Visiting Mana Island

Department of Conservation —  27/03/2014

Steep-sides and a flat-top. No, we’re not talking about our next hairstyle, we’re describing Mana Island — a distinctive landmark on Wellington’s west coast.

Today, Wellington Visitor Centre Ranger Don Herron, tells us about his recent visit to this pest-free island reserve…

I’ve often seen Mana Island from the mainland, and always thought it would be a rad place to visit.

Mana Island with and Kapiti Island in the background. Photo: Masivaan | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Mana Island as seen from Wharehou Bay near Makara. Kapiti Island in the distance

I recently got to confirm my hunch when I was invited over, together with local iwi, Zealandia, Wellington Zoo, Pukaha Mt Bruce, Staglands Wildlife Reserve, Friends of Mana Island, Rimutaka Forest Park Trust, and others from DOC.

Goldstriped-gecko on Mana Island


It was supposed to be a Christmas celebration but, due to bad weather twice cancelling the trip, it ended up being a New Year event. Third time lucky!

Jeff Hall, the Resident Ranger on Mana Island, welcomed us to the island and gave us a great introduction talk. He seemed as pleased to have visitors as we were to visit!

We heard two versions of how the island was formed – one about faulted terraces (yawn), the other, about a taniwha who crash landed on top of Mana causing the top of the island to be smashed off (yeah!)

Ranger Jeff, together with Ranger Di (Diane Batchelor), took us on walk around the island. During the 1½ hour ramble we saw: kākāriki chicks (“too cute” as my wife would say); a million geckos; takahē; variable oystercatchers; shore plover; and more.

Takahē on Mana Island.

Takahē on Mana Island

We finished our walk at North Bluff – the old lighthouse site and the highest point on the island. We were rewarded with magic views of Kapiti Island, Titahi Bay, the rugged west coast of Porirua; and even Ohau Point and the wind turbines.

North Bluff - the old lighthouse site and the highest point on the island.

North Bluff – the old lighthouse site and the highest point on the island

After some very nice kai, including fresh paua, we had a hui to talk about how we work together (and with others). There was an open floor to voice new ideas and discuss what has worked well in the past, and what can be done in the future.

After the meeting we made our way back past the historic woolshed to the beach to wait for the boat.

Wool from Mana Island sheep is reputed to be among the earliest exported from New Zealand, and the woolshed, from European occupation that began in the 1830s, has been recently restored.

When I heard the rumble of the boat heading back to collect us, I was tempted to run and hide. Explaining an “accidental” missed boat felt like a small price to pay to spend more time exploring this special place.

In the end I made the savvy career choice not to miss the boat, but that tempting view of the island from the mainland reminds me of my resolve to spend more time on Mana. It is indeed a rad place to visit.

Mana Island Scientific Reserve lies three kilometres off Wellington’s west coast and has been free of all introduced mammals since mice were eradicated in 1989. 

You can’t stay overnight on the island but visitors are welcome between 8.00 am and 5.00 pm.

One response to Visiting Mana Island


    I used to live on the Kapiti Coast and looking over to flat topped Mana Island is a view well remembered. Would love to visit it one day. Thanks for the virtual tour.