Endangered kiwi and various native birds including the King Shag thrive on predator-free islands in the Marlborough Sounds, as well as tuatara, gecko and native frogs.
The winding waterways of the sounds hold dolphins, stingrays, seals, and even orca and whales on their seasonal migration.
Back on dry land, the Picton Museum hosts interesting rich stories of the region's whaling history.
Other ways to immerse yourself in Marlborough's wildlife and conservation is to Kayak on the Wairau Lagoons, cruise close to a multitude of New Zealand bird species, or visit the rare population of bats being protected at the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve. Stroll the wildlife trail at Lochmara Lodge, or discover more about the award-winning sustainability practices at Yealands Estate winery.
Marlborough’s sanctuaries are home to precious geckos, frogs and tuatara, as well as beautiful birdlife and marine life. These wildlife sanctuaries are vital to the continued survival of native species, with some places open to the public.
Seals laze on sun-drenched rocks, while gannets dive into schools of fish. In winter months you can find humpback whales at the edge of the Cook Strait on their annual migration, and in summer it’s the turn of orca. Five types of dolphin also ply these waters, including pods of the rare Hector’s dolphin.
Marlborough wine companies are leading the charge in many environmental practices, from organic vineyards to solar-powered wineries. The environment is at the forefront of planning for a number of Marlborough Sounds accommodation providers as well, with eco-trails and restoration projects ensuring a bright future.
- Maud Island Scientific Reserve
- Motuara Island bird sanctuary
- Long tailed bats
- Blumine Island bird sanctuary
- Marlborough Sounds Wildlife Recovery Centre
- Kaipupu Wildlife Sanctuary
- Wairau Lagoons, including royal spoonbills
- Kokomohua Marine Reserve
- Mistletoe Bay Eco Village
- The Marlborough Falcon Trust
Roy Grose DOC Conservation Services Manager, Marlborough Sounds
“Marlborough is the mountains to the sea. One day you can be out in the Marlborough Sounds, and the next day be up at Lake Rotoiti. On the way you can stop and pick cherries or have a glass of wine at a cellar door. It doesn’t get much better than that.”My insider guide to Marlborough
In winter months you can find humpback whales at the edge of the Cook Strait, and occasionally in the Marlborough Sounds, but you can be sure someone else has spotted them first.
Every winter, a group of former whalers head up to a lookout at the end of Awapara Island, to spot the whales on their annual migration.
These days the men use their sharp eyes to conserve not kill, as they gather information on the incredible humpback for the Department of Conservation.
To learn more about whales and whaling in the Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait, visit the Picton Museum, located on Picton's foreshore.
Navigating near marine mammals
It is a criminal offence to harass or disturb marine mammals. When navigating near marine mammals the following rules apply:
• Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group;
• Keep at least 50m away from whales at all times;
• Proceed slowly at speeds of less than 10 knots;
• At any time, only a maximum of three vessels should be within 300m of the mammals.
Search & book