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Hugged between harbour and hill, Wellington’s a city with nature on its doorstep. You can get up-close-and-personal with all sorts of native and exotic creatures in the capital…and they're all very friendly!
The tuatara roamed the Earth before the dinosaurs, and they've outlasted them by more than 65 million years. Now you can meet them – and learn about their amazing ‘third eye’ at Zealandia, just 5 minutes’ drive from central Wellington. Their neighbours in this beautiful, secluded valley include native weta, tui and the playful forest parrot, the kaka.
Head for Wellington's spectacular south coast and take the walk to Red Rocks. These amazing rock formations were formed 200 million years ago by undersea volcanic eruptions. Carry on around the coast and you'll find a New Zealand fur seal colony, which makes its home here from May to October. You can also explore this area with a Seal Coast Safari, a wildly fun off-road adventure, which traverses some of Wellington's picturesque farmland and coast.
Located in the scenic Akatarawa Valley north of Wellington, Staglands Wildlife Reserve is home to an amazing array of native birds and fish, as well as heaps of cute and cuddly farm animals. Pick up some animal food, and explore the reserve where you are invited to feed, pet and interact with the animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, deer, goats and horses. Perfect day out for kids and animal-loving grown ups!
Have a Close Encounter at ‘the best little zoo in the world’. Guided by keepers, these once-in-a-lifetime experiences let you feed a red panda, get climbed on by meerkats, get a selfie with a giraffe, find out just how soft the fur of a black and white ruffed lemur is, or hear the astounding happy purr of the cheetahs. 10% of proceeds from all Close Encounters help Wellington Zoo save animals in the wild through projects supported by the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund.
Head out to Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre and meet Manukura, an incredibly rare pure white kiwi. She’s not an albino, she’s the product of two parents carrying the extremely uncommon white feather gene. She’s considered a taonga (blessing) by local iwi, and is the most famous resident of this natural attraction and conservation project.
Formerly the naval frigate HMNZS Wellington, the F69 was deliberately sunk in 2005, just off the coast, creating one of the world’s most accessible dive-wrecks. In the decade since, this artificial reef has become home to an astonishingly bio-diverse underwater garden and an extraordinary dive experience.
Wellington city is surrounded by the bush-clad hills of the Town Belt. There are around 360 km of walking and mountain biking trails across the region, and plenty of accessible lookouts with gorgeous views across the city and harbour. One thing you won’t have to look out for, however, is venomous snakes or spiders!