Nature & Wildlife

Discover nature in New Zealand and its unique wildlife that can be found nowhere on earth.

Whale watching

Witness whales at play in the beautiful Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, as it covers an area surrounding Auckland and Coromandel regions. The park is full of a diverse range of rare and exotic ocean life.

Whale Watching, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Incredibly, over 25 of the 37 Southern hemisphere marine mammals have been identified in the area, which makes up almost a third of the world's population of these species.

Kaikoura, on the east coast of the South Island, is one of the only places in the world where you can easily see sperm whales. Sperm whales can be seen all year around at Kaikoura. Orca (killer whales) may be seen from December to March and humpback whales in June and July. Several dolphin species are seen almost daily in the area.


New Zealand has many dolphin species and swimming with them is considered as one of the best experiences ever by many visitors.

Dolphins are large, gentle, intelligent creatures who seem to seek out human company, playing, frolicking, even communicating. There are many dolphin watching and swimming tours, so encounters are never less than special. To reassure you, the cruise operators take extraordinary care to make sure that the dolphins are not harmed and part of the tour price goes towards dolphin conservation.


Of New Zealand's species, the korora, or little blue penguin, is the world's smallest penguin. Find these little birds, when they usually come ashore at night, in the Marlborough Sounds, Akaroa Harbour, Oamaru, Dunedin and Stewart Island.

Crested Penguin pair, Fiordland, New Zealand

The rare hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, is distinguished by its vivid yellow eye band. Find them on the Otago Peninsula, just south of Dunedin and round the Catlins region. Dunedin is where you can find some of the best wildlife tours, giving you an incredible close-up view of the penguins, sea lions and fur seals in their natural habitat. And lastly, there is the Fiordland Crested Penguin (Tawaki). One of the world's rarest, this beautiful bird lives on the South Island and is found mainly in the rainforested areas of Haast, Lake Moeraki, Stewart Island and Fiordland.

Bird Watching

Before man arrived, New Zealand was a world of birds and plants. New Zealand is a bird-watchers', or twitchers', paradise. The famous bird, our national emblem, the kiwi. About the size of a domestic hen, it has an extremely long beak and plumage that is more like hair than feathers. Though endangered, the nocturnal kiwi can be seen in the wild in Northland and on Stewart Island.

Wander into one of our native forests and you'll hear it ringing with birdsong. The warbling tui, the flittering piwakawaka (fantail) and the large lumbering kereru (native wood pigeon) are one to look out for. Or head down to the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head and you can see the only mainland breeding colony of royal albatross in the world.

Volcanic & Geothermal

Explore areas around Rotorua, stretching south to the mountains of Tongariro National Park then east to Bay of Plenty's White Island – an active and accessible volcano island. And watch boiling mud pools and feel the heat underfoot from landscapes that hiss with steam.

Te Puia Rotorua.

Walkways around Rotorua and Taupo offer easy access and good geothermal views. And don't forget to have a relaxing soak in naturally heated water as the perfect end to a day of geothermal adventures.

Horse riding

Horse Trekking is one of the best ways to truly explore New Zealand – from beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, to snow-capped volcanoes and enchanting native forests. Riding on horseback allows you to get back to nature and enjoy the solitude and harmony of the New Zealand wilderness. New Zealand's equestrian industry is internationally recognised and this extends to breeding horses that are ideal for trekking – reliable, friendly and easy to ride.

Horse riding in winter, Glenorchy, New Zealand.

Choose from the multitude of horse trekking experiences that NZ can offer – from coastal treks along white-sand beaches in Northland or ride under the shadows of snow-topped dormant volcanoes in Ruapehu. If you're a Middle‑earth fan, head to Glenorchy in the South Island, which was used for many filming locations from The Lord of the Rings. Located at the gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park, Glenorchy offers horse trekking amongst turquoise lakes and peaks of the Southern Alps.


Many cities and towns have garden tours where you can visit botanic gardens and private gardens alike with the gardeners sharing their love of what they grow and how they grow it. The rural garden tours of Eastland, Manawatu, Whanganui, Wairarapa and Christchurch - Canterbury are often hosted by residents of stately historic homesteads. Visit Kerikeri's Palmco Gardens and wander through lush sub-tropical splendour. At Matakana's Villa Tamahunga you'll see a unique garden that includes the olive grove, beautiful bush walks, subtropical pond gardens, rose walk and a sequence of three formally designed terrace gardens below the relocated villa.

Two women having fun at the Botanic Gardens, Christchurch.

Further south, the Hamilton Gardens explores the relationship between people and plants in five themed garden collections. Here, you'll find gardens inspired by places as diverse as India, Italy and China as well as a herb garden and an area devoted entirely to rhododendrons.

In Blenheim, Hortensia House has a romantic flower garden with masses of colour-co-ordinated flowers, while the English character of Southland's Tudor Park is a highlight for any passionate gardener.

You cannot talk gardens without talking about Christchurch, the Garden City. A must-see is the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and, if you're there in March, you have to go to the famous Ellerslie International Flower Show.

More itineraries

Dolphin image courtesy of Black Cat Cruises; Hector dolphin image courtesy of Black Cat Cruises; Crested Penguin pair image courtesy of Destination Fiordland; Te Puia Rotorua image courtesy of Te Puia; Botanic Garden image courtesy ChristchurchNZ; Bay of Islands image courtesy of Northland Inc