Snorkelling at Taputeranga Marine Reserve
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Taputeranga Marine Reserve is only 6 km from Wellington’s city centre. It's very accessible and offers snorkelling, diving and walking opportunities.

Place overview


  • Boating
  • Diving and snorkelling
  • Kayaking and canoeing
  • Swimming
  • Marine reserves
    Protect our marine reserves

    They are special places that protect the species and habitats within them.

    • 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
    • Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) to report any illegal activity

Find things to do Taputeranga Marine Reserve


Diving, snorkelling and swimming

Divers and snorkellers should explore reefs extending into Cook Strait. The calmer waters encourage forests of kelp, where the big-belly seahorse finds shelter.

The Island Bay Snorkel Trail is an ideal place to investigate the marine life in the reserve. It's conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from the last Island Bay bus stop. Divers can explore the wreck of the F69 Wellington frigate, which was scuttled in 2005 east of Taputeranga Island.

View a map of the Island Bay Snorkel Trail (JPG, 29K)


There are boat launching ramps within the reserve at Island Bay and Owhiro Bay. Care should be taken to avoid damaging marine life by dragging anchors. 

Wellington's south coast is noted for changeable weather and strong currents. Sea conditions can quickly become treacherous. The eastern and western boundaries of the reserve are marked by large, bright yellow triangular signs (transit beacons) on shore. Navigational aids - a compass, chart, or GPS - are required to determine the outer boundaries as they are not marked by buoys.


Walk the beaches, and if you are keen, visit Sinclair Head and Red Rocks scientific reserves, which can be found 1 km west of the marine reserve. Sinclair Head/Te Rimurapa is a winter haul-out for the New Zealand fur seal.

Explore the rock pools but put any rocks you turn over back in their original position. This will help protect the plants and animals living on and under them.

Island Bay Marine Discovery Centre

This centre holds one of the largest collections of local marine life in New Zealand. Visitors can encounter some of the amazing marine animals and plants that live in Cook Strait on Wellington's south coast. For opening hours and directions see the Marine Discovery Centre website.

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    About this place

    Nature and conservation

    Over 180 fish species have been recorded on the south coast. Octopus, rock lobsters, crabs and starfish are common. Anemones, sea sponges and sea squirts thrive. There's plenty of beaches and rocky shores to explore at low tide.

    No two days are the same at Taputeranga - the weather is changeable and the water churns through Cook Strait, creating a moody and complex undersea environment.

    The reserve lies along Wellington's exposed southern coastline. It is swept by strong tidal currents bringing nutrients from Cook Strait, and pounded by swells from the southern ocean. This creates ideal growing conditions for seaweeds, particularly the large browns.

    Kelp plants up to 20 m tall grow in sheltered places such as Island Bay. About 400 species of seaweed have been recorded within the reserve.

    Drifting in and out of the seaweeds you will see butterfish, blue moki, marblefish and smaller pickers such as spotty, banded and scarlet wrasse. Long finger reefs separated by gravel filled channels run offshore.

    Getting there

    Taputeranga Marine Reserve is approximately 6 km from Wellington City centre. Buses run regularly from central Wellington to Island Bay, Houghton Bay, and nearby Lyall Bay.

    Know before you go

    Fishing and the removal or disturbance of any living or non-living marine resource is prohibited, except as necessary for permitted monitoring or research. If you come across any research equipment, do not disturb it. 

    There are also penalties for:

    • Discharging toxic substances or pollutants.
    • Disturbing wildlife such as marine mammals and birds.
    • Wilfully damaging marine life or the natural features of the reserve.
    • Building an unauthorised structure.
    • Littering.
    • Using anything that you know has come from the reserve.
    • Failing to give your correct name and address to a ranger.
    • Threatening or bribing a ranger.

    If you see people taking anything from the reserve, report the activity to 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). Also report pollution, oil spills, navigation hazards and dangerous boating to Greater Wellington Regional Council's Environmental Protection Hotline (0800 496 734).

    Other regulations

    • Swing moorings are permitted within the reserve provided all other legal requirements related to the swing mooring are met.
    • With the implementation of the reserve, if a contaminant is being discharged within or into the marine reserve, the discharge of the contaminant may continue provided all other legal requirements are met.
    • Existing structures may remain and be maintained within the reserve.
    • Beach cast seaweed and debris can be removed from or disposed of in the marine reserve by local authority provided the DOCis notified at least 24 hours beforehand.
    • Rock lobster caught in the wild outside of the reserve may be held temporarily in holding cages in a specified area in Island Bay.


    Kapiti Wellington Visitor Centre
    Phone:   +64 4 384 7770
    Address:   18 - 32 Manners Street
    Full office details
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