Get wet and wild

National Wetland Trust Executive Officer Karen Denyer reveals her top 12 wetlands to visit in New Zealand.

Hands up if you’ve ever heard a bittern boom, spotted a spotless crake, bounced on a bog, stepped through a swamp, or paddled with a pateke.

We all have our favourite bush walk, mountain hike or beach, but New Zealand’s wet and wild places, especially our swamps and bogs, can be hard to visit. But an increasing number of boardwalks, viewing platforms, interpretation panels and bird hides are bringing wetlands out of the back blocks and onto our tourist trails.

Communities are supporting efforts by the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game and local and regional councils to improve access to our squishy places. Forest & Bird branches have enhanced access to many wetlands across the country as part of their restoration projects, including Arethusa, Te Matuku, Pautahanui Inlet, Fensham Reserve and Tautuku Estuary.

The National Wetland Trust is developing an on-line directory of wetlands open to the public to help people find these sites and provide information about them. With a greater number of people enjoying and learning about wetlands there will be more willing hands to protect and restore them.

1. Limeburners Creek, Whangarei Harbour. Mangroves, saltmarsh, lush eelgrass beds, birdwatching, interpretation panels and boardwalk off Kioreroa Road.

2. Tawharanui Regional Park, Matakana. Predator-free peninsula with restored freshwater wetlands, a saline wetland and lagoon, pateke (brown teal) and kiwi. Boardwalks, accommodation. Near Omaha, north of Auckland.

3. Waihora Lagoon, Pureora Forest. A small ephemeral pond surrounded by towering kahikatea trees. An enchanting and peaceful grotto-like setting a short walk from the car park off Waihora Rd, via SH32 south of Mangakino.

4. Lake Ngahewa, Rotorua. Volcanic area with colourful cliffs, steaming ground, crater lakes, waterfowl and rare native mistletoe. Short track past crater lakes, geothermal vegetation and interpretation panels. Longer track to summit for views. Entrance off SH5 near Rainbow Mountain.

5. Potaema Bog, Egmont National Park. A boardwalk over this frost-hollow bog on Mt Taranaki gives close up views of sedges, orchids and carnivorous sundews. Wheelchair friendly 30 min trail off Pembroke Road.

6. Manawatu Estuary, Foxton.
Internationally significant wetland with abundance and diversity of wading birds (93 species). Viewing platform, picnic area and walk from Carter Crescent.

7. Nga Manu Nature Reserve, Waikanae. Largest remnant of original coastal lowland swamp forest on the Kapiti Coast, see the rare swamp maire and feed eels. Ngarara Road, off SH1.

8. Mangarakau and West Haven Inlet, Golden Bay. Great place to hear and see bittern and fernbird. Stay at the Friends of Mangarakau House with fantastic views over the wetland. Follow Pakawau Bush Road, north of Collingwood.

9. Kaki (black stilt) Visitor Hide, Twizel. Guided tours to see and learn about our endangered black stilt and the braided rivers they inhabit. Tours depart from Twizel Information Centre.

10. Ship Creek and Dune Lake, Haast. Short walks to a dune lake and ancient kahikatea swamp forest. Lookout tower, information shelter, walkways. Signposted from the Haast Highway, 25km north of Haast.

11. Tautuku Estuary, Catlins coast. Oioi (jointed rush) saltmarsh, hear and see fernbird from a short boardwalk built by Forest & Bird. On the Southern Scenic Route (SH92).

12. Awarua/Waituna Lagoon, Bluff. Internationally recognised wetland, with alpine bog plants at sea level. An extensive lagoon and peat bog with walks, bird hide and interpretation panels accessible from Awarua Bay Road.

To find out more about visiting wetlands, go to

The fourth National Wetland Restoration Symposium will be held in Rotorua from 3-5 March 2010. The symposium will be an opportunity for people committed to wetland biodiversity and restoration to share ideas, training and meet other wetland fans from around New Zealand.