A bird's-eye view of New Zealand
14 days of ecotourism in New Zealand
Book an Air New Zealand return fare to Auckland, then catch domestic flights around the country14 days
This two-week New Zealand itinerary begins when your international flight arrives in Auckland (Tāmaki Makaurau), New Zealand's largest and most multicultural urban centre. Set between beautiful harbours, this city has an amazing ability to take you from metropolitan fun to wilderness areas in the blink of an eye (well, almost!).
Things to see and do in Auckland
- Catch a ferry to Tiritiri Matangi Island, an open wildlife sanctuary and one of the most successful conservation projects in the world. You can join a guided tour or guide yourself around the island on the trail network. Expect plentiful sightings of Tiritiri Matangi birds - takahē, tui, bellbirds, fantails and many others, including the elusive kōkako
- Visit Aotearoa's flightless kiwi, ancient tuatara, curious kea and 175 other species in our native New Zealand track, Te Wao Nui. You can also visit Auckland Zoo's renowned vet hospital, where you'll see our talented vets and nurses care for zoo animals, treat sick and injured wildlife, work on vital conservation projects and medicine research
- Visit magnificent Muriwai Beach on Auckland's west coast to view the gannet colony. From August to March the parent birds are raising their chicks, so there's a lot of activity. After meeting the gannets, take a hike along the dramatic black sand surf beach in the waves between the lifeguard flags
What does Tiritiri Matangi mean?
Is ferry the only way to get to Tiritiri Matangi?
Rotorua is a rare destination in every way. Sitting in the midst of an active geothermal zone, it has huge crater lakes, geysers, boiling mud pools and steaming silica terraces. Humans have been enjoying this remarkable landscape for more than 600 years. In more recent times, the amazing geographical attractions have been complemented by all kinds of adventurous things to do, including the chance to explore Māori culture.
Things to see and do in Rotorua
- See kiwi conservation in action at Rainbow Springs Nature Park, where New Zealand's most famous endangered species is being helped along with an egg hatchery. After hatching, kiwi chicks are cared for until they're big enough to look after themselves in the wild. A behind-the-scenes tour is the best way to experience this ecotourism activity
- Explore one of Rotorua's phenomenal geothermal areas. Te Puia, located close to the town centre, is a great choice because it includes the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and a kiwi enclosure. You'll see Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere; you can also add on a Māori cultural experience that includes delicious hāngi (earth oven) food, singing, dancing and haka
- Fly through the forest with a zipline adventure with Rotorua Canopy Tours, conquer a 7 m waterfall on a Kaitiaki Adventures white water rafting trip and walk across 28 suspension bridges high above the ground on a Redwoods Treewalk tour or Redwoods nightlights tour. All these ecotourism adventures are linked to conservation projects and have won awards for sustainability
Day trip to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatauturi and Hobbiton
Pick up a rental car and drive on State Highway 5 to Tapapa, then turn onto State Highway 28 via Putaruru and Arapuni to Maungatautari. Travel time is just over an hour from Rotorua. Alternatively, arrange transport with a local tour operator.
Enjoy a day trip to the lush Waikato countryside, famous for Middle-earth movie magic, blissful country life and a wonderful predator-free ecological 'island' known as Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
Things to see and do on your country day trip
- Walk forest trails to see and hear rare native birds at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, home to kaka, hihi, tieke, kiwi, takahē, kākāriki and kōkako. Join a guided tour to learn about the ancient forest and the Tautari wetland or take part in the special Kiwi Release Experience. Admission costs go toward maintaining this protected forest paradise
- A short drive from the sanctuary is one of New Zealand's most beautiful rural settlements, Cambridge. Leafy and elegant, this town is the heart of New Zealand's equestrian scene and an ideal place to stop for lunch. If you have time, browse the shops
- Half an hour down the road from Cambridge, hidden behind green rolling hills, is the beautifully-constructed Hobbiton™ Movie Set; a permanent movie set created for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies. Enjoy a guided tour and get up close to 17 hobbit holes from the film including Bag End and Samwise Gamtree's house, finished off with a drink at the Green Dragon™ - a fully-functioning pub
After an adventurous day, drive back to Rotorua for the night.
When was Maungatautari turned into a sanctuary?
What does Maungatautari mean?
