Heading to the Westhaven Estuary

7th October 2014

As one of the few estuaries to form a Marine Reserve, Westhaven is a stark contrast to other marine areas that have come under the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) protection. Geographically, the estuary is split into thirds. The southern third is protected for marine purposes, while the northern two thirds are protected for wildlife purposes. As an area that is particularly important to Maori, Westhaven has long acted as a natural source of food and beauty.

The Diverse Areas Forming the Westhaven Marine Reserve

Overall, this drowned river valley is 13-kilometres long, forms over 2000-hectares of land, and is home to more than 30 species of marine fish. While Westhaven is primarily an inland area, you can find an abundance of reefs there. These reefs are especially important to the many fish species breeding there, including snappers, kahawai, and flatfish.

Away from the reefs, there are tidal wetlands, salt marshes, cliffs, and rock platforms. Thanks to the varied nature of Westhaven’s geography and ecology, it is a dream to explore for anyone who loves variety. Naturally, the beauty of the area alters as the tide slips in and out. However, that does not mean that it alters for the worse. In fact, it alters for the better. If you choose to spend a day at Westhaven, this means you get to see it in various states of loveliness.

What Can You do at Westhaven?

What you choose to do at Westhaven depends on the type of day you want. For many, it is an ideal place to relax. If relaxation is the aim of your visit, try heading out to the sand flats that surround the estuary and having a picnic there. While this seems idyllic, you do need to remain mindful of the fact that the tide creeps in and out rapidly. Don’t leave yourself stuck on one side of the estuary because you misjudged the tide’s timings.

Relaxation does not always have to involve sitting around while munching on picnic food. Walking is equally soothing, so pick one of the many hiking trails in the area and begin soaking in nature. Knuckle Hill track is especially popular, as it offers you panoramic views of the area. While there are a lot of ascents on Knuckle Hill, the feeling you get when you reach the top is almost unbeatable.

Adrenaline junkies have the chance to enjoy the Knuckle Hill track too. If you are a fan of mountain biking, take yours and treat the descent as an adventure. A ride to the top on your bike may make your heart pound, but once you are there you can look out towards Kahurangi National Park.

Those same tides that flow in rapidly to trap picnickers in particular sand flat areas are ideal for kayakers. If you have a lot of experience, make the most of them, as they flow rapidly. However, if you are a nervous swimmer or feel as though you need a little support, plan your water adventures around the tides’ flow. There are many secretive channels that flow off from the estuary; this gives nature-lovers the chance to adventure off and go bird spotting.

Westhaven may be an estuary, but it is every bit as beautiful to explore as sea-based Marine Reserves. Work those rapid tides to your advantage, and you have the perfect recipe for a day out.

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