Wildlife & Wilderness

Rare native birds dart out of the forest amid a chorus of curious song, sea lions rumble along sandy beaches and sand dunes, and penguins waddle ashore across a 180-million-year-old petrified forest. 

Welcome to wildlife and wilderness Southland style. 

Our region boasts an incredible contrast of landscapes, from towering mountain ranges rising out of deep-water fiords — picturesque rivers and shimmering lakes — to sweeping beaches bordered by primaeval-looking native forests. Unique experiences greet you at every turn as guidebooks come alive. 

Southland is a haven for rare species only found in New Zealand and offers some of the best bird-watching opportunities in the world. Kiwi strut across your path, rare Takahē, with their stout red legs and large, strong red beaks, leave you spellbound, while Kea brings a wide smile to your face with their cheeky antics. 


Stories of our Wilderness Events

The grandeur of Fiordland, a World Heritage Area with extraordinary scenic beauty, is breathtaking at every turn. It’s no coincidence that images of awe-inspiring Piopiotahi Milford Sound adorn desktops all around the world. There are enchanting short walks dotted all around Southland showcasing cascading waterfalls, jaw-dropping alpine vistas and epic beaches - a beachcombers’ paradise.

Fancy something longer? Half of New Zealand’s Great Walks are in Southland — take your choice of the Milford, Routeburn, Kepler, Rakiura or Hump Ridge Track for epic alpine experiences.

Feeling even more adventurous? Throw on a wetsuit and cage dive for an eye-to-eye encounter with mesmerising great white sharks as they cruise through the crystal-clear waters of Foveaux Strait.

Spot seals basking on shores and be enchanted with an incredible diversity of shellfish.

Kiwi-spotting on Rakiura Stewart Island is unique — as these rare treasures can be seen during daylight — memories that will live with you forever.

The island’s primaeval feel brings the senses alive — and with Rakiura National Park covering more than 85% of the island — there are endless hiking, fishing, sea kayaking, diving and hunting opportunities. Don’t miss Te Wharawhara Ulva Island, a predator-free open island sanctuary offering an unspoiled glimpse into New Zealand’s ancient past. The island is home to dozens of native species of flora and fauna, including many rare and endangered birds. Jump on a tour or aboard a cruise to experience these wildlife phenomena in their natural habitats.

Kiwi Spotting

Spotting a kiwi in their natural environment is a must-do activity when you're on Stewart Island. It's one of the best places to spot the Southern brown kiwi (Rakiura tokoeka) in the wild. Choose from one of the many operators…

Kea on the Hump Ridge Track
Pink Penguin Studio


Southland offers some of the best bird watching opportunities & bird sanctuaries in the country. Fiordland & Ulva Island are home to a variety of unusual species. Unique birds like kiwi, takahē & cheeky kea can be found here.

And then there’s the Catlins, for so long a locals’ secret, the magnetic charm of the rugged and wild coastal stretches is the perfect destination to explore at your own pace.

Its stunning native forest fringed by high cliffs, deserted sandy beaches, sparkling bays, waterfalls, hidden lakes, blowholes, caves, picturesque lighthouses — and a 180-million-year-old petrified forest at Curio Bay — one of the most extensive and least disturbed examples of a Jurassic fossil forest in the world.

Watch Hoiho Yellow-Eyed Penguins waddling ashore on the petrified forest. Nearby, Pahu Hector’s Dolphins bounce along waves at Porpoise Bay.

Around the coast, slumbering Sea Lions bask amongst the dune grasses beneath the gaze of the historic Waipapa Point lighthouse.

Southland is a land of magnificent contrasts and unique flora and fauna from the mountains to the sea — so what are you waiting for?


Wildlife & Wilderness Stories

Wildlife & Wilderness Spots & Tours

Things to Do

Wairaurahiri Jet
Wairaurahiri Jet © Martin Sliva

Things to Do

Activities & Tours

There is nothing like a personalised story or interactive experience to bring skills, history and landscapes to life. Enrich your southern adventure with one of our tours and experiences for a deeper dive… Read More

Walking on Swing Bridge, Mavora Lakes
Mavora Lakes, Northern Southland © Chris Mclennan

Things to Do

Walking & Cycling

In Southland, there is an abundance of walking trails for the hiking-inclined traveller, be it short, day or multi-day walks. All these walks let you sample the region's rich natural heritage, exploring… Read More

Camping on Gertrude Saddle
Gertrude Saddle, Fiordland © Liz Carlson

Things to Do

Outdoor Adventures

Whether the coast battered by the great southern ocean, fiords carved by ancient glaciers or the mountains and plateaus shaped by the weather and its local inhabitants, Murihiku Southland reveals some… Read More

Farm Animals - Southland, New Zealand
Air New Zealand

Things to Do


Known for its warm ‘small community’ feel, rural Southland is famous for genuine hospitality, hearty meals, entrepreneurial spirit, and stunning natural landscapes. With experiences ranging from… Read More

Things to Do