The Best Wild Areas and Sanctuaries to See Kiwi
The flightless fluff ball which is the kiwi bird is New Zealand‘s cute yet fascinating national icon. However. seeing a kiwi bird might not be as easy as you think! The elusive bird is not only nocturnal but it also forages in forests making them pretty difficult to see if you do manage to be in the right place. Nevertheless, there are a few selected places in New Zealand where your chances of seeing a kiwi bird are greatly increased due to higher populations, some species having daytime habits, and kiwi being kept in captivity for display and conservation purposes.
For a fully categorised list of where to see kiwi, check out our Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand, which lists all the best places to see them in the wild, in captivity and in sanctuaries. But for now, here are our picks of the very best places to see a kiwi bird in New Zealand!
1. Stewart Island
For a good chance to see kiwi birds in the wild, spend some time on Stewart Island. The third-most populated New Zealand island actually has more kiwi than humans with an estimated 20,000 kiwi on the island. What’s more, the likelihood of stumbling upon a kiwi is further increased by the species of kiwi on the island, the southern brown kiwi, is prone to foraging in the forest well into midday. The best places to see kiwi birds on Stewart Island are on Ulva Island and along the hiking trails around the Rakiura National Park – particularly Mason Bay.
Location: Rakiura National Park, Stewart Island.
2. Trounson Kauri Park
Take a self-guided night walk into the Trounson Kauri Park (Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park offer a “Kiwi Walk Kit”) or venture yourself after dark on the Trounson Kauri Park Loop Track. Not only is it a fantastic location to see the giants of the forest, the kauri, but the forest is also home to North Island brown kiwi. Take the track slowly, avoid shining white light at any wildlife, and see what you discover!
Location: Trounson Kauri Park, Trounson Park Road, 38 km (24 mi) north of Dargaville on the North Island.
3. Kiwi North
In the Northland city of Whangarei, Kiwi North holds a state-of-the-art nocturnal kiwi house changing day into night. That way, visitors can watch the kiwi doing their nightly habits without disturbing them. Kiwi North also holds other fascinating native wildlife like the tuatara, a living descendant of the dinosaur era, geckos, native fish and much more!
Location: 500 State Highway 14, 6 km (3.7 mi) from Whangarei on the North Island.
4. Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre
On the subject of Whangarei, the Whangarei Bird Recovery Centre is next door to Kiwi North and may provide another opportunity to see kiwi birds. The Bird Recovery Centre is primarily a rehabilitation centre for injured birds, getting them fit for release back into the wild, so you will experience different bird viewings depending on which birds they have in recovery at the time. While seeing a kiwi isn’t a sure thing, it will be the closest encounter you can get in New Zealand. You might be lucky enough to meet the resident kiwi bird, Sparky, the one-legged kiwi who lives his life as an advocate for kiwi conservation after he lost his leg and could not be released back into the wild.
Location: Next to Kiwi North, 6 km (3.7 mi) from Whangarei on the North Island.
5. Waipoua Forest
The Waipoua Forest is an enchanting place giving the sense of experiencing New Zealand as it was before human migration to the islands. See the largest kauri trees of Tane Mahuta and Tane Mahuta Ngahere, otherwise known as the “Lord of the Forest” and the “Father of the Forest”. North Island brown kiwi are often spotted here after dark, whether it’s along the walking tracks of the Waipoua Forest or even crossing the road – so keep an eye out and be careful!
Location: Waipoua Forest, Northland, North Island.
6. National Kiwi Hatchery
See North Island brown kiwi chicks at the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua. Kiwi eggs are taken from the wild, hatched and raised until the kiwi is about 1 kg (2.2 lbs) so it is strong enough to defend itself in the wild. The hatchery is a great way to learn about kiwi conservation and the initial stages of these birds’ lives. Find out more about the National Kiwi Hatchery and book your tickets on Viator and Klook.
Location: 192 Fairy Springs Road, Fairy Springs, Rotorua on the North Island.
7. Ohope Scenic Reserve
You would not suspect this reserve in the bustling city of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty region would hold a population of kiwi. At night, the Ohope Scenic Reserve comes alive with native owls, insects and kiwi. It’s another great area to try your chances at spotting a kiwi in the wild – yet so close to civilisation!
Location: Ohope Scenic Reserve, Maraetotara, Whakatane on the North Island.
8. Sanctuary Mountain (Mt Maungatautari)
This wildlife sanctuary covering 3,400 hectares (8,401 acres) is a safe haven for native wildlife. A predator-proof fence borders the mountain forest of Sanctuary Mountain (Mt Maungatautari), protecting the native wildlife from the likes of stoats, possums and other land-based mammalian predators. It’s a national stronghold for western brown kiwi, in particular, seeing around 100 kiwi birds introduced to the sanctuary every year. Try your luck by taking a self-guided walk or a guided walk around the sanctuary, or join a “kiwi health check” tour.
Location: Tari Road, Pukeatua, North Island.
9. West Coast Wildlife Centre
See New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the rowi, in this kiwi hatchery and incubation centre in Franz Josef Glacier. The West Coast Wildlife Centre not only offers tours in their incubation centre (you might even see a hatching kiwi!), but they also offer tours to see tuatara lizards and watch rowi kiwi in action in their artificial forest environment.
