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Top 5 Destinations in New Zealand for Wildlife Spotting

Found at the edge of the world, the Land of the Long White Cloud certainly has plenty of unique flora and fauna. For wildlife lovers, there are few spots as memorable as New Zealand is which is probably why so many flock there each year. Finding cheap New Zealand flights and then renting a campervan is one of the best ways to explore this amazing country too. If you plan on making a road trip down there, here are five of the nation’s best wildlife spots.

  1. Kaikoura

NZ is known as one of the planet’s top locations for whale-watching. By far the best locale for this is Kaikoura, one and a half hours north of Christchurch. Thanks to its deep water canyons, this is the natural habitat for the majestic sperm whale. Visitors can also spot the following animals if they are lucky:

  • New Zealand fur seals
  • Dusky dolphins
  • Wandering albatross
  • Humpback whales
  • Blue whales

Visitors can come up close and personal with these creatures by boat, light plane and even helicopter, and tours can be booked locally in the area.

  1. Maungatautari

In order to protect NZ’s native fauna (which is threatened by introduced predators), the Maungatautari Ecological Island was built in the Waikato region of North Island. This 3,400 hectare reserve is surrounded by 47 km of predator-proof fencing to keep the native animals safe from harm. Visitors can spot the following birds while there:

  • Kiwi
  • Takahe
  • Kaka
  • Hihi
  • Tui
  • Kereru

There are guided tours here during both the day and the night. We’d recommend taking both since kiwis are nocturnal and you will have to wait till the Sun goes down to see these world famous New Zealand native birds.

  1. Tiritiri Matangi Island

This nature reserve can be found on the peninsula just north of Albany. As an island, it is perfectly suited to protect some of the country’s native birds and animals and makes for a fantastic trip for any type of traveller. Ferries can be taken from Gulf Harbour although you need to book early as space is limited. This is to reduce human impact on the island as much as possible. Tiritiri Matangi is best reached by choosing New Zealand campervan hire from an Auckland location and then driving north. Remember that you’ll need to leave your motorhome in Gulf Harbour. There is accommodation on the island and visitors have a chance of seeing a variety of native birds such as the kiwi, takahe, kokako and galah here. Dolphins can also be spotted swimming off the coast.

  1. Zealandia

Found just 2 km south of Wellington, Zealandia is an easy drive and a great opportunity to see more of the country’s magnificent wildlife. Its 34 km of walking tracks go through lowland forest and wetlands and may also include lake views too. This was the first enclosure featuring a mammal-proof fence and provided inspiration for Maungatautari later on. Its unique birds, reptiles and insects include:

  • Korimako
  • Piwakawaka
  • Tuatara
  • Green gecko
  • Giant weta
  • Peripatus

Again, the sanctuary has day and night tours available and we would recommend both so you can see a wider range of native fauna.

  1. The Catlins

Right at the bottom of the South Island lies the Catlins Coast, another amazing area suitable for wildlife lovers of all types. With 90 km of coastline, this area is home to some spectacular beaches and a host of native animals. This area is attractive because most of the forests in the Catlins have never been logged previously. They are thus home to a range of creatures which have lived undisturbed for thousands of years. As well as the many colourful birds, travellers drive down to this region to see:

  • Fur seals
  • Sea lions
  • Dolphins
  • Penguins
  • Long-tailed bats

As the Catlins are situated in the south of the country, be warned that it can get rather cold there during winter. Therefore, it’s best to plan your road trip during the warmer months where you can go wildlife spotting in a more comfortable setting.

These are just five of New Zealand’s many amazing animal destinations. We hope that these suggestions give you a taste of what the country has to offer and are a good place to start planning your future itinerary.