Posted on: September 27th, 2018 by Lizandra Santillan No Comments
Photo: Rob Suisted
Many first time travelers to New Zealand skip over Wellington, but this capital city is full of surprises at every turn.
As the the king of all things cool, Wellington thrives on the creativity emanating from its passionate locals. Step in any direction and you’ll come across a fantastic coffee shop, a lively art gallery or bright new eatery. In fact, Wellington has more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York!
The large city delights combined with a small town feel create an experience entirely its own.
Known as the “coolest little capital,” the thriving arts, culinary, coffee and food scenes are heaven for the city lover. The gentle bays, lush greenery and surrounding hills offer a natural playground for the nature lover.
Here’s our guide on the best 11 things to do in Wellington.
Visit the Mount Victoria Lookout
Photo: Julian Apse
The best way to get your bearings in Wellington is to take in the whole city at once at the Mount Victoria Lookout.
The spectacular panoramic views of the city are framed by lush greenery, the tranquil harbor and rolling hills in the distance. You’ll get a feel for Wellington’s unique coastal charm of vibrant city life set against serene waterways.
Located right next to the city center, you can take the Number 20 bus all the way up or take the scenic walk up to the lookout. The clearing is perfect for a picnic overlooking the city.
Be sure to take a light jacket – nicknamed windy Wellington, you’re bound to feel a breeze as you make your way to the summit of Mount Victoria.
But as you take in the breathtaking vista below you, you might not even feel the wind.
Ride on the Wellington Cable Car
One of Wellington’s most charming assets is the historic Cable Car.
This little red cable car climbs the steep slope from Lambton Quay in the heart of Wellington to Kelburn, a suburb in the hills overlooking the city below.
Locals, students and visitors alike make up the nearly one million passengers traveling in the cable car each year.
The five minute journey travels along a quaint, white-fenced railway through dark tunnels illuminated by colorful fairy lights flashing into stunning patterns and imagery.
Emerge at the top for a lookout taking in unsurpassed views of the hill-fringed city.
You’ll also find the Wellington Botanic Gardens, Space Place and the Cable Car Museum at the top. These Wellington-essential attractions are the perfect way to spend an afternoon, ending with a cable car ride back down the hill.
To find the cable car, make your way to Cable Car Lane between Flight Centre and Countdown Supermarket off Lambton Quay.
Stop and Smell the Roses at the Wellington Botanic Garden
Fancy a light freshening up? At the Wellington Botanic Gardens, the rose beds, begonias and the Fragrant Garden perfume the air with wonderful aromas to reawaken your senses.
After riding up on the Wellington Cable Car, wander downhill through the colorful tapestries of blooming hydrangeas, tulips and rhododendrons.
Step through the Exotic Forest, planted in the 1870s, and marvel at some of the oldest pines in New Zealand. Find your zen in Horseshoe Bend, a tranquil garden of Asian woodland plants and trees.
Escape into the dense forest of the Pukatea Bushwalk, where the calls of native birds will make you feel a whole world away from the city.
Let your nose guide you through the arresting aromas of the Herb Garden and the Fragrant Garden, where the flowers are as alluring as their scent.
Pass through a charming waterfall and bubbling streams to reach the Main Garden. You’ll find ducks gliding on a small, glassy pond, letting out eager quacks for bread crumbs.
At the bottom of the hill you’ll reach the Lady Norwood Rose Garden. This haven of over 3,000 roses set around a heritage fountain is romantic simplicity at its finest. Visit between mid-November to December to see the roses in full bloom.
Stay after dark for a chance to see glowworms light up the gardens for a magical light show.
Explore Wellington’s Laneways
Photo: Jerry Aurum
There’s a transformation taking hold right in the heart of the city, but if you blink you might miss it.
Tucked away between high rises and unassuming buildings of the city center you’ll find quirky little spaces home to Wellington’s hidden gems. These laneways are home to some of the best of Wellington’s three C’s: cafes, craft beer and coffee.