Location: Cowan Street, Franz Josef Glacier, South Island.
Right in the heart of Wellington is an open-air wildlife sanctuary where it’s possible to spot kiwi on a guided night tour. Zealandia is protected by a predator-proof fence, while also lush with native forest, making it the perfect habitat for kiwi and other native species. After checking out the exhibition of New Zealand’s natural history, join your guide for an exclusive night tour to see if you can spot the elusive little spotted kiwi. Learn more about Zealandia and book your night tour on Viator or Klook.
Location: 53 Waiapu Road, Karori, Wellington, North Island.
11. Kapiti Island
Also in the Wellington region, Kapiti Island is a wildlife sanctuary whose main defence for native species is the sea surrounding it. Although Kapiti Island Nature Tours offers popular daytime tours to spot an array of interesting birds, they also have a more exclusive “Overnight Kiwi Spotting Tour” including accommodation on the island.
Location: 29 Marine Parade, Paraparaumu, North Island.
12. Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre
More opportunities for nighttime kiwi-spotting await at the Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre. Step into the darkness of the native forest at night with a skilled ranger in search of kiwi, as well as other nighttime critters, such as weta, tuna (eels) and glowworms. The wildlife centre is also open during the daytime for guided and self-guided nature walks.
Location: 85379 State Highway 2, Mount Bruce, Wairarapa, North Island.
13. Kiwi Park
A great option in one of New Zealand’s top tourist hotspots, Kiwi Park (formerly Kiwi Birdlife Park) is located at the bottom of the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown. The park allows visitors to observe more than 20 different bird species, including kiwi birds in a nocturnal enclosure. You may also get the opportunity to see critters like the green gecko and tuatara. Catch one of the daily wildlife shows and keeper presentations to learn more about the conservation of New Zealand’s wildlife.
Location: 51 Upper Brecon Street, Queenstown, South Island.
14. Rotoroa Island
Just one of several island sanctuaries of Auckland‘s Hauraki Gulf, Rotoroa Island is home to more than 25 North Island brown kiwi and then some, with new releases on the island happening throughout the breeding season (September to March). What’s more, the public is invited to watch! Better yet, stay at one of the accommodations on the island overnight and listen to the kiwi calls.
Location: Ferries depart from the Auckland Downtown Ferry Terminal, Auckland, North Island.
15. The National Kiwi Centre
Also a force for the national breeding programs across New Zealand, The National Kiwi Centre in Hokitika offers more opportunities to see these iconic birds. See the breeding pair of the hour located in the nocturnal kiwi house, as well as other underrated New Zealand species, like freshwater eels and crayfish, tuatara and whitebait.
Location: 64 Tancred Street, Hokitika, West Coast, South Island.
16. Aroha Island
Aroha Island is a bird sanctuary just 12 km (7 mi) away from the Bay of Islands town of Kerikeri. If you love nature, then you’ll love taking advantage of the walking tracks or kayak hire to explore the mangroves and native bush. Go spotting for wild kiwi on affordable night walks or enjoy the other native birds seen throughout the day.
Location: 177 Rangitane Road, Kerikeri, North Island.
17. Orokonui Ecosanctuary
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, including wild kiwi. Protected by the predator-proof fence, here are rare species, such as South Island brown kiwi, Haast tokoeka kiwi, South Island kaka, South Island saddleback, South Island robin, and jewelled geckos. The sanctuary also has a cafe and visitor centre.
Location: 600 Blueskin Road, Dunedin, Otago, South Island.
No kiwi houses, no predator-proof fence; just a 100% wilderness kiwi-spotting adventure, Okarito is one of the rare places where it’s easy to spot wild kiwi – especially with the help of Okarito Kiwi Tours who have a 95% viewing success rate with the help of conservation tracking devices. Nearby the West Coast hotspot of Franz Josef, the rainforest of Okarito provides the perfect habitat for rowi kiwi, ruru (dwarf owl) and more. Tours are generally available between October and March.
Location: 53 The Strand, Okarito, West Coast, South Island.
Another opportunity to spot kiwi in the wild awaits in the Bay of Islands‘ town of Russell. Russell Nature Walks offers short and easy guided nighttime walks at their private conservation area just outside of Russell. Encounter kiwi and another flightless bird, the North Island weka, on this fascinating and informative tour.
Location: 6080 Russell Whakapara Road, Russell, Bay of Islands, North Island.
20. Otorohanga Kiwi House
Otorohanga is New Zealand’s “Kiwiana Capital” (and if you don’t know what that is, see What is Kiwiana?“), so of course, the town is a great place to see New Zealand’s national icon. See three of New Zealand’s five species of kiwi, the North Island brown, little spotted and great spotted kiwi. The Otorohanga Kiwi House displays kiwi in an artificial night environment for the purpose of breeding kiwi in captivity to be released into the wild.
Location: 20 Alex Telfer Drive, Otorohanga, North Island.
More About Seeing a Kiwi Bird in New Zealand
That’s it for our list of the best places to see a kiwi bird in New Zealand. For more kiwi talk, take a look at these guides:
- 5 Ways to Save a Kiwi Bird
- Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand
- 10 Things You Did Not Know About New Zealand Wildlife
Finally, check out what other cool species you can see in New Zealand in our 21 Animals and Birds Unique to New Zealand.