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Sustainable Tourism

Auckland outdoors, wildlife, conservation stories

Pauatahanui, Wellington

Responsible travel, where to go & places to visit

Discover Auckland’s outdoors. Places to go from wetland restoration to heritage preservation where volunteers and visitors are invited to join in the action. Combined with the Hauraki Gulf Island Sanctuaries, responsible travel destinations in Auckland are a year round treat.

Ready for some time away?

Spend the day exploring outdoors in Auckland. Want to volunteer, plenty of options just keep reading to find out where …



Black sand dunes above lake Wainamu, West Auckland, New Zealand
Black sand dunes above lake Wainamu
  • SHAKESPEAR REGIONAL PARK find out the difference volunteering has made to the park’s future
  • WETLANDS WAIATARUA RESERVE is where conservation lobbying, volunteering and local government has created a magical place
  • TE HENGA WETLANDS & DUNE LAKES, nature has provided a stunning example of wetlands, dune lakes on Auckland’s west coast
  • MANGERE MOUNTAIN HISTORIC JOURNEY is where visitors meet the locals and hear stories about the cultural significance of the mountain
  • BIRD WATCHING in Auckland from intertidal estuaries to reserves. Are you ready to assist the local volunteers to go bird counting?
  • LEIGH seaside town is where volunteers, part of Forest & Bird ensure the welfare of tiny penguins

Auckland, New Zealand, the country’s largest city is paradoxically a great outdoors destination. Nature is not a visitor experience; it’s Auckland’s backyard where volunteers, visitors and day trippers enjoy regional parks, reserves, estuaries and beaches where wildlife, nature and the outdoors work together to find new ways of living together.

Enjoy the journey finding out more about Auckland outdoors.


No predator fences with the open sanctuary reliant on trapping.

  • Kaitiaki Trail is for photography fans. Follow the trail onto Waterfall Gully bush walk, past farmland to a lookout
  • Tamariki Trail is aimed at children ages 5+ and begins at the Old Woolshed information centre. Featuring your guide Kare the Kiwi, it also includes hidden quiz signs to be discovered in a fun adventure around some of the Sanctuary’s main highlights. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat
@SOSSI (Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc)
@SOSSI (Shakespear Open Sanctuary Society Inc)

Shakespear Open Sanctuary Inc (SOSSI) is a critical part of the welfare of the Shakespear Regional Park. There is a monthly work day on Sundays. On holiday, meet like-minded people, sign up and enjoy the day volunteering. For more information about the park … check out Shakespear Regional Park – Best Bits.

Motu Manawa-Pollen Island Marine Reserve @DOC / Alastair Jamieson, ARC
Motu Manawa-Pollen Island Marine Reserve @DOC / Alastair Jamieson, ARC


Motu Manawa-Pollen Island Marine Reserve hosts a range of seabirds and waders. Birds you may spot include:

  • red-billed and black-backed gull
  • white-fronted and Caspian tern
  • godwit
  • knot
  • sandpiper
  • South Island pied oystercatcher
  • wrybill

Motu Manawa (Pollen Island) is one of Auckland’s few large inner city estuarine areas. Situated in the Waterview Bay of Waitemata Harbour, it has been a wetland and shellbank habitat since the last ice age. An extraordinary 90% of Auckland’s wetlands were drained meaning Mout Manawa is critically important for bird life. It is one of the few significant wetland bird feeding & breeding grounds in the Waitemata Harbour. Forest & Bird got a marine reserve established in 2005, Today the two islands in the marine reserve (Traherne and Pollen Island) are pest-free and weed-free so that native flora and fauna can flourish again. There is a restoration group always in need of volunteers. MOTU MANAWA POLLEN ISLAND. Motu Manawa (Pollen Island) Restoration Group supports volunteer activities:  predator and pest control, weeding and conducting field studies; lobbying and submissions.

Check DOC resource for up to date information.


Engage with the traditional guardians of the land and meet the locals. A guided walk on Mangere Mountain is one of the most enriching things to do in Auckland.

Mangere Mountain first erupted 70,000 years ago – long before the arrival of humans. Our guided walking tours reveal its volcanic origins and explore the history of settlement and cultivation on its fertile slopes. Mana Whenua (local people) will be your guides, interpreting the landscape and sharing their knowledge of Māori history. Mangere Mountain Education Centre promotes an understanding of the traditional values encapsulated in Mangere. Volunteering activities include fundraising.

Mangere mount birds, New Zealand
Mangere mount birds


Families and kids have a great place outdoors to explore with a variety of activities from birdwatching, observing farm animals and fish n chips on the foreshore. Ambury Farm lies along the coast of the Manukau Harbour in the suburb of Māngere Bridge. You can take in various farm animals as you wander around the farm.

