8 amazing NZ getaways where you can hang out with animals

New Zealand animal getaways

Animals are adorable, and New Zealand just happens to have some of the cutest on Earth. Seriously. Luckily, we know the best spots around the island nation to, well, spot them. Here are eight to take your pick from.

1. Penguins and dolphins at Dunedin

The south island city of Dunedin is home to the Penguin Place, a conservation reserve for the endangered yellow-eyed penguin, best seen during the warmer months between October and March. Our pick for a sure-fire look at them? Take the Dunedin Cruise around the Orago Harbour and Larnach Castle (NZ’s only castle!), where dolphins, sea lions and the northern royal albatross often make an appearance.

New Zealand animal getaways

2. Whale watching in Kaikoura

Kaikoura, near the northern tip of the South Island, is a stellar spot to see sea creatures big and small—whales, dolphins, sea lions and seabirds all regularly visit this coastal spot. Dolphin tours run three times a day in warmer months and twice a day in cooler months. If you’re a morning person, the sunrise tour is the hot ticket for seeing dolphins at their most interactive (they’re early birds 😜). If you have time, head to Nin Bin’s for the crayfish, which has made global top 10 foodie lists.

New Zealand animal getaways

3. Blue penguins at Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony

This is where you’ll spot New Zealand’s smallest penguin species, standing just 33cm tall. Hang out until sundown for a chance to see penguins closer than you ever thought possible when they make their way to the shoreline after a busy day of fishing. Elsewhere, the city of Oamaru has some serious steampunk vibes with its heritage buildings and, for busy kids, a funky playground featuring a zipline.

New Zealand animal getaways

4. Sea lions and seals at Kaka Point, Catlins

Nugget Point is where natural wonders and man-made history intersect. From the lookout atop the 150-year-old Tokata lighthouse, you can peer down below to see a wonderful array of animals regularly visiting the beach including leopard, fur and elephant seals, as well as large, lumbering sea lions. As dusk falls, you’ll likely see troupes of penguins scurrying across the sands at Roaring Bay. This is perfect picnic territory.

New Zealand animal getaways

5. Birds, birds, birds at Zealandia Ecosanctuary, Wellington

Bird lovers must stop into Zealandia, the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary. Across more than 500 acres, you’ll discover native birds, reptiles, frogs and plants, all protected from extinction within this sprawling reserve. The after-dark tour (for big kids aged 11 and up) is a real treat – it’s a 2.5-hour walking tour by torch light, where visitors follow the bird songs to try to sort the kaka from the kiwi. Young families will love the day or twilight tours. Want to do more? They also have a volunteer program for serious twitchers!

New Zealand animal getaways

6. Kea at Arthur’s Pass, Canterbury

Kea are such cheeky little creatures, they’re worth the trek out to the Arthur’s Pass National Park, in the south island’s stunning highlands. Watch your lunch closely if you’re near one, though – they may be friendly but they’ll still steal your food! Arthur’s Pass is a dreamy spot for hiking across riverbeds, forests and past waterfalls. Brave adventurers can also ski Temple Basin in winter.

New Zealand animal getaways

7. Seals at Shag Point Scenic Reserve, Otago

Take a slight detour from the coastal highway between Dunedin and Oamaru for the incredible view at Shag Point, a hotspot for flourishing marine life. At dawn, you’ll see the yellow-eyed penguins pass and in mid-afternoon, it’s the fur seals that stop by, posing like Instagram models on the rocks. Add in a trip to the Moeraki Lighthouse for a full day of adventure.

New Zealand animal getaways

8. Kiwi at Raikura National Park, Stewart Island

You didn’t really think we’d forget about our national icon did you? Although there are plenty of spots around NZ to spot a kiwi, we had to go with Stewart Island, where there are more kiwi than people! Take the hiking trails around the Rakiura National Parkand. Want to immerse yourself deeper in nature? Stay at nearby Anchorstone.

New Zealand animal getaways


Heads up! Due to COVID-19, government restrictions are in constant review and travel guidelines may change. We strongly recommend that all travellers seek further information about destinations and attractions before scheduling trips or making bookings, take extra care and follow all rules.

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