Winter temperatures are here to stay but that’s no reason to hide indoors. Get out and about in the ‘wildlife capital of New Zealand’ and meet all the region’s cool-weather creatures, from rare yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions to elusive kiwis and albatrosses.
Want to go wild on a nature-filled weekend getaway? Grab a car rental in Dunedin and discover the South Island’s resident critters, one tour at a time.
Spot New Zealand’s official bird at the Orokonui Ecosanctuary
A key player in the protection of the Haast tokoeka kiwi – one of the rarest species of kiwi bird on the planet – the Orokonui Ecosanctuary offers visitors the unique opportunity to see New Zealand’s unique flora, fauna and fowls up close. Also home to endangered reptiles and other forest-dwelling creatures, this 307-hectare nature reserve has more than enough sights to keep wildlife seekers satisfied, with guided and self-guided tour options available seven days a week.
Watch royal albatrosses take flight at Taiaroa Head
Another great destination to explore Dunedin’s birdlife, the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head lays claim to the species’ only mainland breeding colony in the world. Set against the backdrop of the scenic Otago Peninsula, this family-friendly wildlife centre has a tour to suit every style and budget, from the basic Albatross Viewing Tour – a short excursion providing an in-depth history of the Northern Royal Albatross in New Zealand – to the Sundowner Package – an all-day experience complete with a cruise, dinner and visits to the centre’s albatross and penguin observatories.
Watch a penguin parade on the Otago Peninsula
If the penguins at the Royal Albatross Centre don’t feature prominently enough for your liking, head to the Penguin Place at Harrington Point. Nestled at the far northern tip of the Otago Peninsula, this private conservation reserve guarantees sightings of New Zealand’s endangered yellow-eyed penguins, with proceeds from the tours going to the protection, habitat restoration and rehabilitation of the species.
Meet sea lions and fur seals on an all-terrain tour
After you’ve had your fill of the Otago Peninsula’s penguin colony, stick around to meet the local sea lions and fur seals on a Natures Wonder Tour. Departing just one kilometre from Harrington Point, this conveniently-located all-terrain tour loads visitors into an 8-wheel drive vehicle before hitting the rocks, the cliffs and the beach in search of the region’s fur seals, sea lions, cormorants and more.
Embark on a wildlife safari by boat
Don’t want to discover Dunedin’s diverse ecosystem on-foot? Take to the seas on a Monarch Wildlife Cruise and meet the region’s resident critters aboard the MV Monarch. Departing daily at 2:30pm, this invigorating, hour-long tour takes visitors through the Otago Harbour to Taiaroa Head, providing glimpses of the South Island’s rugged coastline and all its aquatic creatures along the way.
Ready to embrace your wild side on a trip to New Zealand’s South Island? Pick up a car hire in Dunedin and explore this one-of-a-kind landscape on your own schedule.