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Nature & Wildlife

Wildlife & conservation in Marlborough, NZ

  • 7 minutes


Wildlife encounters, places to go, attractions and things to do in Marlborough from endangered kiwi and native birds to marine experiences with dolphins. Observe King Shag on predator free islands in the Marlborough Sounds and kayak among shorebirds in the Wairau Lagoon. Find out about tour operators who can take the hassle out of the holiday and make your memories all about the experience. And for a brilliant escape consider one of the accommodation options where you get to bed down with nature at your doorstep.


Endangered kiwi and various native birds including the King Shag thrive on predator-free islands in the Marlborough Sounds, as well as tuatara, gecko and native frogs.

Te Pākeka/Maud Island (Scientific Reserve): Places to go in Marlborough are closed to the public except for a few times in the year. If conservation and sustainability is part of your holiday experience then monitor Trips to Maud Island. Contact for details about the upcoming trips. Boats must have permission to land from the Department of Conservation.

The island is a closed scientific reserve. Entry permits are usually only granted for conservation research and DOC weed control programmes.

Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand
Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds

The island’s past includes Maori occupation for gardening and food production. A place for World War II military posts with a jetty and road being built at this time. As a farm Jack Shand, former owner formally handed ownership back to the Crown with significant assistance from Royal Forest and Bird Society.


Maud Island frog. Maud Island hosts the main population of this species, with approximately 60,000 estimated to live here (2016). The island is home to native geckos and other lizards. The island is a stronghold for a number of rare invertebrate species now extinct or greatly restricted in range on the mainland. These include a giant flesh-eating snail Powelliphanta hochstetteri obscura, the Cook Strait click beetle (Amychus granulatus) and the flax weevil (Anagotus fairburnii).

The surrounding sea is well known as a dolphin haunt.

A rare Malherbe s parakeet on Blumine Island New Zealand
A rare Malherbe s parakeet on Blumine Island


A slice of a pristine native world where birds and wildlife flourish in a predator free sanctuary. You can pitch a tent on a north-facing seafront site and listen to the all day chorus of the song with a crescendo at dawn. Blumine Island/Oruawairua campsite has 6 non-powered tent sites. Fees apply and check for up to date pricing. Payment: Pay cash or use your Sounds Campsite Pass (available from local i-SITEs) on arrival at the self registration stand. DOC staff check for payments regularly. The DOC Campsite Pass can be used at this campsite.

Oruawairua Track

WWII military ruins can be explored and stunning views await along the island track. It is a 55 minute loop walk with opportunities to observate endangered saddleback or orange fronted parakeet. Blacks Fasteners are supporting the relocation of the endangered yellowhead/mohua onto Blumine Island. The yellowhead/mohua is a small, insect eating bird which lives only in the forests of New Zealand’s South Island and Stewart Island.

Getting to Oruawairua Track

Oruawairua Track is on Blumine Island / Oruawairua which is 22 km from Picton in Queen Charlotte Sound. You can get there by your own boat, on a water taxi from Picton or by sea kayak. There are no moorings or jetties so you need to be prepared to anchor your boat and to get wet feet on the beach landing. Since you are visiting a pest free island it is vital that you take steps to ensure you do not jeopardise the island’s pest free status!


  • Snorkelling & Diving
  • Swimming offshore and from a sandy beach

A hidden gem in the Marlborough Sounds, Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve is a great getaway for the whole family. Relax on a sandy beach (it is exposed to the prevailing winds), explore rocky reefs and admire the distinctive landscapes of the Marlborough Sounds. While diving observe (do not remove) fish, crayfish and paua ranging in sizes that are considered rare outside of a marine reserve.

Maps and boundaries: Plan and prepare

Poor Knights Island sea cave diving experience, New Zealand
Poor Knights Island

Getting to Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve

The reserve has submerged rocky ledges and reefs making it a challenge for boaties. Ensure you are with a pilot experienced with the area. The reserve is only accessible by a private or a charter boat. It is 35 km from Picton and can take anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours to travel, depending on sea conditions and the type of boat. There are no jetties on Long Island, but craft can land at an obvious bouldery point on the south-western shore. It is also possible to land in a bay on the island’s eastern side, where concrete generator sheds remain from a World War II submarine detection system.

There are no easy landing sites on Kokomohua Island.  Boat services operate on Queen Charlotte Sound from Picton.


No fishing is allowed in a marine reserve.

@Lochmara Lodge
@Lochmara Lodge


A great family and friends destination with the opportunity to explore the Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Recovery Centre nestled within the lodge boundaries. The centre specialises in the rehabilitation of injured wild species, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, as well as protection, enhancement and education. Kids will enjoy meeting kune kune pigs, weta (insects), geckos (lizards) and eels.

