The best snorkelling is found at 5-12 m depth off the north end of Sydney Cove beach on Ulva Island. Take a flashlight to illuminate the colourful array of life hiding below the kelp canopy, and carry a dive knife in case you become entangled in the giant kelp forest – but no catch bags or fishing spears.
You'll need to wear a wetsuit - the average February temperature is 12ºC dropping to 8ºC in July.
The southern coast of Ulva Island is best for kayaking and canoeing. Visitors will often see fur seals, sea lions and yellow eyed penguins.
Ulva Island-Te Wharawhara Marine Reserve is located in the outer portion of Paterson Inlet, on Stewart Island/Rakiura’s east coast.
The marine reserve is surrounded by Te Whaka a Te Wera/ Paterson Inlet Mataitai Reserve. The mataitai reserve prohibits commercial fishing and manages fisheries levels to ensure the sustainability of this important Maori fishing and food gathering area.
Paterson Inlet/Whaka ā Te Wera 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, inlet waters nurture a prolific range of plants and animals.
Paterson Inlet is also an important habitat and nursery for at least 56 species of marine fish. The mixing of warm, subtropical and cool waters in the currents around Stewart Island/Rakiura has created an environment with similarities to both regions, and adds to the diversity of species found within the inlet.
The inlet is home to brachiopod species that live both on rock and sediment, thriving at depths of less than 20 m. This makes it one of the richest and most accessible brachiopod habitats in the world. Brachiopods (lamp shells) are the most ancient of filter feeding shellfish. They were abundant in prehistoric oceans 300 to 550 million years ago. Today their fossils are common but living examples are comparatively rare.
Stewart Island/Rakiura has more varieties of seaweed than anywhere else in New Zealand. Paterson Inlet is home to 70% of them, including 56 brown, 31 green and 174 red species. Meadows of small red seaweed grow on the sand. They help to stabilise sediment as well as providing an important shelter for scallops, and a surface for spat to settle on.
Read marine reserve monitoring reports produced by DOC and other agencies.
This report card assesses the health of the marine reserve according to a range of selected measures. The status and trend over five years are reported for each measure.
Estuaries are special places where rivers meet the sea. Each one is unique, ranging from small lagoons to extensive wetland harbour systems.
Auckland and parts of the Waikato are at Level 3. DOC huts and campsites are closed in these regions. The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2.