Wander down Hannahs Laneway, dubbed “the world’s tastiest laneway,” for an inner city haven of eclectic local bars, good eats and sweet treats.
Find low-key class in the leather bound menus, fur pelt decor and bookshelves lined with classics in Hanging Ditch, a cocktail bar mastering casual elegance with friendly bartenders who know their craft. Try arguably the best pizza in town at Pizza Pomodoro, and top it off with a stop at Wellington Chocolate Factory, a wonderland for all things chocolate.
No trip to Wellington is complete without visiting Cuba Street, a bohemian playground of vintage shops, world class cafes, restaurants and bars. Fidel’s Café, the crowning king of cool on Cuba Street, serves strong single-origin coffee late into the night and revolutionary homestyle dishes.
Don’t let the minimalist sophistication of Loretta fool you – this Cuba Street staple serves superb coffee and crisp dishes with slick service. Even more impressive is its extensive drink menu, featuring classic cocktails, craft beers and an array of wines.
Score a secondhand designer find in the colorful racks of darling dresses and vintage shoes at Ziggurat, Cuba Street’s shopping treasure trove.
Taste Your Way Through Wellington’s Food scene
Photo: Egmont St Eatery
There’s always a slew of new cafes and trendy joints opening their doors.
Step inside the Wellington food scene and you’ll find exciting flavors set in vibrant spaces with an unrelenting passion for all things local.
Wake your senses in the morning to the warm, fresh scents of Husk’s breakfast menu featuring local, free range produce. Tuck into scrambled eggs with kasundi relish, manchego cheese, fresh coriander and toasted polenta bread or a dish of rousing shakshouka topped with baked eggs and sheep’s feta cheese. Be sure to return in the evening to taste some craft beers brewed on site!
Taste modern, local Kiwi cuisine at Shepherd, an informal yet flavorful dining experience with creative dishes set in a restored canteen.
Hidden away in one of Wellington’s laneways is the intimate Egmont St Eatery, a delightful nook with fresh sharing plates, wines and local craft beers reflecting the season – perfect for a romantic night out.
Sip on Craft Beers
In Wellington, passion and creativity extends to all things – even beer.
The craft beer movement currently taking hold across all corners of the world is more than just a scene in Wellington – it’s an institution. Even if you’re not one to touch a drop of the stuff, the experimental brews you’ll find in Wellington are sure to pique your interest, if not at least lift your brows.
Try something new at Garage Project’s taproom, 91 Aro, known for churning out quality beers unafraid of blending wild flavors into the mix. You might taste anything from honey and elderflower to chamomile flowers and smoked chipotle in their beers.
The capital of craft beer in Wellington, Hashigo Zake prides itself on having “no crap on tap,” as per their staff t-shirts. Here you’ll find a careful curation of some of the best craft brews found not only in Wellington but also across New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the US. With something for every taste, let the bartenders know the flavors you enjoy – be it chocolate, coffee or any kind of fruit – and they’ll sort you out.
Don’t miss Golding’s Free Dive Bar, reminiscent of your neighborhood bar, for a colorful and friendly spot showcasing New Zealand’s quality brews. As a “free dive,” Golding’s is free to choose any sort of liquor they wish to serve, so you’re sure to find a selection of champion beers.
Fall in Love with Wellington’s Coffee
There’s no better way to start your day off in Wellington than with a strong cup of locally roasted coffee.
Named as one of the world’s best 8 cities for coffee, the flat whites served here are unparalleled – even in Melbourne.
Get an up close look at the art of coffee brewing at Lamason Brew Bar, a cozy retreat on the corner of Bond and Lombard Street. Specializing in top shelf espresso and single origin coffee, their siphon coffee is undeniably the star of the show, brewed with siphons looking like something out of an alchemist’s arsenal.
Find ethically sourced coffees with a detailed backstory at The Flight Coffee Hangar. Every cup is served with a card reviewing the taste profile of the coffee. With friendly recommendations from the knowledgeable staff, you can’t go wrong with a cup at Hangar. Try the flight of three coffees to sample their impressive blends.
A Wellington icon, L’affare is the considered the grandaddy of the local café scene. With the look and feel of an industrial coffee packaging plant, their wholesome menu and espresso roasts will warm you right up.
Go Museum and Gallery Hopping
Think you don’t have a single artistic bone in your body? Wellington is guaranteed to change that.
Noted as “A powerhouse of the arts in the Southern Hemisphere” by Going Places Magazine, creativity pulses through every corner of Wellington. Throughout the city you’ll find dozens of art galleries, museums, theaters and public art. Not to mention the world famous World of Wearable Art (WOW), an international design competition where artists push the boundaries of fashion.
Enter a world dedicated to New Zealand’s art, history and indigenous culture at Te Papa Tongarewa, the national museum of New Zealand. You’ll find a day isn’t enough to explore the vast collections of modern art, Maori woodworks and artifacts, historical masterpieces and interactive exhibits.
Here you can immerse yourself in the emotion emanating from the Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibition, and relive this World War I campaign through the eyes of eight New Zealanders. Learn about the cultures of the various Pacific Island peoples through clothing, textiles, tattoos and photos.
After discovering the treasure troves of Te Papa, skip on over to City Gallery Wellington. With an ever-rotating array of compelling exhibits by local and international artists, you’re guaranteed to come away with rattling feelings of amusement, anger or amazement.
Travel further up the waterfront to Wellington Museum, often considered Wellington’s best kept secret. This small museum packs in a wealth of history and exhibitions detailing the evolution of Wellington into The Coolest Little Capital. Stop in The Attic at the top floor for a steampunk-styled exhibit displaying curiosities ranging from flying saucers and lions to art installations with captivating cinematic elements.
Experience Movie-Making Magic
As internationally recognized director Guillermo Del Toro puts it, Wellington is “Hollywood the way God intended it.”
Home to world-class movie-making talent, leading international studios and spectacular filming locations, there’s no doubt Wellington is considered New Zealand’s film industry capital.
Indeed, the movie magic found within the hills of windy Wellington has earned it the affectionate name “Wellywood.”
Movie buffs can browse the meticulously crafted props, costumes and collectibles created for films such as the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises on a tour behind the scenes at the Weta Cave.
Visit different filming locations around the city on a guided tour – sometimes led by an extra from one of the films! Walk through Middle Earth as you learn about the specific scenes from Lord of the Rings shot on the ground you’re standing on.
If you’re more about the cinematic experience of sitting back and being transported into a completely different world, Wellington’s world-class cinemas will do the trick. Ever the haven for Lord of the Rings fans, catch a flick at the Embassy Theatre, a classy cinema once host to the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Lovers of all things film will want to stop by Time Cinema, a small spot dedicated to the display of vintage film memorabilia and quarter-monthly film screenings.
Explore the Wellington Waterfront
Escape from the bustle of the city center and stroll along Wellington’s quiet waterfront.
Lined with brightly colored boatsheds, heritage and art trails, local cafes and a stretch of golden beach, the waterfront is the perfect place to unwind by the sea.
Learn the history of Wellington on the Maritime Heritage Trail, stopping at historic buildings showcasing Edwardian industrial architecture.
Discover the subtle yet powerful Writers Walk along the waterfront, dotted with fifteen text sculptures featuring quotes about Wellington from prominent New Zealand writers.
Make your way down to Oriental Bay, an idyllic strip of golden sand and sparkling turquoise water. Roll your towel out and soak in the sun or rent some kayaks or stand up paddleboards and take to the water.
End your afternoon with a scoop of perfectly creamy gelato from Kaffe Eis on Oriental Parade and sit back as you enjoy unbeatable views of the bay.
