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
- Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, 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
The Wairau Lagoons near Blenheim are rich with wildlife, with 90 species of birds. They are also rich with history, with the lagoons first used as a hunting ground by Māori 800 years ago and being the earliest known area in New Zealand to be settled by humans.
In spring, look out for the royal spoonbill showing off their mating plumage and godwits landing from their 12-day, 12,000km (nearly 7,500 mile), annual migration from the Arctic Circle. The best time to spot them is during low tide when they feed on worms, larvae and molluscs.
The lagoons cover 2,000 hectares (nearly 5,000 acres), rest behind an 8km (5 mile) long boulder bank, and feature 19km of canals and channels dug by early Māori to link natural waterways.
Walk Wairau Lagoons
Find out more about walking tracks around the Wairau Lagoons
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Wildlife & Conservation