Lochmara Lodge breeds kakariki for eventual release into predator-free environments. Kakariki are small green parrots feeding on berries, seeds, fruit and insects. At Lochmara Lodge kids and adults can be part of the feeding time for the chance to get up close. The birds are a brilliant emerald green colour.


Lochmara Lodge is part of the STAY section in the Marlborough guide, things to do.


Discover what local community hard work can achieve at Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary. The island sanctuary is a short boat ride from Picton. Kaipupu is a community project tasked with creating a safe haven for wildlife, such as fantail, kereru, weka, silvereye, grey warbler, tui, bellbird, and kingfisher. Shorebirds include little blue penguins, shags, black-backed gulls, red-billed gulls, and South Island pied oystercatchers. There is a 2.7 km walking track through beautiful native bush.


Guided walks on the Sanctuary provide an insight into “Our Kaipupu”, as well as information about our native plant and animal species. These tours also provide an insight into our restoration and conservation practices.   Please contact us for more information about guided tours.

Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary, New Zealand @kaipupu_sanctuary


Our centrally based information site has a range of informative displays about the Sanctuary, the native plants and animals and our conservation and restoration practices. Our displays include mounted native birds and pest species. It also provides a central hub for sharing knowledge with our community, volunteers and members. We stock a range of t-shirts featuring  our unique native birds, plush soft toys, postcards and more. All these products help to support our work on the Sanctuary.


Usually visitors arrive by water taxi. Remember to check before departure for up to date opening hours.

Royal Spoonbill New Zealand bird resident Wairau Lagoon
Royal Spoonbill New Zealand bird resident Wairau Lagoon


Meet the majestic elegant Royal Spoonbills at the sheltered waters of the Wairau lagoon. Visit the lagoons and enjoy one of Marlborough’s TOP 10 PLACES TO GO. Allow up to 3 hours to revel in the quiet estuarine world of rushes, reeds and water grasses.

Getting to Wairau lagoon

A well marked turnoff from State Highway 1 about 5km south of Blenheim. Another way to visit the lagoons is by kayak. There are information panels near the rusting Waverly shipwreck.


Sustainability is a core value for your holiday then Mistletoe Bay Eco Village is a must-go destination. There are eight eco-whares (Maori = house), camping and whare kitchens, a water recycling system and a conference room used by school groups and other visitors, including wedding parties. The village won the supreme award at the 2014 National Trustpower Community Awards, as well as top spot in the Marlborough Environment Awards, in which judges called the educational eco-village “a project of national importance” which would help build more sustainable communities.

Mistletoe Bay Eco Village describes wildlife encounters from GLOW WORMS & PHOSPHORESCENCE. Amazing pindrop creatures light up the driveway as hundreds of glow worms turn on their nightly display. Phosphorescence can be seen down around the wharf which at times can be spectacular. ALPACA EXPERIENCE

Feed our two friendly alpacas, Yani and Ramos who live beside the top campground. WILDLIFE: There is so much to discover in and around our facility, so take the opportunity to explore the waterfront and you will discover crabs, cockles, mussels, beautiful sea beds and vibrant starfish. Common bird sightings and songs include Weka, Tui, Bell Birds, King Fishers, Fantails, Shags and Gannet. Venture out into the bay to find the most magical marine life, dolphins, seals, blue penguins and even orca have all been known to make an appearance.

Green guardians with light footprints, brilliant.

Falcon Brancott Estate, New Zealand
Falcon Brancott Estate, New Zealand


A top native predator, the New Zealand falcon is being bred to support efforts to avoid extinction. The Marlborough Falcon Trust is breeding the incredible karearea for release and if you keep your eyes peeled, you may see one cruising above the vines at Yealands Wine Estate and Brancott Estate Winery. The Trust has a special aviary that is home to a number of injured birds. The birds are partnered up in the hope their offspring, to be released to the wild, will help save the species from extinction.


Brancott Estate Winery offers tasting tours including a meet and greet with a falcon. An imaginative way to introduce everyone to a beautiful hunting bird.


Pelorus River Scenic Reserve

Go camping at the picturesque Department of Conservation campgrounds. Enjoy the company of native long tailed bats as they leave their roosts at twilight to forage.

Getting to Pelorus River Scenic Reserve

Check Pelorus River Scenic Reserve for details.

Pelorus River, New Zealand
Pelorus River


The massive swirling sea serpent myth is alive and well on viewing a mature New Zealand eel. Then the other marine creatures mollusc shelled and paua marine gastropod molluscs are farmed by Arapawa Seafarms. Observe how the seafarm spawns (breed) wild Paua, grow larvae, and release juveniles back into the wild to replace/increase wild stocks. Look at how Haliotis iris pearls, also known as blue or Paua pearls are grown and harvested. Tour the facilities where you can feed the Paua, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some home baking. Additionally we can show you our pet Long-finned eels as you depart the property.

