Hidden Gems – Ōkārito Lagoon

North of Franz Josef, Ōkārito is NZ's largest unmodified wetland, home to rare wildlife.

Ōkārito Lagoon, 130kms south of Hokitika, is New Zealand's largest unmodified wetland covering an area of about 12km. The lagoon is home to endangered wildlife. Paradise for photographers and bird lovers.

Directions: Turn onto Forks/ Ōkārito Road where signposted off State Highway 6 (pay attention or you might miss it!) and it is a 10km drive to the coast.

The lagoon is home of many species of wading birds, including the extremely rare Kotuku (Eastern Great Egret / white heron).

Very near Ōkārito is Kotuku’s only New Zealand breeding area.

At the southern end of the lagoon is the small beach settlement of Ōkārito.

Bird watching, eco-tours and kayak tours of the lagoon are available, and there are a number of local hikes.

The rarest species of kiwi, the Ōkārito Kiwi – or Rowi – is also found near the town of Ōkārito in a DOC managed kiwi sanctuary.

Ōkārito is also a small local community helping protect Ōkārito’s unique habitat.

  • GorseBusters: Small project pushing back against gradual spread of gorse and weeds around the stunning Ōkārito Lagoon.
  • Project earlybird: community trapping project, in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, to combat predators and protect our birds