We quantified the clonal diversity of the New Zealand marine trematode Maritrema novaezealandensis (n = 1250) within Zeacumantus subcarinatus snail (n = 25) and Macrophthalmus hirtipes crab (n = 25) intermediate hosts using four to six microsatellite loci, and investigated the potential biological and physical factors responsible for the observed genetic patterns. Individual snails harboured one to five trematode genotypes and 48% of snails were infected by multiple parasite genotypes. Overall, the number of parasite genotypes did not increase with snail size, but was highest in intermediate-sized snails. Significantly larger numbers of parasite genotypes were detected in crabs (relative to snails; P < 0.001), with 16–25 genotypes recovered from individual crabs. Although crabs are typically infected by small numbers of cercariae sourced from many snails, they are occasionally infected by large numbers of cercariae sourced from single snails. The latter cases explain the significant genetic differentiation of trematode populations detected among their crab hosts (FST = 0.009, P < 0.001). Our results suggest that the timing of infection and/or intraspecific competition among parasite clones within snails determine(s) the diversity of parasite clones that snails harbour. The presence of a large number of infected snails and tidal mixing of cercariae prior to infection results in crabs potentially harbouring hundreds of parasite genotypes despite the crabs’ territorial behaviour.