Rocky shore (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about the rocky shore?

Senior Primary

(Years 5-8)

Colour photo of a rocky area along the seashore. There are a couple of limpets attached to some rocks.

Image: Rock Crustacean Rocks by barskefranck on pixabay.

Entry last updated: 3/11/23


The rocky shore is a unique part of New Zealand's coastline and is a habitat which is home to many sea creatures, and shorebirds. The rocky shore is also at risk from man-made problems like climate change, pollution and loss of habitat.

Rocky shore life

Here is a list of some of the creatures you might find on the rocky shore:

Crustaceans: crabs, crayfish (kōura), lobsters and barnacles that live in the sea. They have a hard covering or shell, two feelers or antennae, and large pincers or claws.

Echinoderms: starfish, sea cucumbers, sea urchins (kina). They have spiny skin and have no backbone to hold them up, so they appear to crawl on the ocean floor.

Sea Slugs: live in rock pools. They are often grouped with shellfish even though they have no shell.

Shellfish: pāua, pipi, cockles (tuangi), tuatua, mussels (kuku or kūtai), oysters (tio), catseyes (pūpū), mud snails (whetiko).

Sea birds: seagulls, gannets, petrels and shags are some of the sea birds that inhabit the coast of New Zealand.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. Te Ara has heaps of information about life in and around the ocean.

  • From the home page, look down to the list of Sections near the bottom of the page.

  • Then find Earth, Sea and Sky.

  • Then choose Sea Life.

  • Choose a page about rock shore creatures like crustaceans, shellfish, starfish, or plants like seaweed!

For information about birds that make their home around the seashore:

  • Go back to the page Earth, Sea and Sky.

  • Select Birds of Sea and Shore.

  • You can also use Te Ara to look for specific creatures by using the name of the creature as your keyword in the search bar.

Tips: Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand belongs to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. We can tell that it a government organisation because it has .govt in the address, so information is well-researched and reliable.

Otago University Marine Studies Centre

This page has information about research the University of Otago is doing about the sea and sea life. It has lots of cool resources you can download.

  • Go to the heading Learn with us and select Check out our education resources.

  • Then select Resources to download.

  • Scroll down the list and look for anything that says 'rocky shore' - there's heaps!

  • There are specific fact sheets for the rocky shore in both the North Island and South Island.

Marine Life Database

This site also comes from the Otago University Marine Studies Centre. The word marine means 'relating to, or found in the sea' so marine life is another name for sea life. This marine life database is great for finding out about marine animals and plants.

  • Go to Search by Habitat.

  • Then Rocky shore intertidal for a list of all the different creatures you can find on the shore.

  • Select a picture for more facts about the animals' identification, habitat and diet.

Tips: We like this website because it comes from Otago University, so the information will be well researched and reliable. You can tell that this is a website from an educational organisation because it has .ac in the web address.

Habitat and ecology of the rocky shore

A habitat is the home or environment of an organism (like a plant or an animal). Ecology is a part of biology that studies how plants and animals interact with each other and their habitat. There are lots of different habitats on the rocky shore. These can be broken up into different zones where different plants and animals live.

These zones are:

The splash zone, or supratidal zone: the area above the tide line that still gets splashed by waves, but isn't under water.

Intertidal zone: divided into the high tide zone, the middle tide zone, and the low tide zone.

Subtidal zone: the area that is always covered by water.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara also describes New Zealand's coastal habitats like shores, dunes, beaches and rock pools and what lives in each of these places.

  • From the home page, scroll down to Sections then choose Earth, Sea and Sky

  • Next, choose Marine Environments

  • Then Coastal shoreline.

  • Explore rock pools and boulder shores to read about the purple shore crab and anemones that are found here.

  • You can select Images and Media to find pictures like this diagram Zones of a rocky shore.

  • It shows some of the animals and plants you can find in each zone.

Science Learning Hub

This website created by the University of Waikato and Curious Minds has lots of articles, videos and activities on different science topics.

  • Use the search bar at the top of the page and enter 'rocky shore'.

  • You will find an article called Living World — The rocky shore that shows the different zones and sea life found here.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Coastal Wiki

This is a searchable website with lots of information on marine and coastal life and issues. A group of European marine institutes created it, so the information will not be specific to New Zealand. However, the information on the rocky shore is very good.

  • Enter 'rocky shore' into the search bar and look for Rocky shore habitat.

  • The page has links to the different zones of the rocky shore, problems and adaptations, and also why rocky shores are important.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg [rocky shore]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Human impact and conservation

Climate change, oil spills and ocean pollution have had a huge impact on the rocky shore. Let us look at how this happens and what we can do to conserve this environment.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

There is plenty of information about conservation and pollutionof our ocean environment on Te Ara.

  • From the homepage, go to Earth, Sea and Sky.

  • Then find Ocean Study and Conservation.

  • Read the story about Marine Conservation which is a good introduction to some of the laws that protect our marine environment.

  • The story on Pollution talks about the causes of our ocean pollution

Tips: Remember that 'marine' means the habitat from the shore and right out into the ocean, so there will be information about the habitat and animals that live in much deeper water too!

Maritime New Zealand

This is the website of the government organisation responsible for the protection of New Zealand's marine habitat.

Department of Conservation

Also known as DOC, the Department of Conservation is the government agency that looks after New Zealand Aotearoa's natural environment.

  • Go to Nature at the top of the page, then choose Habitats.

  • Look down the page to Marine to find links to marine reserves and protected areas marked for conservation by DOC.

  • You will also find links to marine biology, marine mammals, and seabirds.

Tips: These websites (Te Ara, Maritime New Zealand, Ministry for the Environment, DOC) are from government organisations. We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have a .govt in their web address. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


There are some great books about the rocky shore - check out your local public or school library to see what they have.

Some recommended titles are:

SCIS no: 1832731

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