It lies on the western side of the entrance of Wellington Harbour, on the approaches to the city of Wellington, at coordinates Coordinates: . The reef is named after Richard (Dicky) Barrett (1807–1847), a whaler and trader. Its Maori name is Tangihanga-a-Kupe. It is popular with recreational divers.
The reef, much of which is exposed even at high tide, is located to the west of the two-kilometre-wide channel that links Cook Strait with Wellington Harbour, close to the shore of the Miramar Peninsula. Due to the channelling effect of Cook Strait, which lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, the currents are strong and fickle and gales are common. Add to this the volume of traffic which uses the channel (including several crossings daily of the inter-island ferries to Picton), and it is not surprising that the reef has a lengthy roll-call of shipwrecks.
History of vessels damaged, stranded, or wrecked on Barrett Reef
- 1866 Tui, iron steamer. Wrecked, north end of Barrett Reef
- 1871 Lady Bird, schooner (3-masted), 303 tons
- 1874 Earl of South Esk, wooden barque, 336 tons
- 1874 Cynthia, schooner, 63 tons. Stranded; partial loss. Abreast of north end of Barrett Reef
- 1876 Hunter, schooner, 90 tons. Stranded; total loss. Southernmost rock of Barrett Reef
- 1876 Shepherdess, schooner, 38 tons, Stranded; partial loss
- 1921 Polly Woodside, three-masted iron barque, 678 tons. Stranded; refloated and repaired.
- 1927 Norma
- 1936 Rangatira, inter-island ferry, 6,152 tons 
- 1947 MS Wanganella, liner, 9576 tons. Stranded; refloated and repaired.
- 1968 TEV Wahine, inter-island ferry, 8,948 tons, 53 lives lost. Wrecked; complete loss.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2007)|