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Dolphins in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand | © j.e.mcgowan/Flickr
Dolphins in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand | © j.e.mcgowan/Flickr
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An Eco Tourism Guide to New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 28 July 2017

New Zealand is a country that works hard to sustain its clean and green image. With so many wonderfully unspoiled landscapes to share, it’s no wonder that this Pacific gem is increasingly embracing sustainable tourism practices. There’s a myriad of eco-friendly experiences for travellers to explore – we’ll get you inspired by showcasing some of the best of them.

Dolphin cruises in the Bay of Islands

A scenic cruise, departing from either Russell or Paihia in the Bay of Islands, can bring you up close and personal to some of New Zealand’s finest marine wildlife: orcas, seals, whales and, of course, dolphins. On a fine summer’s day, you might even get the chance to go for a guided snorkel. The Bay of Islands’ dolphin cruises are limited to 35 passengers at a time, giving you a more personalised experience without disturbing the mammals’ natural habitats.

Dolphins in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand | © j.e.mcgowan/Flickr

Cycling and ziplining on Waiheke Island

Eco-friendly ziplining tours are a Waiheke Island speciality. This experience combines another sustainable attraction of this wonderful Hauraki Gulf getaway: a bike tour around the charming township, the wonderful beaches, and the lovely parks in between. This is a good way of seeing the island’s many attractions in a single day, with a guaranteed rush for thrill-seeking adventurers.

Waiheke Island, New Zealand | © Goueg/Flickr

An excursion of Tiritiri Matangi Island

Tiritiri Matangi Island is a bird sanctuary that houses some of New Zealand’s rarest bird species. Take a ferry from downtown Auckland into the reserve to learn about its wildlife, history, and ongoing land conservation pursuits. A guided walk is the best way to immerse yourself in Tiririti Matangi’s natural environment, including its bird species, reptiles (like the prehistoric tuatara), and the hundreds of thousands of native trees that have been planted by volunteers in recent years.

North Island Robin, Tiritiri Matangi Island | © Richard Ashurst/Flickr

Kiwi encounters on Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand’s oldest nature reserves, and one of country’s most important conservation sites. To reach it you need to catch a ferry from Paraparaumu Beach, which is approximately an hour drive from Wellington. During the day you can make the most of the area’s forest walks, where you’ll get to see a number of endemic bird species as you soak up the island’s stunning landscapes. Nighttime will bring you a rare treat: a guided encounter with New Zealand’s most famous nocturnal critter, the kiwi bird. Definitely worth staying overnight just to catch sight of this inconspicuous critter.

Kapiti Island | © Serendipiddy/Flickr

Swimming with seals in Kaikoura

Kaikoura is an eco-tourists dream: it’s a place famous for its dolphins, seals, native birds, and natural landscapes. Sustainable experiences are aplenty – and swimming with fur seals is one of the top attractions. No experience is necessary as your tour guides will have all the knowledge and equipment to make everything enjoyable, educational and as natural as it can be. Seals are naturally curious creatures – rather than trying to ‘bait’ them into coming closer, marine encounters in Kaikoura opt to take travellers to popular seal swimming spots so that they can get acquainted with the animals without disturbing their daily endeavours.

Kaikoura Seals | © Tim Parkinson/Flickr

Penguin-spotting in Otago

The Otago Peninsula is one of the best places to catch a glimpse of New Zealand’s Yellow-Eyed Penguins. You’ll also get to see Royal Albatrosses flying in the skies, watch the sleepy fur seals resting along the rocky shorelines, and view some Little Blue Penguins making a jovial appearance. A full-day wildlife tour of the Otago Peninsula will not only showcase the area’s amazing animal species, it will also include a sightseeing introduction of its departure point: Dunedin. Places of interest you’ll pass through include Baldwin Street (the world’s steepest), and the Grand Railway Station.

Yellow-Eyed Penguin at Harington Point, Otago | © Bernard Spragg/Flickr

A boat tour of Milford Sound

Fiordland National Park is a definite must-visit for nature lovers. Along with hosting some of New Zealand’s best hiking destinations, the park is also home to the magnificent Milford Sound. The best way to immerse yourself in this picturesque wonder is by hopping into a sight-seeing cruise. Like many sustainable expeditions, these often have limited passenger numbers, allowing travellers to really familiarise themselves with the area’s diverse animal and plant species. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the incredibly rare Fiordland Crested Penguin while you’re marvelling at the awe-inspiring landscapes.

Mitre Peak and Milford Sound Landscape | © skeeze/Pixabay