Get close to New Zealand Wildlife
Surrounded by nature, Wellington is dotted with pockets of green and incredible native New Zealand wildlife experiences.
Nestled in the green belt south of the city center is Wellington Zoo, New Zealand’s first ever zoo. Learn more about the over 500 native and exotic endangered animals that call this zoo home. Get up close to the irresistibly cute Red Pandas, meet Tahi the one-legged kiwi and leave with a sense of wonder and amazement at the careful conservation efforts and spacious green habitats you’ll find here.
Step into a world of untouched New Zealand nature at ZEALANDIA Ecosanctuary, a picturesque reservoir home to New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife. Only 10 minutes from the city center, you’ll feel an entire world away as you walk through the ethereal wilderness – as nature intended.
ZEALANDIA’s mission is to restore its native ecosystem to its pre-human state, complete with native wildlife roaming freely. Spot exotic birds on scenic walks or join a guided tour for knowledgeable insights into the sights and sounds of the sanctuary. Visit at night to join a kiwi-spotting tour!
Want More Things to Do in Wellington?
No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the nation’s capital. Nowhere else combines a big city experience with small town charm as well as windy Wellington.
For more ideas on things to do in Wellington, contact our expert Destination Specialists. We’ll help you plan your New Zealand trip to hit all the highlights and must-see destinations, including Wellington.
Thinking about a vacation to New Zealand and not sure when to go?
We think the best time to visit New Zealand is in the Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov.) The weather is beautiful, the flowers are blooming and the food & wine are at their best!
Don’t believe us? Here are 33 reasons to visit New Zealand in Spring!
1. The weather is gorgeous! Crisp, sunny days perfect for hiking through the gorgeous alpine landscapes.
2. Not as many tourists! New Zealand is very remote – and sometimes left out of world maps altogether! But that just means you can enjoy more of this unique island paradise!
3. World of Wearable Art happens every September! The rule is anything that’s in any way wearable is allowed on stage. The results are unbelievably breathtaking, original and creative! Who needs New York Fashion Week? Check out some of the awesome pieces in the past.
4. Spring time means so many cute lambs! We’re not kidding – New Zealand has the highest ratio of sheep per person in the world. Currently there’s about 27 million sheep and more than 4 million people. That’s about 7 sheep per person!
5. Perfect temperature for a canopy tour in Rotorua! Just imagine it…zip lining through ancient forest, adrenaline pumping through your veins, soaring through great heights – no better way to experience the natural beauty of Rotorua!
6. The gardens are in full bloom! Purple lupins, golden Kowhai flowers, Mount Cook buttercups…colors are bursting everywhere!
7. Adorable baby kiwis are hatching! Though they are flightless, that didn’t stop them from becoming the national bird of New Zealand!
Photo Credit: kazzy from Instagram
8. The BEST time to see Milford Sound! Perfect for kayaking or a cruise on the glassy water. But for a tour to match this dramatic landscape, a scenic flight over the fiord is just the thing!
9. Whale watching is incredible this time of year, and Kaikoura is the place to be! Known as the whale watching capital of New Zealand, you’ll spot giant sperm whales, fur seals, humpback whales and maybe even blue whales!
10. The Whangarei Growers Market happens every Saturday and has some of the best locally grown produce. Here you’ll find anything from bananas to olives, cheeses to salamis and so much more!
Image credit: The Whangarei Growers Market on Facebook.com
11. The lupins and bright blue waters of Lake Tekapo. I mean, come on. This looks like out of a fairy tale picture book!
12. Once you’ve see the lupins, why not stay in Tekapo and do a little stargazing? You’ll be in the heart of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, the largest dark sky reserve in the world with a Gold rating from the International Dark Sky Association. Keep an eye out for shooting stars and the Phoenix constellation!
13. Kayak through the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch. In a city known as the Garden City, there’s no way you’ll skip out on its gardens!
