They can be seen clustered in the undergrowth of the surrounding hills, up to 700 m from the shore. They also swim out in the bay in large coordinated groups.

There is a seal colony in the outer reserve, Hector’s dolphins often visit, and orcas are a common sight, making the water really quite crowded on a good day.

The rocky shore platform around the edge of Flea Bay is abundant in small animals and plants. Visitors who enjoy rockpooling will see many kinds of crabs, shellfish, anemones and seaweed.

Albatrosses cruise these waters and are most likely to be seen from the headlands.


We are running a rock lobster tagging project, and needs your help to find out the movement patterns and growth rates of lobster in the Pohatu Marine Reserve area.

Getting there

Pōhatu Marine Reserve is centred on Flea Bay, on the southeast side of Banks Peninsula.

To get to Pōhatu Marine Reserve, take State Highway 75 to Akaroa, then the gravel Lighthouse Road up to the Flea Bay Road turnoff. The road down to the bay is steep and unsealed, and treacherous in bad weather.

A four wheel drive vehicle is recommended. Use the beach access provided – the beach is surrounded by private land.

Know before you go

At low tide the rocks may be slippery with algae. Take care when clambering around them.

Map and boundaries

View a map and GPS coordinates for the boundaries of Pohatu Marine Reserve.

Weather warning

The weather can change rapidly, creating dangerous sea conditions (and treacherous driving on the dirt road to the reserve).  Be prepared for rain and carry warm clothes.

Scuba diver warning

Scuba divers driving to the reserve need to be aware that the road reaches nearly 800 m above sea level so they need to plan dives and surface times carefully to avoid developing decompression sickness (the bends) during the drive out.

Snorkelers and divers need to be aware of the limitations of people in their party as this is a relatively isolated area, with no cell phone coverage or medical help available in the bay.

Marine mammals

There are seals, penguins and dolphins at this reserve that can become distressed or aggressive when approached. Keep the required distance from marine mammals to ensure you have a safe encounter.

Marine reserve rules

It is not permitted to take any animal or natural form from the reserve, including fish, shellfish, shells, seaweed, rocks or driftwood. Carefully replace rocks and stones if you lift them to observe marine life.

Dogs are not permitted in the reserve, as they disturb wildlife.

Stay on the main beach. The beach is surrounded by private land and the penguins nest there.

Remove all rubbish.


Ōtautahi / Christchurch Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 379 4082
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   christchurchvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   28 Worcester Boulevard
Christchurch 8013
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11089
Christchurch 8013
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