Wrapped around a beautiful harbour and framed by lush native forest, Wellington (Te Whanganui-a-Tara) is attractive, compact and easy to explore. The city has an exceptional social life, aided by a multitude of restaurants, cafés, bars, street food markets and craft breweries. Wellington is also where you can explore a spectacular urban eco-sanctuary and New Zealand's world-famous special effects movie studio.
Things to see and do in Wellington
- Start your day with a delicious coffee and breakfast at a café on Cuba Street, ground zero for Wellington's eccentric and creative culture. Then stroll around the Wellington waterfront to Oriental Bay, a photogenic inner-city beach. Look for the typographical sculptures of the Writers' Walk along the way
- Ride the Wellington Cable Car up to the Cable Car Museum, then catch the free shuttle to Zealandia, the world's first fully fenced urban eco-sanctuary. Zealandia's vision is to restore Wellington's forest and freshwater ecosystems to their pre-human state. Set around a picturesque reservoir, this sanctuary is full of rare and extraordinary native birds, including tui, kaka, kererū, tieke, hihi and kiwi. It's also where you might see tuatara, reptiles that date back to the dinosaurs. From an ecotourism perspective, Zealandia is one of the best places to visit in New Zealand
- Experience the magic behind blockbuster special-effects films - including The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movie series - at Weta Workshop. The Weta Cave Workshop Tour is the ultimate way to see how movie makers use miniatures and other physical effects to bring fantasy and science-fiction movies to life
Arriving in Nelson Tasman (Whakatū) by air is super scenic. You'll see Cook Strait, the Marlborough Sounds and the northern end of the Southern Alps. Nelson Tasman itself is a sunny, artistic seaside city with a population of talented food producers and creative thinkers. The connection between nature and community is strong here, so you can look forward to some memorable outdoor adventures.
Things to see and do in Nelson Tasman
- Experience the largest cold-water springs in the southern hemisphere at Te Waikoropupū, aka Pupu Springs. The water is ridiculously clear and fantails (small native birds with a tail like a fan) do acrobatics above the water
- Close to Nelson city centre is Brook Waimārama Sanctuary, the largest fenced haven for endangered plants and animals in the South Island. There's a trail network for self-guided walks or you can take a guided tour to learn about the trees and birds
- Stroll around Nelson's city centre, where you can visit the Suter Art Gallery, Nelson Provincial Museum and Founders Heritage Park. Just slightly out of town is the crazily-creative National World of WearableArt, a museum where art fits the human form and more than 140 veteran, vintage and classic cars
- If you're in Nelson's city centre on Saturday, shop for hand-made clothes, trinkets and art works and organic produce at the Nelson Market. Many say its New Zealand's best arts, crafts and produce market
- Sample a craft beer at one of the Nelson Tasman's many craft breweries or sip an award-winning pinot noir, sauvignon blanc or chardonnay at a winery cellar door
Day trip to the Abel Tasman National Park
About an hour's drive west from Nelson Tasman is Abel Tasman National Park, a conservation area where native forest reaches right to the edge of the ocean. Air New Zealand works in partnership with the Department of Conservation to support 3,330 hectares of sustained predator control along the 60 km Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which is helping the native birdlife to flourish.
Things to see and do in Abel Tasman National Park
- Discover the park's exquisite coastline on a personalised cruise with a local operator. Kayaking, swimming and fur seal viewing can be part of the adventure. You can also paddle a waka (a traditional Māori canoe), sail and cruise
- Arrange for a local water taxi to drop you into the park, then hike back to Mārahau along the coastal trail, which is the best of the Abel Tasman National Park walks. Keep an eye out the newly released kaka, weka (brown and flightless, like kiwi), kingfishers, fantails, yellow-crowned parakeets, shags and blue penguins
- Explore the park's edge by sea kayak, so that you can meet the fur seals and dolphins who often play in the coastal waters. You'll find Split Toka Ngawhā (Apple rock), as well as other amazing granite formations
What types of ecotourism are available in New Zealand?
Alternatively, travel by Intercity Coach from Nelson to Greymouth.