14. Imagine seeing New Zealand in spring by train. That is an event in and of itself! Pass through looming mountains, green hills and bursts of flowers on the TranzAlpine, known as one of the great rail journeys in the world!
Image credit: KiwiRail Scenic on Facebook
15. Hiking in the South Island is pretty spectacular this time of year. Check out the Routeburn Track in the Fiordland National Park!
16. Snow may still be on the ground in certain places, time for a late season shred? Some say this is the BEST time of year to ski. Head to Queenstown for remarkable skiing in the Remarkables mountain range!
17. Love spicy food? Try New Zealand’s hot sauce – Kaitaia Fire, made from the chilies blooming in spring in Northland. Once you’ve tried Kaitaia you’ll accept nothing else!
18. Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s last great wilderness, gorgeous every time of year. In spring, even more gorgeous! This is THE place for hiking with spectacular views – nothing else will come close!
19. Ohau Waterfall & Seal Pups. Don’t know what this is? Check this out! It’s a bunch of baby seals having an epic cuddlefest!
20. Abel Tasman National Park! Perfect for hiking, kayaking, snorkeling or just relaxing at the beach. You can do it all in the spring!
21. Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival. (This happens in late spring!) Taste craft brews from all over New Zealand – from crisp pale ales, juicy saisons to refreshing lagers and heavy stouts, you’re sure to find something that hits the spot!
Image credit: Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival on Facebook
22. Warm, sunny days in Nelson wine region. And absolutely incredible Chardonnay. I mean, if you’re into that kind of stuff. The Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and aromatics aren’t too shabby, either.
23. Better deals on hotels and airfare during non-peak seasons! Who doesn’t like to save?
24. It’s fishing season in New Zealand, where you’ll find the world’s best wild trout fishing! Anglers are welcome! Be on the look out for “Anglers Access” signs. They’ll help you find the best fishing spots.
25. Baby yellow-eyed penguins in Dunedin! These babies may grow over 2 feet tall and are the rarest penguins in the world.
26. Golf courses in New Zealand. Enough said.
27. Hiking in Rotorua along the awesome volcanic and geothermal landscapes is a must. Get a light workout in and hike to the world’s largest hot spring in the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley – the surreal landscapes will make you feel like you’re walking on another planet!
28. Seeing the gorgeous peaks in Wanaka with an experienced guide is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It’s a dreamland of mountains, glaciers, river valleys and lakes so blue you won’t believe there’s not an Instagram filter overlaying them.
29. The weather in the Bay of Plenty is perfect for full gardens, vibrant wildlife, amazing beaches and spectacular sunsets! It’s easy to see why this is a favorite holiday destination for many locals.
30. Visit the rain forest in the Coromandel Peninsula in spring and have your own personal safari without the hustle and bustle of lots of tourists. Even better, try it by bike! Pedal along the Ohinemuri River to see the spectacular Owharoa Falls, or try the Coromandel Mountain Bike Track for more of a challenge.
31. The culture and sights in Northland in spring. Ancient Kauri forests, healing waters of Ngawha Springs, paddling a traditional Waka (maori war canoe) – the cultural sights and experiences are out of this world.
32. Do you have a green thumb? Check out the Taranaki Garden Spectacular, an event filled with gardens, landscape design ideas, tours, garden walks and community events. Find inspiration for your next gardening projects or simply admire the colorful and exotic plants around you.
Image credit: Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular on Facebook.com
33. And best of all, longer daylight hours means more time you can spend in the beautiful landscapes on the North and South Islands. If only there were more hours in a day!
If you’re not convinced yet, give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)! Our Destination Specialists are experts in planning the best vacations in New Zealand. Tell them what you like and let them give you 33 more reasons to visit New Zealand!
Posted on: July 19th, 2017 by About Australia Staff No Comments
When it comes to New Zealand wildlife, you might be thinking sheep, sheep and more sheep. And you wouldn’t be wrong, either! Until recently, New Zealand’s sheep-to-human ratio sat at about 22 sheep for every man, woman and child in the country.
