What is the unique New Zealand character

7 destinations to see animals in New Zealand

Extraordinary animals and pristine nature - New Zealand stands for diverse landscapes and inspires with its animal world. You have many of the special experiences with the animals of New Zealand on the coasts of the island state, where seals sunbathe on the beaches, dolphins playfully jump out of the water and majestic whales pass by.

From rare Fiordland penguins to the national kiwi, we'd like to share a few places where you can meet New Zealand's animals and observe them particularly well.

List of (marine) animals native to New Zealand:

The booby colony in Hawke’s Bay

Cape Kidnappers is a headland at the southeast end of Hawke's Bay on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. It lies at the end of an 8-kilometer peninsula that juts into the Pacific Ocean. The world's largest gannet colony that is accessible on the mainland is located here. The number of birds that live here is estimated to be at least 15,000. They nest here from October to May. You can get to the gannet colony on foot, in a four-wheel drive vehicle or by kayak. Nowhere in the world can you see these seabirds with a wingspan of up to 2 meters better up close than at Cape Kidnappers. The spectacle is particularly impressive when the boobies dive into the sea to hunt fish.

See whales, seals and dolphins in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is known for the many marine animals that live just off the coast here in the Pacific. In this place you can see not only dolphins, seals and albatrosses in the wild, but also whales. Did you know that Kaikoura is the only place in the world where you can go whale watching all year round? The reason for this is that the northern and southern ocean currents meet off Kaikoura and the waters are therefore extremely rich in nutrients.

There are several ways to admire the sea creatures up close: from the mainland, on the water or even from the air. Numerous boat tours start from Kaikoura. On one of these excursions you will learn a lot about the marine animals and their natural environment. Very often the curious and playful dolphins swim alongside the boat.

For a convenient way to watch the whales, hop on a plane. From the air you will not only see the whales, dolphins and seals, but also the beautiful mountains and ridges of the Kaikoura Ranges rising from the sea.

You can also spot dolphins and seals in the wild at the following locations:

  • Akaroa
  • Bay of Islands
  • Auckland
  • Dunedin

The rarest penguin in the world: the Fiordland penguin

The Fiordland penguin lives in Fiordland National Park, which is known for the Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound fjords. It is also called the thick-billed penguin and is one of the rarest penguin species in the world. Fiordland penguins grow up to 55cm and they wear the “penguin tailcoat” typical of penguins. Her bright yellow eyebrows are extraordinary, the long feathers of which stick out a bit on the left and right of the head and make them look really cheeky. We normally associate penguins with snow and ice, but this species is most comfortable in the subtropical rainforest around Lake Moeraki and in the Haast region. Between July and December the birds breed on the coast.

There is a good chance of spotting the Fiordland penguins at sunrise or sunset at Munro Beach. Be patient, because the little guys are pretty shy. A path leads you through the subtropical rainforest to the beach. Here you can see the penguins waddling out of the water with a little distance to the shore. As soon as you spot the penguins, you will be more than rewarded for your patient waiting.

Deer in the Awakari Valley

Red deer are not a native of New Zealand. Red deer were introduced to New Zealand from Scotland more than a hundred years ago. However, seeing these animals we know in a completely new and strange environment makes it a special experience. The remote Awakari Valley on the west coast of the South Island is the ideal place for this. Red deer live there with their herd. They are looked after and looked after by the gamekeeper and kiwi original Johnny Currie.

The man is a local legend on the west coast. With his character and wild appearance he makes for an impressive appearance. When you explore the area with Johnny in his four-wheel drive vehicle, you will experience New Zealand from its most authentic side.

Otago Peninsula and Oamaru: A haven for marine animals

Seabirds, yellow-eyed penguins, New Zealand sea lions and fur seals - they all live on the Otago Peninsula in New Zealand, near Dunedin. At Taiaroa Head, the northernmost point of the peninsula, you can visit the world's only albatross breeding colony on the mainland. The large seabirds breed there annually from May to November. Albatrosses can hover in the air for minutes without flapping their wings - a very impressive spectacle.

Not far from this observation point for albatrosses, you can also come across the rare yellow-eyed penguins. At 'Penguin Place' you can watch the protected animals without disturbing them. The Otago Peninsula isn't the only place you can see the yellow-eyed penguins. In the nature reserve ‘The Catlins’, in the south of New Zealand, you can watch the little guys come ashore from an observation point in Roaring Bay.

80 km north of Dunedin there are small little penguins living on the coast. In Oamaru, watch them return from hunting in the ocean in the evening and waddle across the beach to retreat to their breeding grounds. You pay a small entry fee for this. The proceeds will go to conservation projects for penguins.

The Catlins: Home of the Hector Dolphins and Sea Lions

At the southernmost tip of New Zealand, you are closer to the South Pole than the equator. Here is the nature reserve ‘The Catlins’, a relatively secluded part of New Zealand. Penguins, fur seals, New Zealand sea lions, rare Hector's dolphins and whales live in the waters off the coast and on the secluded beaches. To see these smallest dolphins in the world, you should take a trip to Curio Bay or Porpoise Bay. With a bit of luck you can even experience the dolphins surfing the waves with you.

When you stand at Nugget Point, you have a beautiful view of the sea, the coast and - the seals. They like to sunbathe on the rocks. The wide beaches of the Catlins are often deserted, but every now and then you will meet local residents: New Zealand sea lions regularly come ashore to sunbathe.

New Zealand's national mascot: the kiwi

The kiwi is a flightless bird found exclusively in New Zealand. Kiwis are not particularly large, no more than 35 cm high and up to 60 cm long. Their body shape is oval and they have delicate, brown plumage. Since the kiwi can only walk and not fly, it has fairly strong legs that allow it to move forward fairly quickly. Its beak is very long and curved downwards. Sometimes he even leans on it like a walking stick. Despite its notoriety, the kiwi is anything but easy to spot in the wild. He is nocturnal and quite shy. Since he hears very well, he prefers to hide in the bushes than to show himself at the slightest noise. If you want to see the kiwi, you have to go to the right places. Kapiti Island offers a very good chance of seeing the shy fellow in its natural environment. But there are more places in New Zealand where you can see the kiwi.

Are you also curious to find out where you can see animals that are unique to Australia? We have compiled a list to show you where to see Australian animals in the wild.