Pauatahanui Inlet
Image: Matt Barnett | DOC


Pauatahanui 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


  • Bird and wildlife watching


  • Picnic tables
  • Visitor centre

Find things to do Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve


Bird and wildlife watching

The Pauatahanui Inlet is home to waterfowl, both local and migratory waders, with occasionally a rare visitor such as the bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica, for the birding enthusiast.

The inlet is the only large area of salt-marsh and seagrass in the Wellington region. Look into the water and try to see small snails crawling about. These are the mud snail, Amphibola crenata. These walnut-sized animals hold a critical place in the wetland food web: as they chew on the organic material that forms their food, they stimulate the growth of bacteria that return nutrients into the water.

A number of walking tracks lead from two car parks, with information boards to guide visitors. These provide options for walking along rush-lined streams (with a possible glimpse of the native fish, banded kōkopu), through marshy areas and even a stretch of coastal forest.

Many tracks include a bird hide for quietly watching for birds - or in some cases, mud snails and crabs.

Forest and Bird has produced these guides and a bingo game to help you identify animals and plants that can be seen at Pauatahanui Inlet:

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

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

    In the eastern half of the inlet is the Pauatahanui 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 Pauatahanui 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
    Address:   18 - 32 Manners Street
    Full office details
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