Pauatahanui Inlet

Image: Matt Barnett | DOC


Pāuatahanui Inlet is largest relatively unmodified estuarine area in the southern North Island. It has viewing hides, tracks, a visitor centre and a picnic area.

Place overview


  • Picnic tables
  • Visitor centre


  • Bird and wildlife watching

Find things to do and places to stay Pāuatahanui Wildlife Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation

Pāuatahanui Inlet is the largest in Porirua and the most extensive relatively unmodified estuarine area in the southern part of the North Island. The area around the inlet has been inhabited for at least the last 600 years and the area is rich with wahi tapu, archaeological sites, and historic places.

Four areas are administered by DOC within the inlet - the Pāuatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve is a coastal wetland containing a mosaic of tidal flats and indigenous marsh vegetation. The reserve is bisected by the Pāuatahanui-Plimmerton (Grays) road which has influenced tidal movements, drying out an inland portion.

In the eastern half of the inlet is the Pāuatahanui Inlet Wildlife Refuge, set up to protect wildlife from disturbance, especially hunting. Duck Creek Scenic Reserve, on SH58 where Duck Creek flows into the inlet, is a shallow wet basin mainly covered in rushes and is surrounded on three sides by roads. The Horokiwi Wildlife Reserve is an estuarine wetland to the west and south of Grays Road near Horokiwi Stream.

The inlet is good for bird and wildlife watching.

Surrounded by urban development, the Pāuatahanui Inlet is threatened by siltation, pollution, eutrophication (enrichment with nutrients,road development and depletion of fish stocks through commercial and recreational fishing. DOC is working with community groups to advocate for land and water management to protect the natural and historic resources of this important estuarine wetland.

Getting there

Pauatahanui Inlet is an east-west running arm of Porirua Harbour, 30 km north of Wellington. Public access to the Pauatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve is via the Forest & Bird reserve at Pauatahanui village from SH58. 

From SH1 you can get onto the route around the estuary by turning off at the Paremata roundabout or at Grays Road in Plimmerton. Parking is available.

Know before you go

  • The reserve protects rare species and habitats.
  • Dogs, fires, hunting, trail bike riding and mountain bike riding are not permitted in this area.

Other places to visit

Taupo Swamp is a lowland freshwater mire with a walkway/cycleway connecting the seaside settlements of Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay along SH1.


Kapiti Wellington Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 4 384 7770
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   18 - 32 Manners Street
Postal Address:   PO Box 10420
The Terrace
Wellington 6143
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