Ōtipua Wetlands used to be a huge lagoon separated from the coast by a gravel spit. It is a place rich with fish and bird life. A food basket for takata whenua, especially tuna (eel. harakeke, pingao, raupo for weaving and mokihi. The early settlers of the area lived on kokopu. The saltwater catchment goes right up to the to top of Mt Horrible, Claremont, Rosebrook and Fairview. A huge effort has gone into the wetlands to restore them. All vegetation sourced locally with native species to match the three underlying eco systems. Wetland, shrub land and forested areas.

When you visit the Wetlands see if you can spot:

A range of habitats for birds, fish and lizards, mud flats for wading birds, islands as retreats for roosting and nesting birds.

Can find you some of the indigenous ecosystem plants? harakeke, kahikatea, karamu, kohuhu, kowhai, mahoe, marsh ribbonwood, mati, mikimiki, ngaio, toe toe, ti kouka (cabbage tree) and totara.

Remember this is a sanctuary for wildlife, so please be mindful of the animals and plants. This is a dog free area.

A community project to re-create a wetland which will benefit wildlife, the environment and people for the future. It will provide the opportunity to enjoy wildness, wetlands and an indication of the huge diversity of flora and fauna at the edge of the city. See plans for the Otipua Wetlands that were drafted in 1997 here



Enjoy the Coastal Track and check out the Wetlands on the way!

Start at the bridge over Saltwater Creek on King Street/Main South Road. Alternatively, park in Rothwell Street by the Timaru rowing club and start from there. Follow the track along the left side of Salt Water Creek to the wooden bridge.

Cross over the bridge and follow the track to the right. Pass the railway bridge where the lagoon drains into the sea, enter the wetlands and follow the track around the lake.

The track is well formed and graveled with a few gentle rises. It follows the south side of the lake. A small wooden bridge crosses a creek and the track continues across swampland back to the south side of the river.

Follow the track towards the road and cross over the bridge on the Main South Road to get back to your starting point.


Otipua Wetlands Screenshot KeelyVideoAs well as walking, cycling, rowing at Salt Water Creek and Ōtipua Wetlands, have you had a go a catching little critters from the water?

  1. Take a stick to poke the ground before you step to check the depth.
  2. Take a clear or white container and scoop up some water.
  3. Sit it down for the water to settle and see what you can spot.
  4. Look for things like worms, algae, water beetles, skins from mayflies and even water boatmen!


When we got home we created an underwater scene of the creatures we found and talked about the importance of the Wetland, how a huge effort has gone into restoring the plants and wildlife so the wetlands can act like a giant sponge and help manage flooding, stabilise shorlines and river banks and improve water quality.


Wetlands are important because they:

  • improve water quality,
  • provide wildlife habitat,
  • maintain ecosystem productivity,
  • reduce coastal storm damage,
  • provide recreational opportunities,
  • improve the water supply,
  • provide opportunities for education.


WuHoo Wetlands Otipua 200825 art 


What is a wetland?

Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and associated plant and animal life. They can be freshwater or estuarine (located at the coast with brackish water) or both!

Wetlands are where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is permanently or temporarily (as with the tides) covered by water. Although once thought of as mosquito-filled swamps or bogs, wetlands actually perform many valuable functions.

Wetlands act like the kidneys of the earth, cleaning the water that flows into them. They trap sediment and soils, filter out nutrients and remove contaminants; can reduce flooding and protect coastal land from storm surge; are important for maintaining water tables; they also return nitrogen to the atmosphere.

In the past, those soggy areas of land were often drained and 'put to better use' but now we know they are essential and one of the world's most productive environments. In New Zealand they support the greatest concentration of wildlife out of any other habitat.

