Top 10 ways to "take it all in" this summer
This summer, we're encouraging you to explore further into the sanctuary and take notice of things you may not normally see, hear or feel.
Take time to explore tracks you've never walked before: Look further beyond the trees for different views of the valley. Listen closer for wildlife rustling or calling nearby. Pause at one of the many benches or picnic tables throughout the valley and see what wildlife comes to visit you. Breathe deeply and wind down in nature.
Whether you’ve visited 100 times or never, there’s always something new to notice if you slow down and take it all in.
#1 Get up close to wetland wildlife
Take a ride on Ara Kawau, the electric boat and see the sanctuary from a different point of view. Get up close to the cascading kiekie on the other side of Roto Kawau/lower reservoir and look for hidden kawau/shag nests as the boat cruises along the shoreline. Watch as pāpango/NZ scaup dive for food and look further into the wetlands to spot pāteke/brown teal hiding amongst the grasses.
Ara Kawau operates during the weekends, public holidays and school holidays. Ara Kawau is run by volunteers so running times are subject to change. Rides are free but koha/donations are encouraged to help with running costs.
Photo: Kāruhiruhi/Pied shag - Jeff Mein Smith
#2 Listen for little birds with big voices
As you wander the tracks of the valley, listen closer for the range of bird calls coming from the surrounding ngahere/forest. Listen for the long trill of the riroriro/grey warbler, the ultra-high-pitched peep of titipounamu/rifleman, or the loud chattering “ke-ke-ke” of the tīeke/saddleback. The longer you listen, the more likely you’ll notice rusting of leaves as toutouwai/North Island robin sneak closer to your feet, or the sounds of little nibbles as kākāriki snack in the canopy above your head.
Our tour guides are experts in birdsong – join a Zealandia By Day tour to learn what to listen out for and which little birds make the biggest noises.
Photo: Titipounamu/rifleman - Scott Langdale
#3 Find a spot to sit and breathe
The valley is scattered with benches and picnic tables in secluded spots. These are the perfect places to take a break and take in your surroundings. Research shows that spending time in nature is great for our mental health and these spots are perfect for a moment of mindfulness. Have your lunch or just sit in stillness and breathe deeply. The views and serenity of the upper valley are great spots to get away as most visitors explore just the lower third of the valley!
Photo: Valley bench seat - Zealandia
#4 Pause at the suspension bridge
One of the most beautiful spots in the sanctuary is the bridge suspended above the Beech Tracks. Not only is the suspension bridge arguably the most “instagrammable” spot in the valley, it also provides a great spot to pause and take in the view from above the lower valley forest canopy. Watch for kāka as they soar above the trees and look into the distance to see kāruhiruhi cruising out to sea and home again. View the ngahere/forest from a different perspective looking down over the tree tops.
Photo: Suspension bridge - Maddi Lowry
#5 Look for tuatara and other hiding reptiles
You might think you’ve stepped into Jurassic Park when you see tuatara basking in the sun. These living fossils have barely changed since they were roaming the earth with dinosaurs. These zen masters are notoriously chill and can be tough to spot. Look for the markers along the fence at the Tuatara Research area on Lake Road, then look further up the bank for sunny spots or burrows where these ancient reptiles might be hiding. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the valley for other reptiles, New Zealand’s geckos and skinks, hiding in the strangest of places!
Photo: Ngahere/forest gecko - Zealandia
#6 Take a hike uphill to discover history stopped in its tracks
The Heritage Discovery Area is a bit of a trek up a steep incline and stairs, but we promise the views are worth it. Climb the last few steps up into the discovery tower for panoramic views above the canopy where you can breathe deeply catch your breath. See if you can spot some of the heritage mining equipment left behind from the gold and quartz mining that took place in the valley in the late 1800’s.
Photo: Historic mining cart, Heritage Discovery Area - Zealandia
#7 Have a seat at the hihi feeders
Zealandia is home to some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s rarest species, such as the hihi/stitchbird. Sometimes these species are hard to find because, like the hihi, there just aren’t that many of them around! Take a moment to pause at the hihi feeders located at the bottom of Beech Track and on Round the Lake Track and see what birds come to feed. Listen out for high-pitched zip calls to let you know that hihi are nearby, or for the melodic song of the korimako/bellbird as they sit at the feeders.
Photo: Female hihi/stitchbird - Janice McKenna
#8 Cool off with our kiwifruit and kawakawa soda on ice
Quench your thirst with a zesty mix of kiwifruit and kawakawa. Our collaborative soda syrup with Wellington locals, Six Barrel Soda, is a nod to the kiwi that roam the sanctuary and the native plants that grow here.
Have it topped with soda water over ice on a hot summers day and know that every sip helps support our conservation mission to help the birds, plants and critters of Aotearoa thrive in Wellington and beyond.
Taste local and grab a glass at Rātā café, or a bottle to take home from Zealandia Store.
Photo credit: Janice McKenna
#9 Munch on brunch or lunch
With views over the sanctuary, our Rātā Café is the perfect spot to take a break and taste local cuisine. Every bite of our locally sourced food supports conservation with all proceeds supporting the mahi/work Zealandia does. Alternatively, you bring a picnic and find a sunny spot on the grass of the Heritage Lawn or rest up on a picnic table in the sanctuary.
Photo credit: Janice McKenna
#10 Listen for Wellington's nightlife
A different kind of party gets started at Zealandia after dark on Zealandia By Night tours. Think you've seen enough wildlife during the day? Think again. Kiwi pukupuku/little spotted kiwi, wētāpunga/giant wētā, titiwai/glow worms and gherkin slugs emerge as darkness descends on the valley. Listen closer for kiwi calling out for each other, or the well known onomatopoeic “more-pork” call of the ruru. Go exploring with a knowledgeable guide and enjoy a steaming cup of kawakawa tea after your night-time adventure.
Photo: Ruru/morepork - Janice McKenna
Whether you're exploring on your own, enjoying a day tour, or you come back to adventure under the cover of darkness, you won't run out of fun things to do. To reap even more benefits and show your love for native wildlife, become a member! Unlimited free entry for a year plus heaps of benefits and exclusive events.