Te Parinui o Whiti - The cultural and historical cradle of New Zealand

Royal Spoonbills in flight are a magnificent sight and as recent arrivals they symbolise the ever-changing nature of this magical waterway. The Wairau Lagoon is the home and food basket for more than 90 bird species.

This shallow estuarine waterway of channels, sand spits and islands covers about 2,400 hectares. The islands are low and flat, ideal for nesting birds such as Swan, Black-backed gull and Royal spoonbill.

It is separated from the Pacific Ocean by a boulder bank of saucer shaped rocks formed by tide and current. To the south, the White Bluffs tower to 268 metres. Here Spotted shag and Feral pigeons nest, while Seals bask occasionally on the beach below.


The Wairau Lagoon, described as the "Stonehenge of New Zealand", is the oldest discovered site of occupation and was home to the Moa Hunter who landed here more than 800 years ago. They arrived to a land where birds such as the ostrich-like Moa reigned supreme and the lagoon provided abundant seafood. The Moa Hunters had the place to themselves until the arrival of Maori in 1350 who in turn were joined by whalers and sealers from around the world in the 1800s.

“This was my first time to try kayaking and I fully enjoyed it!”
-- Balto-jenna, Yokohama, Japan

Some of the stories you will hear about this area while on tour:

  • How a curious boy called Jim Eyles uncovered the camp site of the Moa Hunter, now a tapu (sacred) area of great archaeological significance.
  • The deaths and tragedy of the Wairau Affray, caused by greed, fear and misunderstanding.
  • The adventures of whaling families.
  • The incredible Haast Eagle that had a wingspan of 2.6 metres.
  • How bullock wagons navigated the White Bluffs at low tide to reach the Awatere Valley.