Wellington is a conveniently compact city. Once you land and pick up your Wellington Airport car rental, it won’t take long to get your bearings. This harbourside city is brimming with all the usual cosmopolitan attractions. But it’s also a great base from which to get out into nature from. Here are some places where you can see wildlife while you are in or around Wellington.
Just a few minutes from downtown Wellington, Zealandia is a 252 hectare nature reserve in Karori, set in a bucolic reservoir and a fantastic place to get a glimpse at what this area may have looked like before humans ever set foot here. This award winning sanctuary counts some of the nation’s rarest wildlife as residents. Take a night tour and go kiwi spotting. Or during the day, explore the numerous walks through native bush and keep your eyes peeled for kaka, tuatara, takahe, geckos and other interesting creatures.
New Zealand’s oldest zoo is in Wellington, and here you’ll be able to see exotic cheetahs, giraffes, lions and many national treasures, such as Tahi, the popular one-legged Kiwi. All up there are more than 500 animals here, including the only bears in New Zealand. Talk to the keepers, book in for a close encounter, feed the animals, and visit The Nest animal hospital.
Here’s your best chance at seeing kiwi in their natural habitat. Kapiti Island is home to more than 1,200 Little Spotted Kiwi. Camp overnight or stay in the cabins surrounded by native bush and birds. Alternatively, ferry over in the morning and take a day tour that returns to Wellington in the afternoon.
A little further afield, about 2 hours north of Wellington – ideal if you’re planning to explore more of the North Island – you’ll reach Pukaha Mt Bruce. Here there is a wildlife centre where you can meet some of our country’s most endangered residents, including Manukura, the only rare white North Island brown kiwi in captivity. Watch the tuatara feed at 11.30am or the long fin eels at 1.30pm. The resident kaka put on a show at 3pm as they converge on the feed stations for an afternoon snack. From September to April you may be lucky enough to see a kiwi chick being fed in the nursery or even hatching.