Wairau Lagoon by Kayak Tour

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Kayak Tour into the Wairau Lagoon

A four hour, eco kayak and walking tour at the Wairau Lagoon, Marlborough, with a delicious homemade picnic.

Paddle into the the channels of the Wairau lagoon and explore some of the points of interest such as the archaeological remains of the Maori tuna, (eel) traps, historic buildings and the hulk of the SS Waverly.

Hear stories from your guide about the hardy people who once lived here. The Wairau Bar is New Zealand's first known place of human settlement. Kayak where the Polynesian Maori once paddled their waka (canoes) trading their harakeke (flax) and kai (food).

Discover the wildlife of these beautiful and sacred waters. A kayak tour on the gentle tidal estuary allows close encounters with New Zealand nature and New Zealand birds such as royal spoonbill, five species of cormorant, wrybill, black fronted terns and bartailed godwit. There are wonderful opportunities for wildlife photography. Your guide will be close by to answer your questions about the 93 species of bird you may encounter.

Relax on shore and take a stroll, later enjoy your homemade picnic meal. If the tide is suitable you can collect cockles and cook these over gas. You can also try your luck at kawa fishing, just let us know before hand.

If you want an extra thrill and the weather is right, you can come home under sail. Very exhilarating!

This eco tour is easy and lots of fun. It is a real kiwi experience.


Per person NZ$200

$275 single person




Departure time:

Tide dependent, we will inform you.

Maximum number:
Six per tour

Four hours, plus thirty minutes preparation before the tour.

Experience needed:

A reasonable level of fitness is required to enjoy this tour.

Children must be eight years or older. No previous kayaking experience is necessary.

What to bring:
When you book the tour you will receive an email about what to bring.

Also see frequently asked questions.



Sailing on a kayak tour in Marlborough
Under sail on a kayaking tour
Photograph a cormorant colony on a kayaking tour.
Kayaking under a cormorant colony.
Enjoy the peace of the open lagoon on a kayaking tour
Peace of the open lagoon
Kayaking on the Opawa River
Early morning on the river.


Before booking this kayak tour we recommend that you email us to check availability.

“If you want a relaxed, personal experience on the waters of Marlborough, this is a gem!” Jamie H, Adelaide, Australia


Times below are an example only, please contact us for the best time for your tour. We recommend that you allow one hour after your tour for other bookings.

3.30pm Arrival, welcome, preparation, safety and environmental briefing. Your guide will give you a short introduction to the history of the area, showing a map of the waterways and photos of some of the birds you might encounter.

3.50pm Short lesson on basic paddling before you start your kayak tour, assisted launch from river edge and practice paddle. 

4.00pm Kayak down the Opawa river which joins the Wairau River viewing some of the wildlife such as royal spoonbill and white faced heron.

4.45pm Make landing at the sand island which is a popular bird roost for terns, oyster catchers and other birds. Have a short break and a drink and homemade muffin.

5.10pm Head into the Wairau Lagoon itself, an expansive shallow waterway. Depending on weather and fitness the group may visit the wreck of the SS Waverley.

6.30pm Relax and enjoy a homemade picnic meal and hot drink outside the historic home of the Perano family, hear stories of young Jim Eyles who discovered New Zealand's first known human settlement. (picnic meal may be held elsewhere depending on the conditions of the day.)

7.30pm Return to kayaks for return paddle up the Opawa River with panoramic views, wonderful when there is a sunset!

8.00pm Make landing at kayak launching site.

8.10pm Debrief and farewells.

Our tours are customised to our clients interests and fitness, the above schedule is a guide only.


  • Time for questions before the tour on the history and wildlife of the area plus opportunity to view our wax on linen cartographer’s map.
  • Depending on weather and your fitness level you may see some of the following:
  • Baby chicks at the Cormorant colony.
  • The old pilot house or the wreck of the SS Waverly.
  • Archaeological remains of Maori fish traps.
  • The home of Jim Eyles who discovered New Zealand's first village.
  • More than 93 species of bird have been recorded here– a twitchers’ paradise!
  • Delicious home baked picnic includes bacon and egg pie, local cockles cooked over a gas fire in a cream and wine sauce, apple spice cake, oat and date muffins. (Note food items may vary slightly; vegetarians and dietary allergies catered for by prior arrangement.)
  • One tree is planted for every tour to offset our carbon footprint. You can visit our eight hectare covenanted wetland.
  • Department of Conservation Concessionaire since 2004.
  • Driftwood is an independently audited tourism provider.

Because we like to customise our tours for individual preference, we recommend that before booking this tour that you email us to check availability and departure times.