That’s a lot of sweaters!
But that’s not all that the island nation has to offer. A diverse collection of unique animals make this coastal county their home. In fact, there wasn’t a single mammal to be found for millions of years before humans arrived. Instead, a plethora of wild bird species, reptiles and marine life thrived in the region.
This includes a lizard whose DNA goes back 200 million years, unchanged since the days it walked the land with dinosaurs.
What you won’t find though, are snakes. That’s right, not a single snake slithers around New Zealand. Great news for all the ophidiophobics out there (that means fear of snakes!).
We’ve rounded up a few of the most unique creatures you’ll find, so that your next trip will have you doing more than just counting sheep.
A storied history riddles this legendary bird’s past. Sailors once thought that seeing an albatross in the sky meant good luck. The giant bird was said to have carried the souls of dead sailors to protect the ship from danger. However, if one were to kill an albatross, certain doom would come to all aboard.
These days the albatross isn’t as rife with superstition, but the real facts behind the bird are just as interesting. They are among the largest seabirds on the planet. At their largest, their wings can span more 12 feet across – almost 6 times the average seagull!
The albatross is kind of like the drone of the bird-world. They use nearly autonomous, micro-wing movements to stay aloft using little to no effort. For the albatross, this makes flying a breeze.
They can even sleep while flying and have been known to stay out to sea for years, only returning to land to mate and feed their young. Scientists tracked an albatross recently circling the entire globe – more than 10,000 miles – in just 46 days.
Tip: Before you see an albatross in person, keep tabs on the newest addition to the Taiaroa Head albatross colony via live web-stream! This albatross chick hatched in late January and will remain until it’s old enough to fly away in September. The chick’s parents return from sea daily to feed their young. An amazing look at New Zealand wildlife up-close.
What has three eyes, zero ears and has called New Zealand home for more than 200 million years?
The tuatara, New Zealand’s “living dinosaur”, still carries the same DNA since it walked side-by-side actual with the famed mega-reptiles. A third-eye on top of it’s head (physical, not metaphorical) is thought to help produce vitamin D and regulate night and day cycles, but even scientists still don’t know what it’s really used for.
At the very least, it makes up for having no ears!
As mammals like wildcats and rodents were introduced to the mainland, tuataras became quick and easy prey and populations were decimated. These days they thrive solely on the islands off the New Zealand coast – like Jurassic Park, right in New Zealand.
However, being banished to an island turned out to be a good thing. Without any natural predators, the tuatara can live to be more than 100 years old. The benefits of island life.
If you thought you had to travel to the tropics to see parrots, think again. This New Zealand exclusive is the world’s only alpine parrot and is found only in select parts of the South Island. Like most parrots, the Kea is an intelligent bird. Researchers estimate that the Kea is as smart as a 4-year old – without ever having stepped foot in pre-school.
The Kea is notorious for it’s brash personality. They’ve developed almost non-existent boundaries and humans, a blessing and a curse that makes getting an up-close picture of the Kea possible, but also less savory encounters. Because of the bird’s hyper-curious nature and general trust around people, they have been known to peck and damage cars and rifle through bags and clothing. One Kea even made off with a tourist’s unguarded wallet in Fiordland National Park.
It’s no wonder they call these pick-pocketing parrots the “clowns of the mountain”.
You’ll want to see this beautiful bird in person and the best place to do it is in Fiordland. Take a nature cruise of Milford Sound for beautiful landscapes and wildlife spotting. Kea have been known to hang out in the parking lot of Milford Sound so be sure to keep an eye on your wallet!
Photo: Corin Walker Bain
No other animal can stake the claim of attracting more than 400,000 visitors to New Zealand every year. In fact, the Waitomo Glowworm Caves are the most popular cave in all of Australasia, which includes New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea and other islands.