@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation

Arapawa Homestead offers accommodation making this one of the truly magnificent holiday experiences. Stay with locals whose lives are intertwined with the marine world. Arapawa features in our STAY section of the Marlborough guide, things to do.

Getting to Arapawa Seafarms

Boat or water taxis are the only access to the island. This ensures your peace and privacy for those who wish to get away from it all. It takes approximately 50 minutes by private charter. You can also book the The Mail Boat Cruise from Picton which arrives twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays, leaving Picton around 1.30pm.


Observe orcas and whales and stingrays. Grab the opportunity to swim with dolphins as they meet and greet visitors to their watery world.






E-Ko has been running the best tours in Picton and the Marlborough Sounds on and off the water here for over 15 years, with thousands of happy customers.

learn more @ekotoursdolphinwatch
@ekotoursdolphinwatch @ekotoursdolphinwatch
@ekotoursdolphinwatch @ekotoursdolphinwatch
@ekotoursdolphinwatch @ekotoursdolphinwatch


Beachcomber Cruises have eight vessels operating throughout the Queen Charlotte Sound. The boats in our fleet vary in size and can cater for groups, functions and weddings. We also offer a range of cruises including our New Zealand Post Mail Run and a private water taxi service operating under the Picton Water Taxis brand.

learn more @beachcombercruises
@beachcombercruises @beachcombercruises
@beachcombercruises @beachcombercruises
@beachcombercruises @beachcombercruises


Based in Picton at the top of the South Island, Cougar Line provides Marlborough Sounds water transport around Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui. Whether you're heading out to walk or bike the Queen Charlotte Track, going to a lodge or private holiday home, or just out for a cruise, we'll get you and your gear where you need to go, on time, in one piece and with a smile.

learn more @CougarLine
@CougarLine @CougarLine
@CougarLine @CougarLine
@CougarLine @CougarLine


As the oldest adventure company in Marlborough, our knowledge of this marine wonderland and the iconic Queen Charlotte Track that runs through her heart, is second to none. Our adventures are tailored to provide you with the best holiday possible and our end goal is to have you love the Marlborough Sounds as much as we do.

learn more @MarlboroughSounds
@MarlboroughSounds @MarlboroughSounds
@MarlboroughSounds @MarlboroughSounds
@MarlboroughSounds @MarlboroughSounds


Wilderness Guides has been part of the tourism landscape in the Marlborough Sounds for 22 years this October and we don't plan to be going anywhere, anytime soon. We invite you to explore the Marlborough Sounds and Queen Charlotte Track with us.

learn more @WildernessGuides
@WildernessGuides @WildernessGuides
@WildernessGuides @WildernessGuides
@WildernessGuides @WildernessGuides


Found in Linkwater, Queen Charlotte Drive is a large purpose built base on the Queen Charlotte Drive, with plenty of safe parking. Sea Kayaking offers the best Sea Kayaking, Mountain Biking and Hiking the Sounds has to offer. 1500km of coastline, a Great Ride and the Link Pathway all are accessible from the base for your epic adventure here in the Marlborough Sounds. We specialise in nature-based adventuring for the intrepid traveller, with an emphasis on experiencing the environment without interfering with its delicate ecosystems. If you are not quite ready for that type of adventure, then why not try out our new, lockdown creation of The Sounds Mini Golf.

learn more @AnakiwaSKA
@AnakiwaSKA @AnakiwaSKA
@AnakiwaSKA @AnakiwaSKA
@AnakiwaSKA @AnakiwaSKA

Find out more about what to see on Queen Charlotte Drive.



Several key accommodation providers whose sustainability and conservation practices are at the heart of their accommodation and activities offered to guests.


Tour the facilities where you can feed the Paua, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some home baking. Additionally we can show you our pet Long-finned eels as you depart the property.

learn more @Arapawa Homestead Accommodation
@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation @Arapawa Homestead Accommodation
@Arapawa-Homestead-Accommodation @Arapawa Homestead Accommodation
@Arapawa Homestead Accommodation @Arapawa Homestead Accommodation


A great family and friends destination with the opportunity to explore the Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Recovery Centre nestled within the lodge boundaries.

learn more @Lochmara
@Lochmara Lodge @Lochmara


Sustainability is a core value for your holiday then Mistletoe Bay Eco Village is a must-go destination.

learn more @mistletoebay
@mistletoebay @mistletoebay

Travel pack information


Best Bits travel guide is published by Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

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Long Island – Kokomohua Marine Reserve



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