Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt

Nature & Wildlife

Wildlife, conservation, Nelson attractions

  • 3 minutes

Motueka Sandspit, Tasman region

Places to visit

Families, couples interested in wildlife and animal encounters have plenty of places to visit in Nelson.


  • Glowworms at Brook Waimarama sanctuary
  • Find eels in Lake Rotoiti and hand feed eels at Anatoki Salmon, Takaka
  • Gannets, ocean going birds at Farewell Spit
  • Tonga Marine Reserve and offshore islands, home to NZ fur seals
  • Nature Land sanctuary exotic and native animals with Llamas and meerkats favourites
  • Shorebirds in estuary reserves, Rabbit Island and Motueka





Take a guided tour or explore at your own pace the fenced sanctuary Brook Waimārama Sanctuary. Over 690 hectares of tracks weaving through the regenerating and original bush and forest.


Glowworm and forest-after-dark tour is a special experience. Smell the forest, hear the noise Brook Stream gurgling in the background and perhaps hear the odd hoot of a ruru (morepork) and marvel at the stars in the night sky away from the city lights. You’ll see the glowing bioluminescence points of light generated by the Sanctuary glow worms living in the sheltered banks of the Sanctuary pathways

The Sanctuary features an extensive network of well-posted walking tracks; the loop track is perfectly suited to those wanting a fairly gentle experience, it’s even suitable for people in electric mobility scooters and wheelchairs. For the more adventurous there’s Carter’s Track and the Valley Track – both of which feature a number of river crossings.




Enjoy swimming and snorkeling in the Abel Tasman National Park. It is renowned for its golden sand beaches, intimate coves, and excellent summer weather. For further information check Tonga Island Marine Reserve: Places to go in Nelson/Tasman. As the island has breeding NZ fur seals, you are not permitted to land without a permit. Check DOC resource for up to date information.

Tonga Island Marine reserve, New Zealand @DOC / Helen Kettles
Tonga Island Marine reserve @DOC / Helen Kettles
Archway rock at Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay
Wharariki Beach, Golden Bay

Wharariki windswept beach is home to New Zealand fur seals, keep your eyes peeled and take care on the beach to practice your seal safety tips. Abel Tasman National Park water taxis or kayaking adventures. You could be joined by fur seals observing who and what is entering their territory. Viewing is best from October to March.


Binoculars are recommended as some spots the seals are only visible from a distance and you are advised to leave at least several metres between yourself and the wildlife. Carry clothing layers even in summer. Keep your distance from the seals as they can bite and can move quickly even on land.Supervised children


  • NELSON NATIONAL PARK with its glorious scenery with massive mountain ranges is home to magnificent mature eels. Join a guided tour to explore the lake and find the eels, some are estimated to be over 100 years old. Look under Lake Rotoiti’s wharf and see if you can spot eels, New Zealand longfin eels (Maori Tuna) are the largest freshwater eels on earth.
  • The story of eels, Eels – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  • HAND FEED EELS in the streams surrounding the Salmon Farm cafe. The Eels are usually hibernating during the cooler months of the year.The food for the Eels is available for purchase at the salmon farm cafe from September – May. Anatoki Salmon Farm is located near Takaka.
Godwits in flight at Motueka Sandspit, Tasman region, New Zealand
Godwits in flight at Motueka Sandspit


Motueka Sandspit

Walk Motueka Sandspit, an internationally recognised site for local and migrant shorebirds. The whole area is ecologically important. It has extensive areas of rushland and saltmarsh where whitebait spawn; it is rich in shellfish and therefore a major feeding ground for wading birds, up to 10,000 of which feed or roost on the sandspit in summer.

Birds: This site is considered internationally important because of the numbers of bar-tailed godwit, variable oystercatcher, and South Island pied oystercatcher that use the site. Other birds using the site are banded dotterel, ruddy turnstone, terns and gulls. The sandspit has an all-round view, from D’Urville Island to the Richmond and Arthur ranges and Abel Tasman National Park Source Motueka Sandspit: Motueka area, Nelson/Tasman. Other significant estuary reserves include Rabbit Island with its intertidal bird communities.


Farewell spit gannets

Majestic soaring ocean birds between the months of August to March flock to coastal islands and cliffs off the mainland for their breeding season. Farewell Spit is a major breeding colony. A highlight of the guided tour is the gannets as they wheel and soar in the skies above.

Farewell spit gannets, Nelson @farewellspittours
@Natureland Wildlife Trust
@Natureland Wildlife Trust


Nature Land Park

  • Find a boutique exotic and native sanctuary near Tahunanui Beach. Nature Land Park is home to primates, meerkats, porcupines and native rescued wildlife. There are heritage breeds of domesticated animals and free range hens. Natureland Wildlife Trust is a great place for families. Entrance fees.

For families, couples and visitors interested in the natural world check out Nelson Regional Guide and Abel Tasman National Park guide for further ideas where to go and what to see.


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


Our editors independently visit tour operators, purchase tickets, pay for accommodation, and rate products and places. We are not paid to go on a tour or visit a place. We only make money if you decide to purchase a product through our website links. We promise to never accept free products from manufacturers in return for boosting their products. Read more about our affiliate programme in the terms and conditions HERE.

Related articles


If you have a query about content, travel deals or anything else, our team is happy to answer all your questions 🙂

    Your information is secure, no third party involved.
    100% Safe, secure, privacy guaranteed. Privacy Policy.