Threats to wetlands

Human activity provides most threats to New Zealand's remaining wetlands. Threats include:

  • sand and gravel extraction causes changes in water levels, damages existing vegetation and provides access for weeds
  • reclamation of lake and river margins, lagoons and estuaries, and draining of farm swamps, reduces wetland areas
  • pollution by excess run-off of sediment and nutrients from farmlands
  • plant and animal pest invasion
  • stock grazing in wetlands and surrounding catchments damages vegetation, decreases soil stability and contributes to pollution
  • careless recreation practices, including misuse of jet-skiing, hunting, kayaking, power boating and whitebaiting, disturbs plant and animal life and may destroy parts of the physical wetland environment
  • forest harvesting close to wetlands may damage wetland vegetation and cause erosion
  • loss of vegetation in surrounding catchments allow excess sediment to run directly into wetlands
  • pine forests draw water away from ground water systems leaving depleted supplies, and poorly managed farming practices cause sediment and/or fertiliser run-off
  • wetland drainage for urban or rural development.

Download the Wetland Life poster in two sizes:


Pātītī "Patiti Point" Pātītī Point is located on the South Canterbury coastline at Timaru. Pātītī was a passenger on the Ārai-te-uru waka, which capsized off Matakaea on the North Otago Coastline. After the capsize, many of the passengers went ashore to explore the land. However, they needed to be back at the waka before daylight. Most did not make it, including Pātītī, and instead were transformed into many of the well-known landmarks of Te Waipounamu. In 1880, Hoani Kāhu from Arowhenua described Pātītī as “he kāinga nohoanga, mahinga kai, and he tauraka a waka” - kahurumanu.co.nz

Te Motumotu "Mutumutu Point" Te Motumotu is the correct spelling for Mutu Mutu Point on the coastline south of Timaru. In 1880, Hoani Kāhu from Arowhenua recorded that Te Motumotu was an awa (river) and tauraka waka (waka landing site). The foods gathered here included pipi, pāua, kina and kāeo. - kahurumanu.co.nz

Identify the plants and animals around you. Get connected with a community of over 400,000 scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! What's more, by recording and sharing your observations, you'll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

Discover species new to you both near and far
Record your own observations and share them with the community
Receive suggestions and crowdsourced identifications of what you've seen
Discuss and help others identify what they've seen
Follow projects comprised of smaller communities and fellow citizen scientists passionate about a particular place and/or species

For more info, check out www.inaturalist.org


There are a few ways you can access the Ōtipua Wetlands.

1. Park at the cemetery, walk through the middle and out onto an open feild, follow the track to a bridge, cross the bridge, go past the train over bridge and follow the track around the lagoon.

2. Park on the highway, walk over the bridge and enter the wetlands on foot or by bike

3. From central Timaru, follow the Timaru-Pareora Highway south about 4.5km. Turn left onto Scarborough Road. Drive until the end of the road where you can park, and head north onto the coastal track. The walk can alternatively be started at the end of Ellis Road where you can see Tūhawaiki (Jacks) Point Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1903 by the Timaru harbour board, as the harbour light was ineffective. The lighthouse, also known as Jacks point, gets its name from Hone (Jack) Tūhawaiki, a Māori chief belonging to the Ngai Tahu and Kai Tahu tribes. The track runs along the cliff top. 

4. Park at end of Rothwell St, Redruth and walk up the side of the creek beside the rubbish tip.

Takes about 1 hour to complete the walk from Ellis Rd to Scarbough and return. Distance: 5km, easy walk and bikes and dogs are allowed

Download Ōtipua Wetlands and the Coastal Track map here A4.pdf

WuHooTimaru Wetlands Map 201209

Hone (Jack) Tūhawaiki memorial, a Māori chief belonging to the Ngai Tahu and Kai Tahu tribes

Hone (Jack) Tūhawaiki memorial, a Māori chief belonging to the Ngai Tahu and Kai Tahu tribes

Hone (Jack) Tūhawaiki memorial - Scarbrough Rd

Cycling through the cemetary

- Cycling through the cemetary

Jacks Point Lighthouse

- Jacks Point Lighthouse

Scarbrough Rd Ellis Rd Entry

- Ellis Rd Entry

View back to Otipua Beach

- View back to Otipua Beach