Birds of the Wairarapa and where to see them
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Lake Ferry and Palliser Bay

Lake Ferry
Lake Ferry

Lake Ferry is a small seaside village which becomes quite a bustling tourist town in the holidays and in the white-bait season. It is situated on the eastern side of the Lake Onoke outlet. In the days when stock was herded around the coast, when the outlet was open it was one of the obligations of the licensee of the hotel to provide boat transport of both persons and their stock - hence the name today of Lake Ferry.

Lake Ferry is the best place from which to explore the local environs and sites in Palliser Bay. One side trip not to be missed is to the Putangirua Pinnacles. These remarkable obelisks protected by a topping cap of rock have attained their shape by erosion over the years and may be viewed from three tracks which are well described in the carpark sign board.

About 11 km from the Pinnacles is a site of the graves of seamen who died when their ship the "Zuleika" went aground here in 1897. Many ships have come to grief here on this part of the coast either because of the weather or in some instances mistaking this place for Wellington Harbour entrance.

Birds to look for: Around Lake Ferry, look for Caspian Tern, White-Fronted Tern, Black-backed Gull, Red-billed Gull, Black Shag, Banded Dotterel and Rock Pigeon nests in the cliffs. In winter, watch for Black-fronted Tern, but remember as non-breeding birds they will not have the full black cap.

At the Pinnacles look for: Bellbird, Tui, Pied Fantail, Grey Warbler and Californian Quail. Look up, way up, and you may see New Zealand Falcon which nests at the Pinnacles.

About 11 kms on from the Pinnacles, is Pararaki Bridge and the location of a large nesting colony for Black-backed Gull up the valley to the west. There is always a lot of activity here during the nesting season.

How to get there

Lake Ferry map
From Highway 2 approaching from the north take a half left turn into No. 1 Line about 1 km short of the Tauherenikau Hotel (also known as "The Tin Hut") and continue on for about 4 kms when you will cross the main Featherston-Martinborough Road and follow in direction marked Lake Ferry. From the south take a half right turn from Highway 2 in Featherston onto main Martinborough Road. Six kms further on turn south (take right hand turn) into Martinborough-Lake Ferry road. About 5 km south of Pirinoa, the road forks. Take the right fork and travel about 4.3 kms to the town of Lake Ferry.

To reach the Pinnacles, from Lake Ferry travel back to the Ngawi-Cape Palliser turn off and turn right (south). About 13 kms and you reach the Pinnacles. A further 11 kms down the road is the Pararaki Bridge.

Lake Ferry Hotel
Lake Ferry Hotel


The Lake Ferry Hotel is a friendly place with good bar and catering facilities and comfortable accomodation with good views across the Spit, Palliser Bay and on good clear days the Kaikoura Mountains of the South island. Across the road is the camping ground with full range of amenities including cabins for hire. Drive on past the hotel, round the bluff and onto the beach. This is a popular surf casting spot and a lot of white-bait fishing is done here in the season.

About 5 kms further out of Lake Ferry you will come to the historic 1876 Whangaimoana Homestead set in beautiful gardens where luxury B&B accommodation is available.

At the Pinnacles there are good toilet facilities, picnic spots, and overnight camping facilities.

For more tourist information on this region, please check the Tourism Wairarapa Web site (

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