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


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


  • Information panels
  • Picnic tables

Find things to do Manawatu Estuary


Manawatu Estuary is a great place for many recreational activities, including boating, fishing,
windsurfing, kayaking and bird watching.

Bird and wildlife watching

A total of 95 bird species have been recorded at the site. Look out for birds such as the migratory bar-tailed godwit/kuaka, wrybill/ngutu pare and Caspian tern/taranui.

Walking access to the estuary is off Holben Parade where there is a car park and small picnic shelter.

It is a 10 min walk to the estuary and the sandspit through a gap in the dunes and then left through the bollards. Turning right will take you to the river mouth and ocean beach (15 min). You can loop back along the beach to the surf club and Holben Parade.

Another option is to take the path upstream along the edge of the estuary to the Boating Club, which will give you good views of feeding birds along a very scenic route.

There is also a viewing platform and bird identification sign at the end of Dawick Street part way along.

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    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
    Address:   28 North Street
    Palmerston North 4410
    Full office details
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