The South Island's West Coast region is known for its untamed natural wilderness, including beaches, forests, mountain ranges, cave systems, rock formations and untouched river environments. As you approach the coast, you'll want to stop wherever you can to photograph the remarkable landscapes. Be sure to travel via Westport, so that you can enjoy the extraordinary scenery of the Buller Gorge.
Things to do and see on the West Coast
- Explore the grandeur of Paparoa National Park by hiking the three-day Paparoa Track, the newest of New Zealand's Great Walks. Air New Zealand has partnered with the Department of Conservation to support 12,088 hectares of sustained predator control alongside the track. This work is protecting whio (blue ducks), kiwi, lizards and many other native species. If you can't spare three days, do a there-and-back day hike on the first part of the Paparoa Great Walk
- Explore the Cape Foulwind Walkway, a spectacular coastal walk that passes a New Zealand fur seal breeding colony. This two-hour hike is accessible from the Tauranga Bay car park, 16 km from Westport
- Explore the Pancake Rocks at Dolomite Point near Punakaiki, preferably at high tide. The stacked limestone rock formations here have been eroded by waves and rain to become sensational vertical blowholes. The scenic walk is just over 1 km and is wheel-chair accessible. There's also is a Pancake Café, where you can grab a coffee and a pancake
- Get an eyeful of ocean-scented scenery on the Point Elizabeth Walk, which passes through coastal forest to stunning cliff top views. Access is via North Beach Road, Cobden or Seven Mile Road, Rapahoe (11 km from Greymouth)
Get up early for a road trip from Greymouth to Akaroa over Arthur's Pass, an area of dramatic rainforest and alpine scenery. Alternatively, return your rental car and catch the TranzAlpine railway from Greymouth to Christchurch. It's rightly described as one of the best train journeys in the world. From Christchurch, catch a shuttle to Akaroa.
Banks Peninsula and Akaroa Harbour were formed by volcanic eruptions, millions of years ago. Originally a French settlement, the historic town of Akaroa is a place to enjoy fine cuisine and wildlife cruises.
Things to do and see in Akaroa
- Wander the streets of Akaroa, a little slice of colonial France in New Zealand. The influence of French settlers from the early 1800s is evident in the street names and historic wooden cottages surrounded by pretty gardens. Check out the museum in Rue Lavaud for insight into the town's fascinating past
- See the world's smallest and rarest dolphin with an Akaroa cruise. Hector's dolphins love to cavort for your camera while you're enjoying a trip with Black Cat Cruises. When conditions are right, swimming with the dolphins is an exciting option. The operators of Black Cat Cruises were honoured at the 2019 New Zealand Tourism Awards for their commitment to protecting Banks Peninsula's marine environment and Hector's dolphins
- As the sun sets, find a waterside restaurant to discover Akaroa's passion for fine food and wine. Finish with some Barrys Bay cheese, which is made nearby
Drive from Akaroa to Dunedin, a journey of 5 hours, 30 minutes that can be broken up with stops for meals and exploring. Alternatively, return to Christchurch airport and catch an Air New Zealand flight to Dunedin, which takes just over an hour.
Things to do and see on the way to Dunedin
- If you've decided to fly to Dunedin (Ōtepoti), there'll be time for a quick look at Christchurch (Ōtautahi) before your flight. Head for the Riverside Market for food and shopping or catch the historic tram to see the whole city in less than an hour
- If you're driving to Dunedin, make a point of pausing in Oamaru for a guided tour around the blue penguin colony. The penguins will be out fishing during the day, however you can stroll around their habitat and learn about their lives. If you arrive in Oamaru later in the day, you can watch the penguins coming home for the night. In winter they start arriving at about 5:30pm; in summer it's more like 9:30pm. Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony has won awards for their research and conservation focus
A small city with big character, Dunedin (Ōtepoti) is where you can discover street art, heritage architecture, penguins, albatrosses and fur seals - all in one day! This city of contrasts is blessed with the best collection of ornate Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the Southern Hemisphere, and a host of accessible wildlife attractions. Dunedin is also something of a foodie's paradise, with an ever-increasing range of fantastic eateries.