Ambury Regional Park, Auckland, New Zealand
Ambury Regional Park

This is a significant habitat for shorebirds and the coast has examples of basalt lava flows. Ambury Regional Park is a gateway to the Manukau Harbour foreshore, where wading birds gather in their thousands to breed and roost before winter migration. There is an excellent firm walking trail around the foreshore to the park with bird watchers, couples enjoying the open spaces, and surrounding farmland providing a rural aspect. Look for shorebirds:  godwits, pied stilts and oystercatchers are easily viewed.


Combine with a trip to nearby MANGERE MOUNTAIN.


Dune lakes LAKE WAINAMU are home to shag species, bittern, spotless crake, and fernbird as well as native fish. Visitors can access the lake along the stream walkway from Bethells Road or over the tall sand dunes. Visitors can be rewarded with a swim in the lake at the end of their walk. Check out the stunning aerial views of naturally damned dune lakes Lake Wainamu. Nearby on Auckland’s West Coast are Te Henga Wetlands, part of a large conservation project.

Te Henga, Lake Wainamu, West Auckland, New Zealand
Te Henga, Lake Wainamu


Te Henga wetland, one of Auckland’s largest freshwater wetlands.The wetland is home to 300 species of plants and 45 bird species (including fernbird and bittern) and 6 native fish. The best way to access the wetland is via Matuku Reserve, a Forest & Bird reserve where visitors can access the wetland on boardwalks. Forest and Bird  are the driving force behind the wildlife corridor. Wetland birds aren’t the only species to benefit from predator control at Te Henga. It also links with Ark in the Park to create a corridor for North Island robin, whitehead and kōkako. It also joins with the coast, protecting local seabird populations.

Visit and find out what passionate volunteers have achieved.

Fish ladder built by volunteers.

Western Springs Lakeside Park, New Zealand
Western Springs Lakeside Park


Flowing into the Auckland Zoo precinct the popular urban park is, at its heart, a volcanic natural spring. The lake and restored wetlands emerge from lava aquifers. The site is a refuge in the city for the native eel, pūkeko, teal, Australian coot and shovelers, ducks, swans and geese. There are numerous flat easy paths, picnic areas and shady corners for visitors. For more information what to do in the area check Auckland Travel Guide,  gardens and parks.


Discover a success story. The 40-hectare Waiatarua Reserve is home to a restored wetland which filters water that’s run off from surrounding land and roads. The water, filtered through bunds and sediment traps, flows into Ōrākei Basin and then into the Waitematā Harbour. Each year the wetland prevents approximately 130 tonnes of sediment and contaminants (from roads and vehicles) entering the Orakei Basin and harbour. Waiatarua Reserve Restored wetland Waiatarua reserve is the largest urban constructed wetland in New Zealand.

Birds in the wetlands include: harriers, scaup, Caspian terns, little black shag, shoveler duck, kōtuku (white heron) and pūkeko. This is a flat gravel path accessible from several surrounding streets.

Recreational opportunities include a basketball half court, gravel path network through the reserve, picnic tables, play equipment, seating and skate facilities.

Access the car parks from Abbots Way and Grand Drive. There are gates at the Grand Drive entrance. Pedestrians can also access from Towle Place.

A playground, toilets, car park, picnic tables and seating, basketball half court, and skate ramp are inside the park.

Follow the Waiatarua Path around the wetland restoration project

  • Length: 2.4 km
  • Grade: Easy flat walk, however wet after rain

There are also several bird viewing areas off the main path. Finish or start the path at the playground area with a skate ramp or shoot some hoops at the basketball court.


Lake Rototoa (formerly Ototoa) Scenic Reserve – Rodney District (North)


  • Kayaking does not have to compete with powered boats
  • Swimming
  • Nature reserve for aquatic birds such as bittern, pukeko and dabchick
  • Spend a day exploring the natural world

Is one of the five places to take kids while visiting Auckland. Check out

TOP-5 Auckland walks for families & kids, trip guide: Best Bits for details

Pier in Kai Iwi lakes, Northland, New Zealand
Pier in Kai Iwi lakes, Northland
Little Blue Penguin, Katiki Point, Moeraki Peninsula, North Otago, New Zealand..
Little Blue Penguin


Discover volunteers creating a safe habitat for little blue penguins/kororā and other seabirds to thrive along the coast from Ti Point to Goat Island. Forest & Bird’s Little Blue Penguin/kororā Project in the Warkworth area. For more information what to do check What’s so great about Leigh.

Auckland is home to a number of charitable organisations supporting volunteers and communities look after their patch of Aotearoa New Zealand. And this list is not definitive, New Zealand Conservation Projects : The Importance of Monitoring (DoC).


For tips and ideas about sustainable tourism, responsible travel check out Responsible travel: sustainable tourism in New Zealand and NZ Department of Conservation Volunteers, Weeds and Work to get you started on the journey of a holiday where volunteering and having a good time go hand in hand.



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


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