How do they do it?
Tourists flock to the Waitomo Caves to see the hypnotic, blueish glow that lights up the subterranean site. Millions of glowworms cover the cavernous interior and light up like blue fireflies during their feeding stage. The best part about seeing the glowworms is the silent, “black-water” river raft ride that you take to see them. You’ll float along the water beneath the canyon in total darkness, with only the star-like light of glowworms above.
Tip: Waitomo Glowworm Caves make a great back-to-back trip with Rotorua’s amazing geothermal features. Take a tour of both for a day tour you’ll never forget.
These quirky marine-mammals are best known for their aerial-acrobatics. While all dolphins exhibit breaching behavior in order to breathe from their blowholes, dusky dolphins seem to perform out-of-water stunts like aerial jumps, spins, tail-over-head dives, barrel rolls and more – seemingly for no other reason than their own enjoyment!
Dusky dolphins are found off the the south African coast, South America and many oceanic islands, but the largest concentrations are found all over New Zealand waters, including the Kaikoura Coast. Guided tours allow you to swim with these curious creatures in their natural environment.
Dusky dolphins are curious around humans and interaction with them is possible without the need for feeding, changing their environment or otherwise disrupting their natural habitat.
Tour-goers have reported dusky dolphins in pods numbering in the hundreds. The dolphins swim with and seem to mirror the behavior of humans (diving in as humans dive in) without being coaxed in to an encounter.
This tuxedoed New Zealand native is the rarest species of penguin in the entire world. The distinct, yellow banding around their eyes sets these quirky creatures apart from their Antarctic cousins to the south.
Yellow-eyed penguins, also known by their Maori name hoiho, are increasingly endangered. They generally breed on the South Island of New Zealand and habitats are found off the coast of Dunedin.
You didn’t think we’d get away without mentioning New Zealand’s most iconic animal, did you? This large, flightless bird is an icon that is inseparable from New Zealand. The word Kiwi is used as a term of endearment for native New Zealanders and even adorns the country’s $1 coin.
Not bad for a bird that can’t even fly.
The Kiwi’s arrival to the island nation remains sort of a mystery. Some say the bird descended from an ancestor capable of flight. Others say they arrived before New Zealand broke off from Australia millions of years ago. Essentially, just walking right over.
The Kiwi is a cherished part of New Zealand wildlife and culture, whichever way they arrived.
We’ll set you up with the perfect trip for wildlife watching in beautiful New Zealand. Whether you’re Albatross-spotting off the coast of Dunedin or staring in awe at glowworms, you’ll be sure not to miss anything on your trip.
We’ll even send you to Fiordland National Park, but make sure to watch your valuables around the Kea!
New Zealand is made up of gorgeous rolling hills, natural hot springs, awe-inspiring mountains and a lot of lovely coastline. In fact, no matter where you are in the country, you’re never more than 79 miles from the ocean! The scenery and lush landscape are breathtaking and often the reason people travel to the country. But in New Zealand, there is just as much life brimming under the sea!
Kaikoura, which is a Maori word for “meal of crayfish”, is home to some of the most diverse marine life on the island. In fact, it is considered to be one of the world’s best whale watching locations in the southern Hemisphere. Large male Sperm Whales feed just off the coast and the unique geographic make up allows Kaikoura to host these majestic residents.
There is aten thousand footdrop off in to the ocean just off the shore that has a pocket of cool ocean water where the whales reside. The large fish that live off the coast provide a great diet year round.
Thinking about visiting Kaikoura? The US summer months (June, July & August) are when the whales come much closer to shore.
This is also migration season for the Humpback Whales from Antarctica. They pass the coast of Kaikoura as they move towards warmer waters so there’s a high possibility of seeing the majestic creature during this time.
You may also spot a number of other whales including:
Southern Right Whales
What else is there to do in Kaikoura?