Things to see and do in Dunedin
- Venture along the Otago Peninsula to Dunedin's Royal Albatross Centre the only mainland place in the world where you can see northern royal albatrosses in their natural habitat. Watching these giant birds soar is an unforgettable experience; their three-metre wingspan makes ordinary gulls look like sparrows
- Nearby is the Penguin Place, a private conservation reserve for yellow-eyed penguins (Māori name hoiho). You can also see little blue penguins, fur seals and sea lions with a local tour operator, such as Nature's Wonders or Monarch Cruises
- Visit Larnach Castle, a marvel of the city's prosperous past offering spectacular views of the Otago Peninsula. This Gothic Revival residence is often called the only true castle in New Zealand and it's believed to have two ghosts! The castle also has extensive gardens and an excellent café
- If you're in Dunedin on Saturday morning, check out the Otago Farmers Market for the best of the region's produce and artisan foods. This market has been voted the best in New Zealand, so expect to be impressed
Alternatively travel from Dunedin to Te Anau by Intercity coach.
Te Anau is on the doorstep of Fiordland National Park, New Zealand's largest and arguably most stunning national park. This huge sanctuary has achieved World Heritage status for its spectacular scenery and real-life representation of the world's evolutionary history.
Air New Zealand works in partnership with the Department of Conservation to support 16,344 hectares of sustained predator control alongside the Milford and Routeburn tracks in the Fiordland National Park.
Things to see and do in Te Anau
- Visit Te Anau Bird Sanctuary to meet some of New Zealand's iconic and endangered birds. You'll see takahē, kaka, kererū, tui, morepork and more. Set on the shores of Lake Te Anau, this sanctuary is an easy 15-minute walk from the Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre
- Discover some of Fiordland and Southland's majestic hot-spots with Real Journeys, who was honoured at the 2019 Qualmark 100% Pure New Zealand Experience Awards. Their Fiord experiences include day and overnight trips to Milford and Doubtful Sounds from Te Anau, and trips to the Te Anau Glow-worm Caves
Hiking in Fiordland
Fiordland offers some of the greatest hiking the world has to offer! Get out and explore some of our Great Walks including the Kepler Track by either the full multi day hike or take a guided or self-guided day trip. There are numerous options for connecting with the Lake 2 Lake Cycle Trail, a jet boat ride or scenic helicopter trip.
Hike your socks off on the 'finest walk in the world' as you retrace the steps of early explorers on the world-renowned Milford Track Great Walk*. This legendary hiking adventure features ancient rainforests and fairy-tale waterfalls as it follows a route used first by Māori pounamu (jade) prospectors. You can do a self-guided hike or arrange a Milford Track guided day or multi-day walk. The complete track takes four days, however there are plenty of short walks too.
Fiordland is like a hidden treasure chest of unforgettable places easily accessed by foot, for those who like short and scenic, to those who prefer long and dramatic. Why not take a guided walk to explore somewhere new and learn a little more about this celebrated corner of the world.
*Due to weather damage the Milford Track freedom multi-day hike has been amended to the Southern Milford McKinnon Experience until further notice. Guided multi and single day hiking on the Milford Track is still available.
Drive from Te Anau to Queenstown in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Alternatively, travel by Intercity coach from Te Anau to Queenstown.
Surrounded by majestic mountains and nestled on the shores of glacier-carved Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown (Tāhuna) is known for astounding alpine scenery, a vast range of outdoor activities and a sophisticated social life. At any time of the year, you can count on nature-intense experiences that let you fully-embrace the spectacular environment.
Things to see and do in Queenstown
- Meet the extraordinary kea (mountain parrot) at Kiwi Birdlife Park, a five-acre forest sanctuary in the heart of Queenstown. This ecotourism business is involved with several conservation projects and their conservation show is a must-see. There's a nocturnal house at the park where you can watch kiwi busily going about their daily lives
- Pedal your heart out over 130 km network of biking trails that are collectively known the Queenstown Trail. Easy routes include the Lake Wakatipu Ride and the Arrow River Bridges Ride. Advanced riders will find thrills and spills on the Jack's Point Ride. For those with an average amount of riding fitness, there are four intermediate trails
- Leap out of your comfort zone with sky diving, canyon swinging, bungy jumping or paragliding
- Cruise across Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw, a steamship that's over 100 years old. The trip takes you to Walter Peak High Country Farm, where you can become part of the magnificent scenery on a horse trek, farm tour or bike ride
Fly from Queenstown to Auckland to connect on to your international flight.
Haere rā until next time.