8 great wildlife sanctuaries


Tāwharanui Peninsula

Located on a remote peninsula in the northern Hauraki Gulf, the 530ha Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary is New Zealand’s first integrated open sanctuary, with beautiful white sandy beaches, green pastures, native forest, and regenerating wetlands.

A 2.5km predator-proof fence was built in 2004 across the peninsula, creating a refuge for native birds including takahē, kiwi, pāteke, kākāriki, bellbirds, robins, kākā, whiteheads, tīeke and seabirds.

Shakespear Open Sanctuary

Just an hour north of Auckland’s CBD, and close to the island bird sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi, Shakespear Open Sanctuary is a beautiful refuge for native birds and is hugely popular with summer beach-goers.

The sanctuary was established in 2010 with the construction of a pest-proof fence, after which all predator species were removed. Visit during December to see the pōhutakawa trees at their best. It’s also a great time to walk to Waterfall Gully (about 10 minutes from the car park) to see the glow-worms.

Tiritiri Matangi Island

Sitting in the Hauraki Gulf, 4km off Auckland’s Whangaparaoa Peninsula, Tiritiri Matangi Island is one of the most successful conservation projects in the world, providing a pest-free habitat for many rare and endangered species.

More than 20,000 visitors head to the island each year to walk the tracks and marvel at the abundant wildlife, including Greg the friendly takahē. (Be sure to keep a close eye on your lunch — Greg is infamous for stealing unwatched sandwiches.)

Maungatautari Ecological Island

Fondly known as the’Maunga’ by locals, this world-class conservation project is located in the central Waikato —between Cambridge, Te Awamutu and Putāruru — and spans 3400ha. The Maunga is by far the largest pest-proof-fenced project in the world. This extraordinary fence is 47km long and is a haven for many of New Zealand’s most endangered species.

Rotokare Scenic Reserve

Situated 12km from the township of Eltham, South Taranaki, Rotokare Scenic Reserve is a stunning 230ha forested hill-country catchment with extensive wetlands and a 17.8ha natural lake. The reserve includes 4km of walking tracks around the lake, the first 600m being boardwalks. There are seats along the way so you can sit and enjoy the abundant birdlife and views of the native bush.

Zealandia (Karori Wildlife Sanctuary)

The world’s first fully fenced urban ecosanctuary, ZEALANDIA, is located around a picturesque reservoir and is home to some of New Zealand's most rare and extraordinary wildlife. The sanctuary is set over 225ha and includes 34km of bush-walking tracks, a visitor and education centre, café, and guided tours (night and day). The sanctuary has New Zealand’s only mainland wild population of tuataras as well as birds such as tūī, kākā, kererū, tīeke, hihi, and little spotted kiwi.

Ulva Island

Located in Stewart Island’s Paterson Inlet, Ulva Island is a predator-free open-bird sanctuary. The island, with about 11km of coastline, is home to many varieties of birds, fauna and flora and has 4.5km of public walking trails, native forest and white sandy beaches. The island is managed by DOC and offers guided nature tours with passionate local guides.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

This beautiful sanctuary is located in Waitati, Dunedin, and is set over 307ha of Coastal Otago forest, including 230ha of Nature Reserve (conservation land that has been given the highest category of protection). The sanctuary includes a network of tracks of various grades providing good access to points of interest. Visitors can also enjoy lunch at the café and take home a souvenir from the gift shop. 

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