Not only is Kaikoura home to some of the most gorgeous and majestic whales, there’s a thriving marine life of a smaller size in the waters. Perhaps the most adorable are the New Zealand Fur Seals that make their home in Kaikoura.
Make Friends with the Seals
New Zealand Fur Seals are known for their sleepy nature, in fact, many who visit New Zealand might run into a seal or two snoozing off the coast line! They can often be quite the road block too, as seen in the below picture! It’s important to give seals the space and respect they deserve. They maybe cute, but can be dangerous to humans and dogs if they feel threatened.
Photo Credit: Jacanruss from Instagram
Though fur seals are usually pretty docile, they can scoot pretty quickly if they feel threatened or want to protect their pups. Luckily, if you’re hoping to get a good snapshot of these cuties, there’s a spot where you can see hundreds of seal pups tucked away just north of Kaikoura.
A Kiwi who lives in Kaikoura told us that every year these seal pups find their way from the ocean up to this waterfall and it becomes nature’s day care center for the pups. Even our Destination Specialists ensure us it’s something you won’t want to miss.
If you can handle the cuteness, check out this video below!
Want to swim with the seals? Why not ask your specialist about this Seal Swim Tour?
Meet the friendly dolphins
Dusky Dolphins have also been known to be found in the Kaikoura waters. They almost always try to steal the show when visitors are on whale watching tours.
There are estimated to be several hundred dusky dolphins in the waters of Kaikoura. They are fun, energetic animals that like to put on a good show. They can be seen splashing and jumping when visitors in boats & kayaks venture by.
Pods containing several hundred dolphins are said to call Kaikoura home. You’re able to swim with the dolphins, kayak alongside them or if you want to just sit back — you’re sure to see dolphins on a boat tour!
Check out a few of our favorite shots from travelers who explored the vibrant marine life of Kaikoura, where the mountains meet the sea!
Plus lots of other activities including..
Maori Cultural Events
Museums & Theatres
White Water Rafting
Just to name a few…
Want to visit Kaikoura and see this gorgeous wildlife? Give us a call Toll Free 888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am – 5:00pm Central US)!
Let us help you find the perfect time to take part in Kaikoura Whale Watching or maybe a swim with the dolphins. Our Destination Specialist would love to help plan your dream vacation.
(...) exciting vacation we’ve ever done. Our agent, Ana, took care of everything and was a pleasure to work with. NZ is an amazing destination. Definitely recommend the Glowworm/Rotorua tour out of Auckland and the Doubtful Sound tour that runs out of Queenstown. Ana also took care of our arrangements for the second half of our trip in Australia. Definitely recommend visiting both if you have the time.
Beautiful scenery everywhere you turn.
Wonderful friendly people always going out of their way to be helpful .
One of the best vacations ever!
Didn't know how this campervan experience was going to go but it turned out to be one of the best vacations I have ever had. About New Zealand Travel Agency had information we needed and was(...)
(...) Our flight from Queenstown to Christ Church was cancelled, so we had to fly from Queenstown to Auckland to Christ Church to pick up our rental car. Since we didn’t arrive in Christ Church until mid afternoon, we had to leave for Kaikoura without seeing Christ Church. We enjoyed Kaikoura that evening and the next morning. We had to be at the ferry by noon, so we had to move along to Picton. The ferry ran 1.5 hours late so when we arrived in Wellington, Thrifty was closed. So, we had to get to our hotel and back to the ferry the next morning to pick up the car. We felt like there was too many moving parts and wasted time on all of the public transportation delays. From Wellington, we drove on our own to Napier then Rotorua. All of the hotels arranged for us were nice. We also enjoyed the prearranged tours. We traveled in September and the weather was mostly sunny with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. About New Zealand was good to work with, and very responsive by phone and by email. The cost of the trip was very reasonable. The next time we travel to New Zealand we will rent a camper van, and move along at our own pace. There was plenty of camping on both islands. We will also spend more than 10 days. Thanks for a great trip!