Westhaven, also known as Whanganui Inlet, is both a marine reserve and a wildlife sanctuary.
Golden Bay and the South Island's northwest coast are renowned for their diverse and ancient landforms, endemic plants, abundant birdlife and outstanding scenery.
Westhaven (Whanganui Inlet) is part of this paradise. It is one of the largest and least modified estuaries in the country. An uninterrupted sequence of plant life, from forest to salt marsh, helps to maintain the estuary's overall health and supports a great diversity of life.
Much of the inlet is bordered by coastal forest, including kahikatea, pukatea, rata, beech, rimu and nikau palm. Eelgrass beds, salt marshes, tidal wetlands, dunes, cliffs, islands, rock platforms and underwater reefs are all found at Westhaven and are important habitats for a variety of species.
Approximately 30 species of marine fish use the inlet at some stage of their life history. It is an important breeding and nursery area for snapper, flatfish, kahawai and whitebait. Many fish enter the estuary to take advantage of the rich food supply found in the eelgrass beds and intertidal sandflats.
Westhaven is the second most important tidal area in the Nelson/Marlborough region for wading birds, particularly godwit, knot and oyster catcher. It is also the only site on the west coast of the South Island where the threatened banded rail finds a home.
To drive to Westhaven, follow the road from Collingwood to Farewell Spit, taking the left-hand fork just north of Pakawau. The wildlife management reserve is about six kilometres on, just beyond the turn off to Kaihoka Lakes. Continue on along Dry Road, which leads around the inlet to Mangarakau.