Milford Sound
Image: Shellie Evans ©


Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve is one of the most popular places in Fiordland to dive and see the black corals for which the fiords are famous.

Things to do


Diving is the best way to explore this magnificent marine reserve. While in the water you may see stingrays, crayfish, octopus, seals sharks and over 100 other fish species. 

Nature and conservation

The reserve’s name, Piopiotahi, means 'one native thrush'. The piopio (now thought to be extinct) was a ground-feeding bird that declined rapidly after the introduction of mammalian predators such as stoats and rats.

The reserve was established in 1993. It spans 16 km in length and covers an area of 690 hectares. The underwater habitats it covers are mostly deep muddy fiord basin, with a large section of deep reef and a small section of shallow rock wall along the shore.

There is very steep rock-wall on the inner northern side of Milford Sound which is dominated by delicate deep water invertebrates. These are animals that are fixed to the rock wall, including encrusting tubeworms, sponges, soft corals, colonial sea squirts, black coral and anemones.

On the Tasman Sea side divers can often get surrounded by schools of butterfly perch, hundreds of rock lobster and numerous reef fish. Octopus, stingrays, seals and occasional bottlenose dolphin also live in these waters. 

Video clip about Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) from Protecting our seas DVD

Getting there

The Piopiotahi Marine Reserve is situated along the northern side of Milford Sound, stretching from the village of Milford Sound to Dale Point, where it meets the Tasman Sea.

View a map of Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve

Know before you go

Removing marine life

Members of Ngāi Tahu Whānui may access the reserve to remove pounamu provided they have any required resource consents and/or authorisation by the kaitiaki rūnaka. Pounamu must be collected by hand, with minimal disturbance to the site and only so much as you may carry in one trip.

Members of Ngāi Tahu Whānu are also permitted to remove deceased marine mammals and collect teeth and bones found within the reserves.


Take-off and landing of aircraft is permitted within the reserve.


There are specific no-anchoring areas in some of Fiordland’s marine reserves. These areas are home to particularly fragile species that could be damaged by an anchor or its swinging chain. Information about the no-anchoring areas in each of the fiords can be found in the Fiordland user’s guide (PDF, 4, 440K)

Recreational, educational and scientific activities

Recreational, educational and scientific activities are encouraged as long as they do not disturb or endanger the plant and animal life or natural features. A permit is required from DOC for any scientific research within the reserve.

Commercial rock lobster pot storage

Because of limited suitable space for storing rock lobster pots in Fiordland, five areas within four marine reserves are designated for commercial rock lobster fishers to store live lobster caught outside the reserve in holding pots and to store inoperable rock lobster pots (with doors open). These five areas are shown on the maps for the following marine reserves:

  • Hawea (Clio Rock)
  • Kahukura (Gold Arm)
  • Taumoana (Five Fingers Peninsula)
  • Te Tapuwae o Hua (Long Sound)

They are not open for use by recreational fishers.

Right of passage

Right of passage through the marine reserve is not affected by the reserve status of the area.

Fiordland Marine (Te Moana o Atawhenua) Reserves (PDF, 2,000K)


Te Rua-o-te-moko / Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 249 7924
Address:   Fiordland National Park
Visitor Centre
Lakefront Drive
Te Anau 9600
Full office details
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