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Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain conservation in action attraction

  • 4 minutes

Waikato, North Island

New Zealand top attraction

Imagine a world where humans are optional. A world where the forest reigns supreme and prolific wildlife flourishes without fear of introducing exotic predators. Welcome to Sanctuary Mountain in the Waikato; one of New Zealand’s top conservation stories. Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain is a must-go attraction for visitors interested in conservation.

Sanctuary Mt, Maungatautari predator proof fence, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mt, Maungatautari predator proof fence

Top sights

  • Lush green forest paths snaking up and down the mountain
  • Forest sounds with bird song trilling haunting notes
  • Extraordinary contrast between the rolling farmland dotted with cows and sheep and sanctuary

Sanctuary Mountain has the world’s largest predator proof fence, 47 km, protects 3400 hectares of forest from introduced predators such as rats, feral cats, possums and ferrets.


Getting to Sanctuary Mountain is not easy without a vehicle. The rural location is not serviced by public transport.


The mountain’s distinctive pointed peaks and rich dark green forest coat creates a striking landmark against the pastoral landscape. Ancient native trees, rimu and, rata soar over native bush.

Visit Hobbiton and Waitomo Caves less than 30 minutes from Cambridge and Sanctuary Mountain. Plan a visit to nearby Hamilton and explore the mighty Waikato River on a river walk. A must-do for nature lovers is Lake Rotopiko, Te Awamutu Peat Lake district.

Te Awamutu with its roses and public gardens (plus Lake Rotopiko) is the answer for visitors exploring Waikato’s walking trails. Take time exploring Sanctuary Mountain and the Waikato. Unmissable is the power of the massive natural springs Putaruru Blue Springs near Putaruru.


Volunteers, farmers donating land, local iwi (Maori tribal group) and the scientific community have contributed towards the jewel in the conservation crown that is Sanctuary Mountain. Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is a charitable trust and all entry fees into the southern enclosure go towards maintaining visitor facilities and supporting their conservation work. The visitor centre is open 364 days a year and from there a variety of guided and self-guided walks are on offer.

Sanctuary Mountain, Waikato, NZ forested trail, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain

There are also trails across the mountain for individual exploration with free access. The Kiwi Health Check occurs intermittently during the year. See

Kaka parot, Sanctuary Mountain, Waikato, New Zealand
Kaka parot, Sanctuary Mountain

A favourite guided tour is the Tautari Wetland tour. The recently created wetlands are home to one of the rarest flightless birds in the world; the ancient takahe. Listen for the hooting alarm call of the male and look for the brilliant flash of blue plumage to sight these magnificent birds.

Explore Te Tūī a Tāne (Southern Enclosure) at your own pace. Call into the Manu Tīoriori visitor centre (99 Tari Road), to collect your Sanctuary Explorer Pass and Visitor Guide with the map. You can pre-purchase your  Sanctuary Explorer Pass. Plan your self-guided visit.

Join a  guided tour

Be guided on your visit with one of our knowledgeable guides, consider our classic Ancient Forest Tour or if you’re short on time enjoy our Seasonal Forest Highlights Tour to learn about this amazing project. Families will particularly enjoy a visit to the Tautari wetlands with a guide to meet our taonga species, tuatara and takahē. You might also enjoy an experience to support your wellbeing. Learn more about our guided tours.

Download a map of the mountain.

Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari signage, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari signage

How fit do you need to be to visit Sanctuary Mountain?

Sanctuary Mountain, tree ferns reaching for the light, Waikato, New Zealand
Sanctuary Mountain, tree ferns reaching for the light

While the tracks are wide with a firm surface you are walking up and down a mountain.

If you can easily climb a set of stairs, walk up a hill and continuously walk several kilometres you will have no issues. The easiest walk is less than 2 km (although there is an additional 1 km walk from the visitor centre to the security gate entrance). Allow up to 1 hour to allow for time listening to the sounds of the forest with the option of climbing the staircase (16 metres) above ground level to the treetop canopy viewing platform.

A definite highlight is to puff your way up through the forest and then peer over the sides of the platform into the forest below. A bird’s eye view is the reward for the climb.

The highest point is marked by a trig station at 797 metres above sea level. There is a picnic table to collapse against when you arrive at the summit. Wairere Traverse (Over the Mountain track) is accessible at any time of the day however for safety of the public and of our flora and fauna we do not recommend visiting after dark.

NZ ferns in the rain, Waikato, New Zealand
NZ ferns in the rain

It is recommended you book a Sanctuary Mountain guided tour with knowledgeable guides sharing local facts about the flora and fauna. You are pointed in the right direction to observe wildlife and each distinctive song note is identified.


Hear the song, listen very carefully and stay still and hopefully you will actually view the wildlife as they flit among the forest, look at the understorey for movement.

  • Visit Otorohanga: Things To Do and See in a Travel Guide – Best Bits and check kiwiana town trail to discover the kiwi memorabilia decorating the main street.
  • Visit Cambridge, town of trees for a leisurely stroll along the main street in the town of trees
  • Check out Mighty River Domain where dedicated water sportspeople train
  • Pass by a magnificent swing bridge, Arapuni Hydro Dam located on the Waikato River shared trail

Sanctuary mountain to Otorohanga – 46 km

Sanctuary Mountain to Mighty River Domain, Lake Karapiro – 35 km

Sanctuary Mountain to Arapuni swing bridge – 12 km

For conservation focused travellers check out Responsible travel: sustainable tourism in New Zealand and the Top 15 sustainable travel experiences in New Zealand – Best Bits for a holiday where your actions make a difference.

Opening hours & access to Sanctuary Mountain: Manu Tioriori visitor centre is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm daily (closed 25th December). Snacks and beverages are available only. Entrance to the southern enclosure (Te Tui a Tāne) is available during Manu Tioriori opening hours.

Maungatautari Sanctuary Mountain is located in the heart of rural Waikato. The easiest way to get there is by vehicle or joining a guided tour.

From Cambridge it is approximately 45 minutes, 38 km

Hamilton it is approximately 55 minutes, 59 km

Travelling from Auckland is not recommended as the one way journey is approximately 2 ½ hours (179 km) not leaving much time to actually explore the mountain.


Ensure you arrive mid morning to allow for several hours of daylight walking at your leisure.


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


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