The Great Wetland of the West Coast

The West Coast of New Zealand's South Island is a truly wild stretch of country and is home to the spectacular coastal wetland of the Okarito Lagoon.

This awe-inspiring geographical feature provides a remote and unspoiled habitat for a myriad of unique flora and fauna. Native birdlife thrives in the expansive shallow waters of the lagoon and its many waterways reach deep into the surrounding shrub lands and lush rainforest. To fully experience this pristine natural place, take a journey of discovery on its tranquil waters. Whether by kayak or by boat, soak up the enchanting atmosphere of the Okarito Lagoon and view the special wildlife up close. The photographic opportunities are second to none and you are sure to take away some unforgettable memories.

An Okarito overview

The Okarito Lagoon is located 130km south of Hokitika on the Wild West Coast. Covering an area of approximately 12 square kilometres, Okarito is New Zealand's largest, un-modified wetland. The Okarito town itself was originally founded as a gold mining community during the west coast mining boom. At its peak in 1866, the population of the town reached 1500 but today this quaint settlement is home to just 30 permanent residents. Surrounded by breathtaking scenery and neighbouring some of the South Island’s top tourism destinations, Okarito is a popular stop for bird watchers, Eco touring, hiking and kayaking. On clear days there are amazing views of the spectacular southern alps, including New Zealand's highest mountain; 'the cloud piercer' - Aoraki Mt Cook.

A haven for wildlife

The Okarito Lagoon and its surrounding rainforest provides the perfect habitat for a whole host of unique birdlife. The area is home to the Okarito kiwi - the rarest of New Zealand's five kiwi species and the lagoon is a feeding ground for the majestic white heron which breeds nearby in the Waitangi Roto nature reserve. In total, over 70 bird species have been documented in the wetland and visitors are sure to observe great variety. Be sure to keep an eye out for the royal spoonbill and the endangered eastern great egret.

Enjoying Okarito

There is simply no better way to experience the Okarito Lagoon than to take to the calm waters in a kayak. No previous experience is necessary and visitors can enjoy relaxing paddling at its scenic best. Glide across the glassy water in silence and get the best close-ups of white herons and other birdlife. Enjoy the tranquillity while gazing into reflections of the grand landscape around you - the views of the Southern Alps are amazing and the overall mood on the water is magical. And don't forget your camera - there are fantastic opportunities for great snapshots of the local birdlife and surrounding natural grandeur. Paddling the many streams and waterways that wind deep into the rainforest is a special experience where feelings of solitude and privilege are unavoidable. For those who prefer an alternative to kayaking, there is also the option of a comfortable boat cruise. No matter your preferred mode of transport, the experience is bothrewarding, relaxing and unforgettable.

Moa Trek small group tours allow you to enjoy all the magic of the Okarito Lagoon and its special birdlife in total comfort and convenience. We have small group tours of varying lengths available. For more information, visit our website or contact us directly.