The Manawatu Estuary at the mouth of the Manawatu River is a wetland of international importance.
Horizons Regional Council, Horowhenua District Council and the Department of Conservation work together to manage this area.
A community conservation group, the Manawatu Estuary Trust, play a significant part in looking after and advising on the management of this area. They are currently involved with raising funds for a Visitor Centre at the estuary.
The estuary has one of the most diverse ranges of birds to be seen at any one place in New Zealand, a total of 93 species have been identified at the estuary. It is a significant area of salt marsh and mudflat and a prized feeding ground for many birds including the migratory Eastern bar-tailed Godwit, which flies all the way from Siberia to New Zealand to escape the harsh northern winter.
The estuary is also a permanent home to 13 species of birds, six species of fish and four plants species, all of which are threatened. It regularly supports about one percent of the world population of wrybills.
In 2005 the Manawatu Estuary Trust were successful with their application to obtain Ramsar status for the Manawatu Estuary. This is given to wetlands of international significance under the RAMSAR convention, an inter-government treaty on the conservation of wetlands.
- Information panels
- Picnic tables
- Viewing platform
Located on the west coast next to the settlement of Foxton Beach.
Turn off SH1 at Foxton and head to the small settlement of Foxton Beach. Walking access to the estuary is off Holben Parade where cars can be parked by a small picnic shelter or alternatively cars can be driven down a sandy track past the old boat club to the estuary flats.
Bird and wildlife watching
Kayaking and canoeing
Manawatu Estuary is a great place for many recreational activities, including boating, fishing,
windsurfing, kayaking and bird watching.
Bird and wildlife watching
A total of 95 bird species have been recorded at the site. Look out for birds such as the migratory bar-tailed godwit/kuaka, wrybill/ngutu pare and Caspian tern/taranui.
Tracks and walks
Walking access to the estuary is off Holben Parade where there is a car park and small picnic shelter.
It is a 10 min walk to the estuary and the sandspit through a gap in the dunes and then left through the bollards. Turning right will take you to the river mouth and ocean beach (15 min). You can loop back along the beach to the surf club and Holben Parade.
Another option is to take the path upstream along the edge of the estuary to the Boating Club, which will give you good views of feeding birds along a very scenic route.
There is also a viewing platform and bird identification sign at the end of Dawick Street part way along.
Places to stay
Both Foxton Beach and Foxton townships have accommodation available.
Plan and prepare
When exploring the estuary environs remember to keep an eye out for the incoming tide. As per most locations on the west coast of New Zealand the Manawatu Estuary can experience strong winds at times.
Other places to visit
Pukepuke Lagoon - a dune lake and wetland near Tangimoana, on the Manawatu coast. Requires a permit to visit.