Manawatu Estuary

Manawatu Estuary

Your Nature Guide

Marios Gavalas's avatar

Marios Gavalas

Author And Researcher

Nau mai, haere mai

Nau mai, haere mai

I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.

I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!


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approx 3 km return | 1 hour 30 minutes return

The Manawatu Estuary today is the most important estuarine habitat in the lower North Island, with over 35 species recorded around the fertile waters. You can see arctic wading birds such as bar-tailed godwits and lesser knots. South Island breeders, such as South Island pied oystercatchers and wrybills, also inhabit the area. Many birds are also local residents such as royal spoonbill, New Zealand shoveler and pied stilts.


Park at Foxton Beach Esplanade Reserve on Hartley Street. This is reached from SH1 by following Robinson Street, Lady’s Mile, Foxton Beach Road and Seabury Avenue (all the same road but the name changes) to Linklater Avenue on the left (just after the dairy). This ends at the estuary and reserve. Toilets are nearby.


This is an informal walk, basically following the northern edge of the Manawatu Estuary. It is the best way to witness some of the bird life.

The walk follows a tarsealed track between residential property and the estuary, shortly passing an information board on the birdlife. Continue along the footpath to just before Holben Parade Reserve and cut in front of the pines. This leads to wide sand banks at the mouth of the river.

You can either return via the same route or continue around the point and walk along the beach. At high tide you may have to make brief forays into the dunes. At the main Foxton Beach reserve follow the roads back to Foxton Beach Esplanade Reserve.


Forest clearance, flood plain development and population increases have all contributed to a deterioration in water quality of the Manawatu River. Introduced fish and wildlife compete with the native species and river bank habitat changes have decimated the populations of native flora and fauna. The estuarine habitat has thus been highly modified.

European History

The area around the mouth of the Manawatu River was originally settled because of the large flax swamp, which also provided an abundance of eels for the Maori community. Later, when the Crimea War broke out in the 1850s, there was a large demand for flax, which was needed for rope making. This trade in flax continued until the early 1900s and the settlement thrived. Foxton Beach was always the staging post for goods produced in Palmerston North, which became the dominant settlement in the region.


Feature Value Info


North IslandManawatu - WanganuiPalmerston North


  • Walking
  • Free


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DOC Managed

Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍

Nick Morrison's avatar

Nick Morrison

Rankers owner