Wairau Lagoons Walk

Wairau Lagoons Walk

Eastern Marlborough


5 Rankers Reviews

5 Face-to-Face

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 8 km return | 3 hours return

Lots on offer here. Birdlife, estuary and an old shipwreck.


5.5 km south of Blenheim on SH1, turn left into Harding Road, just after the Riverlands Industrial Estate. The road ends after 2 km at a large parking area and signpost at the start of the track.


From the parking area follow the gravel past the sewerage ponds to the DoC sign at the entrance to the lagoons. This explains their ecology and formation.

The track is flat all the way and crosses saltmarsh and mudflats. Although well-consolidated it can be slippery and squelchy.

After 15 minutes the track forks. Left takes 45 minutes to reach the wreck of the Waverley. This is the more direct, but less interesting route. The 1 hour right fork is closer to the watercourses with interesting patterns in the mud made by the saltmarsh plants. There’s greater proximity to the birdlife also.

From the rusting hulk of the Waverley, a 45 minutes return detour leads close to the mouth of the Wairau River, but there’s little to be gained from this addition.

As it’s always nice to walk a circle, return via the alternative track. These landward views are wide open and expansive, the Wairau Valley hemmed by the Richmond Range always ahead. Up the coast you can also see Rununder Point and Perano Head.


The Wairau Lagoons are the largest estuarine area between the Waimea Inlet in Nelson and the Waituna Lagoon in Southland. They have been formed over the last 6000 years. The northward trending Canterbury Current transports river borne discharge up the coast from the Awatere River. Eroded material from White Bluffs, sheltered from the current in the lee of the headland, began forming a boulder bank which cut off ‘Wairau Bay’ around 4,500 years ago. Mud and silt brought down by the Wairau then filled in the bay forming the lagoons. The Wairau River currently flows out to sea at the northern tip of the boulder bank.


The mud and silt have been consolidated by a transitional vegetation pattern of coastal scrub (tea-tree, flax, matagouri and rushes), grass scrub, mudflats and marshes. The saltmarsh herbfields are dominated by glasswort. The environment is constantly changing with influx of saltwater mixing with freshwater. These conditions harbour unique plant communities.


Birds thrive in the productive ecosystem. You may see waders such as black stilts, bar-tailed godwits or lesser knots. The population of Royal spoonbills breed here along with Caspian terns and pied shags. Grey ducks, black-backed gulls, red-billed gulls black swans, bitterns and spur-winged plover are also among the 94 recorded species in the area. Many introduced goldfinch are flushed from the grasses on your passing.

Fish include kahawai, long-finned ells and crabs, who scurry about over the mud and dive into their holes. The bridges over the creeks are the best place to watch the activity.

Moa remains were found in 1939 and archaeologists have ascertained the area has been used for around 1000 years.

European History

Settlement of the Wairau Bar area commenced in 1847 with the arrival of James Wynen. He was obviously a savvy chap who realised the best way to make a dollar was by opening an inn. Second up was Francis MacDonald, who used similar imagination and also started a pub. These entrepreneurial fellows catered to the growing port of Beaver Town (now Blenheim) with produce from the Opawa River, wool from Awatere Valley and supplies from Nelson and the North Island all being shipped.

The Waverley was built by Built by Bailey and Seager at Freeman’s Bay, Auckland for the Patea Steam Shipping Company at a cost of £5,700 in 1883. She was mainly a cargo vessel but also licensed to carry 42 passengers. The salubrious saloon and smoking room were panelled in oak and maple, with upholstery of crimson velvet.

Most of her life was spent around Patea, where she was stranded several time. In 1928 she was taken to Wellington and dismantled. On June 14th 1928 the SS Wairau towed her from Wellington to the mouth of the Wairau River, with the intention of sinking her to form a breakwater. However before being scuttled, she was swept up the channel in a flood and now rest in her present grave. She has also been used for target practice by the NZ Army.


Feature Value Info


DOC Marlborough

Central government organisation


South IslandMarlboroughBlenheim


  • Walking
  • Free


  • 5 Rankers Reviews

    Quick Quotes

    • Nice walk between Mt Robertson and Whites Bay.
    • It was unfortunately all dry, no water.
    • Landscape was not as beautiful as we expected.

    Rating Distribution

    Rating Count Percentage
    10/10 0
    9/10 0
    8/10 2
    7/10 1
    6/10 0
    5/10 0
    4/10 1
    3/10 1
    2/10 0
    1/10 0
  • Reviewed almost 6 years ago and experienced in March 2016


    It was unfortunately all dry, no water.

    Emmanuel Roux's avatar

    Emmanuel Roux


  • Reviewed about 6 years ago and experienced in January 2016


    Flat way, a cat was hiding somewhere in the grass!

    A ship wreck to climb on if you dare is lying in the lagoon.

    Lea and Emmanuel's avatar

    Lea and Emmanuel


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago


    Nice walk between Mt Robertson and Whites Bay.

    Get a taste of both walks with this one, but less energy required than Mt Robertson.

    Charlie Noon's avatar

    Charlie Noon


  • Reviewed over 6 years ago and experienced in December 2015


    Landscape was not as beautiful as we expected.

    Boring walk between bushes. The shipwreck was interesting but not worth the 75 minute walk.

    Roman and Liz's avatar

    Roman and Liz


  • Reviewed over 9 years ago and experienced in February 2013


    Half an hour walk return, you could see some incredible lagoons.

    I have never seen some before. Awesome views as well.

    Maja Bogdanowicz's avatar

    Maja Bogdanowicz


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 😍

Cymen Crick's avatar

Cymen Crick

Rankers Owner