Taputeranga Marine Reserve in Wellington. © Russell Street

Taputeranga Marine Reserve


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Taputeranga Marine Reserve is only 6km from Wellington’s city centre and offers snorkelling, diving and walking opportunities.

The reserve lies along Wellington’s exposed southern coastline, and as such 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. 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.

Over 180 fish species have been recorded in the south coast area. 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.

Variable triplefin, Taputeranga Marine Reserve

Variable triplefin. © Helen Kettles DOC

Kelp plants up to 20m 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.

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

Divers can also explore the wreck of the frigate F69 Wellington, which was scuttled in 2005 east of Taputeranga Island.

The Island Bay Snorkel Trail is an ideal place to investigate the marine life in the reserve, and the nearby Marine Discovery Centre showcases 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.

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

Seal resting at Sinclair Head

Seal resting at Sinclair Head © Gabriel Pollard Creative Commons

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