9 Best Wildlife Activities in New Zealand

What Wildlife Activities Can You Do in New Zealand?

For rare and rewarding wildlife experiences, look no further than New Zealand. By being on the isolated continent of Zealandia, New Zealand’s native wildlife has evolved away from the rest of the world. The result? Wildlife that is unafraid of human interaction. New Zealand originally had no native land mammals to prey on the wildlife, so today we often get to have close encounters with some of the world’s most fascinating bird species. What’s more, the waters off the coast of New Zealand and full of marine wildlife that is on most people’s bucket list to see from whales to penguins. In this article, we’ll go through some of the incredible wildlife activities in New Zealand.

With a population of native animal and bird species in New Zealand, there are some wildlife activities that are either rare or like no other in the world. What’s more, you can experience New Zealand’s wildlife in their natural environment.

1. Dolphin Swimming

A unique experience is swimming with wild dolphins. The great thing about dolphin swimming in New Zealand is that you swim with dolphins in their natural environment. They decide whether they want to swim with you. Spoiler alert, dolphins are often just as curious of us as we are of them.

Check out the 5 Places to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand.

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2. Seal Swimming

Fur seal colonies are mostly found on the South Island coast. While on land, seals are often grumpy when humans approach them (the Department of Conservation recommends to stand about 20-30m/65-100ft away), in the water is another story. In their element, seals are curious enough to swim around you and even so some underwater acrobats. Seal swimming with a certified guide is available in Kaikoura with Seal Swim Kaikoura (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and at the Poor Knights Islands.

For more seal spotting, check out 14 Best Places to See Seals in New Zealand.

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3. Whale Watching

A whole array of whale species can be seen in New Zealand’s waters. What’s more, whale watching can be done all year round in New Zealand. See whales on dedicated whale-watching tours, especially in Kaikoura with Whale Watch Kaikoura (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) and Auckland with Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), or get a unique perspective of the whales by taking a whale-watching flight in Kaikoura.

To see the best whale watching locations check out our article: 5 Places to Spot Whales in New Zealand.

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4. Kiwi Spotting

You can see the New Zealand national bird in the wild on kiwi spotting tours or in sanctuaries. The flightless bird is elusive and nocturnal so seeing one truly is a rewarding experience.

Find out more in our article: Where to See Kiwi Birds in New Zealand.

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5. Penguin Spotting

New Zealand also has around six different species of penguins including the world’s smallest penguins: the little blue penguins. Plus, one of the rarest is the yellow-eyed penguins. Check out the link below on where to see them.

Find out the 5 Best Places to See Penguins in New Zealand.

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6. Kea Filming

Yes, a very popular activity in New Zealand is filming the kea as it destroys your car. This is the world’s only alpine parrot. Plus, they are very intelligent and very cheeky. The most common places to find them include Milford Sound and Arthur’s Pass.

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7. Walk Among Gannets

New Zealand has some of the largest gannet colonies in the world. The largest of which is at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay. These majestic seabirds can dive into the ocean at point break speed so are fascinating to watch out on the ocean and at their nesting sites. Take a tractor tour with Gannet Beach Adventures (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or a bus tour with Gannet Safaris Overland (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Alternatively, you can walk to the colony along the beach of Cape Kidnappers. Note that this can only be done at low tide and takes approximately five hours to complete.

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8. Horse Trekking

Although not commonly classed as wildlife, horse trekking is a popular way to enjoy New Zealand’s landscapes.

See where to horse trek in 11 Awesome Horse Treks in New Zealand.

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9. Visit a Wildlife Sanctuary

Some islands and forests protected by a predator-proof fence have walking tracks for visitors to get a glimpse of what New Zealand used to be like before human migration when there were fewer predators to disrupt the ecosystem. See an abundance of native birds on islands like Tiritiri Matangi in Auckland (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Kapiti Island in Wellington (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Mount Maungatautari in Cambridge (on Viator and Tripadvisor), Ulva Island off the coast of Stewart Island (on Viator and Tripadvisor) and so much more!

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Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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