Natural Attraction

Ulva Island/Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve

Paterson Inlet, Rakiura National Park

The Ulva Island Marine Reserve was established in 2004 and covers 1075 hectares, or about 15%, of Paterson Inlet (Whaka a Te Wera) adjoining Ulva Island. The reserve boasts crystal clear waters teeming with fish, marine mammals, penguins and a variety of marine flora, and offers fantastic diving, snorkelling and kayaking opportunities.

Paterson Inlet is a shallow ria – an ancient river valley that has been submerged – and provides one of the largest sheltered harbours in southern New Zealand. Because the rivers that flow into it drain from pristine, undeveloped land, they carry little sediment or nutrient run-off. As a result, the inlet’s waters nurture a prolific range of plants and animals. The mixing of warm, subtropical and cool waters in the currents around Stewart Island Rakiura has created an environment adds to the diversity of species found within the inlet.

Most spectacularly, Paterson Inlet is one of only a few sites in the world where four species of primitive shellfish, called brachiopods or lamp shells, live on rock and sediment on the seabed at depths which visitors to the area can dive to. Brachiopods are the most ancient filter-feeding shellfish species. They were abundant in prehistoric oceans 300 to 550 million years ago. Today their fossils are common but living examples are comparatively rare, so they are a very unique and special sight.

To add further interest, Stewart Island has more varieties of seaweed than anywhere else in New Zealand and the marine reserve is home to 56 brown, 31 green and 174 red species.

Venture Southland
Last modified
Tue 26 Jun 2018
  • Outdoor Activities
  • Sightseeing
  • Natural Attraction
  • Activities
  • Water Activities
  • Swimming & Diving
  • Kayaking
  • Wildlife Spotting
  • Scenic Attraction
  • Sport & Outdoor