Manawatu Estuary


The diversity and number of wading and shore birds that visit the Manawatu Estuary make it one of the best bird watching spots in the country.

Place overview


  • Information panels
  • Picnic tables


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking and canoeing

Find things to do and places to stay Manawatu Estuary

About this place

Nature and conservation

The Manawatu Estuary is listed under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands as a Wetland of International Importance. Ramsar site no. 149, listed 25 July 2005.

This estuarine wetland has one of the most diverse ranges of birds to be seen at any one place in New Zealand, a total of 95 species have been identified at the estuary. It is a significant area of salt marsh and mudflat and a prized feeding ground for many birds including the migratory Eastern bar-tailed Godwit, which flies all the way from Siberia to New Zealand to escape the harsh northern winter.

The estuary is also a permanent home to 13 species of birds, six species of fish and four plants species, all of which are threatened. It regularly supports about one percent of the world population of wrybills.

A number of organisations, including the Manawatu Estuary Trust, local iwi, Horizons Regional Council, Horowhenua District Council, and Landcare Trust all play a significant part in looking after the site and are part of a management group with DOC. A new management plan was produced in May 2015. Under this plan, the vision for the Manawatū Estuary Ramsar site is that it be sustained, known, respected, and enjoyed as a regional treasure and estuarine ecosystem of international significance. If you are interested in contributing to the implementation the management plan please contact any of the organisations involved including DOC at the Palmerston North office.

Read the 2015-2025 Manawatu Estuary Management Plan (PDF, 1,373K) and view the appendices (PDF, 445K).

Getting there

Turn off SH1 at Foxton and head to the small settlement of Foxton Beach. Walking access to the estuary is off Holben Parade where cars can be parked by a small picnic shelter or alternatively cars can be driven down a sandy track past the old boat club to the estuary flats.

Know before you go

When exploring the estuary environs remember to keep an eye out for the incoming tide. As per most locations on the west coast of New Zealand the Manawatu Estuary can experience strong winds at times.


Te Papaioea / Palmerston North Office
Phone:   +64 6 350 9700
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   28 North Street
Palmerston North 4410
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11010
Manawatu Mail Centre
Palmerston North 4442
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