Kapiti Island

Image: Sarah Wilcox | Creative Commons


Kapiti Marine Reserve is popular for its abundant sea life including blue moki, kingfish, seals and dolphins. It's also home for some top dive spots include the Hole-in-the-Wall underwater archway.

Place overview


  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
  • 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.

Find things to do and places to stay Kapiti Marine Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation

Kāpiti Marine Reserve connects Kāpiti Island Nature Reserve with the Waikanae Estuary Scientific Reserve. This brings two major sea currents together: the cold southern current and the warm d’Urville current. This results in a unique environment, full of species that are typically only found further south or further north.

The reserve is one of DOC and Air NZ’s Marine Sentinel Sites. Working with researchers, citizen scientists and those with rights over tribal land (mana whenua) we’re learning all we can to help our oceans. Find out more.

Rich habitats and unique reefs

Under the waves around Kāpiti Island are a huge variety of sea-beds. These include soft sediments with burrowing crabs and sea cucumbers, and beds of seaweed providing habitat for fish and kōura (rock lobster).

There are also stretches of sea anemones that snapper feed on. And deep rocky reefs encrusted with sponges. Rare rhodolith beds (or ‘ocean tumbleweeds’) are also found here, which provide for a huge diversity of wildlife.

You can explore under the waves with LEARNZ virtual field trip.

Little penguins/Kororā

Kororā return a nesting site at the reserve every year. They come to hatch their eggs often just meters from where they were raised. When they’re breeding, they’re at their most vulnerable. Meeting people, roads, and dogs can threaten their survival.

You might see them at the reserve when they’re ashore between May and June or November and March. Remember to give them plenty of space as they’re easily disturbed. If you want to see them up close, check out the Kapiti Kororā Cam.

History and culture

Find out about the Māori history of the waters between Kapiti Island and the mainland

Getting there

Kapiti Marine Reserve is 30 km from Wellington city and is located between Paraparaumu and Waikanae beaches and Kapiti Island.

The marine reserve touches the mainland at the Waikanae River mouth. Foot access to the reserve is from Waikanae Beach or Paraparaumu Beach on either side of the Waikanae Estuary and river mouth. There are walking tracks through Waikanae Estuary.

Know before you go

If you would like to visit Kapiti Island or wish to snorkel from its shores, you need to travel to the island with one of the authorised boat services and ensure you have a valid day visit permit. See Kapiti Island Nature Reserve for more information about visiting the island. 


Kapiti Wellington Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 4 384 7770
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   wellingtonvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   18 - 32 Manners Street
Postal Address:   PO Box 10420
The Terrace
Wellington 6143
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