New Zealand Bird Sanctuaries: The Best Places to See Birds in New Zealand
The wildlife that New Zealand gets the most excited about is birds. On an island that remained isolated from introduced species up until a few thousand years ago, the land species that thrived were birds. With that, there are many unique and interesting birds to look out for, and there’s nowhere better to do that than the bird sanctuaries in New Zealand.
Since human migration, native birds have faced all sorts of new threats which means that some of the only places that they thrive are in sanctuaries, either protected by a predator-proof fence or by water. See which are the best bird sanctuaries in New Zealand in the list below.
1. Ulva Island – The Best Island Sanctuary in New Zealand
One of the most thriving predator-free island sanctuaries to visit in New Zealand is also one of the hardest to get to. Ulva Island (Te Wharawhara) is just a five-minute ferry journey from the shores of Stewart Island at the southern tip of New Zealand. The 269ha (666-acre) sanctuary is one of the best places to see wild kiwi birds, as the sub-species here is also known to forage until midday unlike their mostly nocturnal buddies elsewhere in the country. Guided tours to the island are available with RealNZ, which you can book on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook. See what else you can do nearby in the 11 Best Things to Do on Stewart Island.
Location: Ulva Island, ferries depart from Golden Bay, Stewart Island, Southland.
2. Kapiti Island – The Best Bird Sanctuary in Wellington
The iconic silhouette off the shores of the Kapiti Coast of the North Island, Kapiti Island is an important island sanctuary for birds. The 1,900ha (4,695-acre) island is a habitat for little spotted kiwi, red-crowned parakeet, kaka and much more. Visitors must have a permit to enter the island, which can be obtained with guided tours available with Kapiti Island Eco (more info on Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor) or Kapiti Island Nature Tours (on Viator and Tripadvisor).
Location: Kapiti Boating Club, Paraparaumu, Kapiti, Wellington, North Island.
3. Sanctuary Mountain – Mount Maungatautari – The Best Fenced Bird Sanctuary in New Zealand
The first mainland bird sanctuary in New Zealand on this list with a state-of-the-art predator-proof fence, Sanctuary Mountain – Mount Maungatauri is a very visitor-friendly destination. Either pay the affordable fee to walk the network of trails through the forest of birds or join one of the guided experiences to ensure optimal viewings of takahe and tuatara, for example. Find out more about the sanctuary on Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor.
Location: Tari Road, Pukeatua, Waikato, North Island.
4. Zealandia Eco Sanctuary – The Best Bird Sanctuary for Families
Another very easy bird sanctuary to visit, Zealandia Eco Sanctuary is a short drive (or free shuttle journey) from Wellington city centre. Enjoy a network of wheelchair and stroller-friendly trails through the forest with more than 40 rare native species to look out for. Sightings are made easy with regular bird feeding stations, while guided tours, both day and night, help enhance the experience. Find out more on Klook, Viator and Tripadvisor. See what else you could get up to in Wellington by checking out the 25 Best Things to Do in Wellington.
Location: Waiapu Road, Wellington, North Island.
5. Tiritiri Matangi Island – The Best Bird Sanctuary in Auckland
Although there are a few of Auckland‘s off-shore islands that are pest-free sanctuaries for birds, the best one for bird-lovers is Tiritiri Matangi Island. Walk to the sound of tuneful forest birds and stop by the watering holes and feeding stations for your chance to spot takahe, kokako, saddleback, stitchbird and much more. Check out ferry trips to the island with 360 Discovery Cruises on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook. Plus, check out more experiences nearby in the 16 Best Things to Do in Auckland.
Location: Tiritiri Matangi Island, ferry trips are available from Queens Wharf, Auckland Central and Gulf Harbour Marina, Whangaparāoa, Auckland, North Island.
6. Moutohora (Whale) Island – The Best Animal Sanctuary in New Zealand
Off the shores of Whakatane, Moutohora is home to endangered species like the saddleback, kakariki, little brown kiwi and tuatara. The island is accessible via boat tours, with guided walks around the island, as well as kayak and sailing tours. You’ll even get to experience the island’s hot water beach and bathe in your own personal hot pool. See more exciting experiences in the 13 Best Things to Do in Whakatane.
Location: Moutohora Island, tours depart from The Strand or Ohope Beach, Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, North Island.
7. Orokonui Ecosanctuary – The Best Bird Sanctuary on the South Island
While Dunedin might be better known for its marine wildlife and birds, the Orokonui Ecosanctuary is the place to go to spot New Zealand’s land species. Protected by the predator-proof fence, here are rare species, such as South Island kaka, South Island saddleback, South Island robin, Haast tokoeka kiwi and jewelled geckos. The sanctuary also has a cafe and visitor centre. See more activities to do nearby in the 13 Best Things to Do in Dunedin.
Location: 600 Blueskin Road, Dunedin, Otago, South Island.
8. The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary – The Cheapest Bird Sanctuary in New Zealand
The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary is an affordable wildlife attraction just outside of Nelson. It is the South Island’s largest sanctuary with a predator-proof fence at 690ha (1,705 acres). Here, native birds, reptiles, insects and flora thrive among the picturesque forest with creeks and waterfalls. Either enjoy a self-guided walk or join a guided walk or glowworm tour. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest bird sanctuaries in New Zealand. Of course, have a look at more activities nearby in the 17 Best Things to Do in Nelson.
Location: 651 Brook Street, Nelson, Nelson Tasman, South Island.
9. Urupukapuka Island – The Best Bird Sanctuary on the North Island
One of the easiest islands to visit in the Bay of Islands, Urupukapuka Island is incidentally a pest-free island. While the island is a breeding area of brown teal and New Zealand dotterel, simply walking the trails through the small tracts of forest reveals many forest bird encounters. The island allows camping overnight and also has a cafe. And while you’re there, try the 14 Best Things to Do in the Bay of Islands.
Location: Urupukapuka Island, ferries are available from Pahia Wharf or Russell Wharf, Bay of Islands, Northland, North Island.
10. Tawharanui Open Sanctuary – The Most Unique Animal Sanctuary in New Zealand
One of the regional parks in Auckland, Tawharanui Regional Park is New Zealand’s first open sanctuary where conservation, farming and public recreation is encouraged in one place. Tawharanui Open Sanctuary has a predator-proof fence protecting reintroduced species like takahe, kiwi birds, bellbird, gecko kaka and much more.
Location: 1181 Takatu Road, Tawharanui Peninsula, Auckland, North Island.
More About Bird Sanctuaries in New Zealand
That’s it for our list of the top bird sanctuaries in New Zealand. For more New Zealand birding tips, check out the following guides: