Canterbury, New Zealand
Ecotourism

Enter your dates to find available activities

Our most recommended Canterbury, New Zealand Ecotourism

Kaikoura: Dolphin Encounter Cruise

1. Kaikoura: Dolphin Encounter Cruise

Cruise along the scenic Kaikoura coast as you watch for dolphins. During the cruise, you'll be able to swim with the dolphins in their natural habitat or watch their antics from the comfort of the boat. Kaikoura is one of the best places in the world to encounter the Dusky Dolphins in their natural environment. The Dusky Dolphins are some of the most interactive and acrobatic species of dolphins, making them thrilling to watch and interact with. 

Kaikoura: 2.5-hour Albatross Encounter and Wildlife Cruise

2. Kaikoura: 2.5-hour Albatross Encounter and Wildlife Cruise

Enjoy this once in a lifetime bird watching experience just 15 minutes of the coast of Kaikoura. Within just a small area, meet one of the greatest varieties of seabirds and pelagic bird life you'll find anywhere in the world. Up to 12 species of albatross alone can be viewed at various times of the year. Equip yourself with your bird identification list, your expert local guide and driver will take you on a journey from the Port out into the open ocean. Enjoy the opportunity to watch the birds come in close to the boat for a unique feeding experience. Throughout the tour, your guide will take you to various different spots to ensure you see as many species as possible. As you make your way back to Kaikoura, come in close to the shore and marvel at the picturesque New Zealand coastline. If you’re lucky, you will have an opportunity to see beautiful fur seals basking in the sunshine.

Willowbank Wildlife Reserve Day Entry Ticket

3. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve Day Entry Ticket

Get up close and personal with New Zealand native wildlife at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. The wildlife park and nature reserve is located 5 minutes drive from Christchurch Airport and 20 minutes drive from Christchurch CBD. Set in a natural environment with a great variety of wildlife species, Willowbank is suitable for all ages. Learn about New Zealand's endangered wildlife and Willowbank's continuing involvement in conservation. Walk through the massive kea enclosure to meet the worlds only alpine parrot, check out the world's only living dinosaur (tuatara), one of the rarest birds in the world (takahe) and a rare bush parrot (kaka). Be sure to visit the specially constructed viewing facility where you are guaranteed to see kiwi with no glass to hinder your view! Relax at the onsite cafe and bar, before, during or after exploring the reserve. Take a break overlooking the deer paddock. During winter, enjoy the ambience of the roaring open fire! 

Kaikoura: Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour

4. Kaikoura: Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour

Begin your adventure in the town of Kaikoura where you will meet your professional guides. Receive a short safety briefing and paddling lesson before being allocated all the necessary equipment for the tour. Head out on the waters of the beautiful ocean surrounding the city. Kayak along the Kaikoura coastline, where you will take in the magnificent views of sheer cliff faces, craggy rocks, and mountain ranges while searching for chance encounters with Dusky Dolphins and Blue Penguins. Experience the excitement of watching cute fur seals ducking, weaving, and diving around your kayak. During your tour, you will have the opportunity to paddle gently along with these beautiful animals as they swim around the Kaikoura Peninsula hunting for their favourite feed of octopus. This tour is suitable for all ages and abilities while operating year-round, and doesn't require any previous kayaking experience. Encounter a diverse range of wildlife on the New Zealand coastline and see some of the country's most beautiful animals.

Franz Josef Glacier: 2-Hour Scenic Lake Mapourika Cruise

5. Franz Josef Glacier: 2-Hour Scenic Lake Mapourika Cruise

Soak up panoramic views of the Southern Alps and glaciers reflecting on the mirror-like waters of Lake Mapourika on this 2-hour scenic cruise. The lake was created by the Franz Josef Glacier as it retreated 14,000 years ago and now sits calm and reflective between the Southern Alps and the sea. Meet your experienced skipper and small group at the office in Franz Josef and take a complimentary transfer out to Lake Mapourika. Board the boat, then sit back and relax onboard the Hanna-k in the comfortable enclosed cabin or on the covered back deck. Your skipper will take you through to the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary on the far shorelines of the lake and will help you spot New Zealand's native birds. Enjoy informative commentary and fascinating stories as you cruise past untouched Jurassic rainforest and 900-year-old Kahikatea trees. Sip on a cup of complimentary tea or coffee as you unwind in beautiful Glacier Country, a picture perfect way to escape the crowds and enjoy the West Coast’s scenery.

Akaroa: Pohatu Penguins Scenic Nature 2-Hour or 4-Hour Tour

6. Akaroa: Pohatu Penguins Scenic Nature 2-Hour or 4-Hour Tour

Join a 4WD eco-tourism safari to the spectacular award-winning Wild Side Conservation area. Depart Akaroa for a scenic drive in a 4WD minivan over the crater rim of the Akaroa volcano to Pohatu Flea Bay. Along the way, learn the region's history from your local guide. Stop for photo opportunities with views of Akaroa harbor and the Pacific Ocean. Arrive at a local family's farm where you can meet friendly pet sheep and hand-feed them for a real kiwi experience. In season, monitor nesting sites with your guide and learn about the conservation work done for the largest colony of little penguins on mainland New Zealand. At certain times of the year, you may even see some of the rehabilitation efforts such as supplemental feeding. The extended 4-hour tour includes visits to the spectacular cliff-tops of Akaroa Heads Lighthouse Reserve. You will have more time to enjoy the area with homemade muffins and cakes, and more time to see the native wildlife and to explore Flea Bay. This activity directly funds the conservation work that takes place at Pohatu Bay to protect the penguins.

Franz Josef: 3-Hour Kayak Tour on Lake Mapourika

7. Franz Josef: 3-Hour Kayak Tour on Lake Mapourika

Gear up for an incredible, three-hour guided kayaking experience. Begin your adventure by meeting your experienced team at the local partner's office in Franz Josef. Join them and your small group on a complimentary transfer out to Lake Mapourika. Glide effortlessly across the water, taking in panoramic views of the Southern Alps, glaciers, and untouched Jurassic rainforest reflected on the glassy waters of Lake Mapourika. Paddle into the heart of the Okarito Kiwi Bird Sanctuary, exploring the protected area with your knowledgeable guide. Tours depart at various times throughout the day. Mornings are often the calmest time of the day on the lake, a perfect choice for photographers looking to capture the beauty of the area. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an experience not to be missed during your visit to Franz Josef.

Akaroa: 3-Hour Guided Sunrise Sea Kayaking Safari

8. Akaroa: 3-Hour Guided Sunrise Sea Kayaking Safari

Experience the best of nature on a 3-hour guided kayak safari from Akaroa town. Venture into an eco-paradise and view wildlife along the way. Stop at a remote beach for refreshments, a swim, or just to explore. After a briefing session at 07:30 the tour heads out on a gentle paddling excursion. After about an hour, you’ll stop for a break at the beach. No experience is necessary for this adventure. It’s easy and fun and suitable for anyone 12 years of age and older! The early morning trip can make for spectacular sightings. The guides say that these are the best trips of the day, as there’s no one around, and it’s just you and nature and your silent kayak. What you’ll actually see on the safari depends on a number of factors, but often guests report seeing cormorants diving, gannets feeding, and fur seals and flippered penguins playing. There have even been sightings of the rare, small Hector’s dolphin. Included in the tour at no additional cost are photos that your guide will take, refreshments, a personal picnic blanket, a remote beach stop for a swim or relaxation, and brief stops on the water to hear about interesting events, and facts about the wildlife and points of interest.

Christchurch: Guided Castle Hill Tour

9. Christchurch: Guided Castle Hill Tour

Leaving Christchurch via the "Great Alpine Highway", you'll cross the flat farmland of the Canterbury Plains towards the mountains. Halfway across the plains you will discover the small rural town of Darfield, where you will enjoy a short stop which will allow you to sample some of the local delicacies from the famous Darfield Bakery. Your next stop is Springfield, just 20 minutes down the road. Complete with its giant doughnut statue it's well worth a photo, and your guide will explain just how the town ended up with this giant doughnut. From Springfield the road winds its way up over Porters Pass at 900 meters, before continuing past Lake Lyndon and arriving at Castle Hill/Kura Tawhiti. This area is an amazing labyrinth of giant limestone boulders that sit in the Craigieburn Basin, surrounded by mountains. The area is rich with cultural and recreational significance and has a Tōpuni status of a "symbolic cloak of protection”. It is also known internationally as a world-class climbing, bouldering, photography, and film-making destination. Your guide will show you around and explain the geography and cultural significance of the area, before sitting you down for a picnic lunch. Following lunch you will have free time to explore the boulder fields in your own time, before meeting back at the car park at 2:00PM. From there, your return journey back to Christchurch takes approximately 1.5-2 hours.

Christchurch: Akaroa & Banks Peninsula Wild Penguin Eco-Tour

10. Christchurch: Akaroa & Banks Peninsula Wild Penguin Eco-Tour

Enjoy a full day adventure taking in the breath-taking scenery of the rugged Banks Peninsula coastline and farmlands. Stopover at scenic lookouts and visit quaint Little River Gallery as well as the award-winning Barrys Bay Cheese factory at Duvauchelles.  The highlight of the day is encountering wild Penguins at Flea Bay, Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. Discover the penguin colony in their natural habitat at remote Pohatu (the largest Australasian Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand). Your tour includes a catered lunch, refreshments, and expert guided tour of the penguin colony by a local family of conservationists. Learn about the area’s rich history, native flora and fauna, and Pohatu’s unique penguin conservation program. Be greeted by the farm's friendly pet sheep and see White-Flippered penguins as the people of Pohatu monitor nesting sites.  If visiting between mid-November and mid-February, you may even be lucky enough to see rehabilitation efforts such as supplemental feedings and swim therapy. Pohatu have been conserving the Little Penguins for over 30 years and have 4 conservation awards for their efforts in penguin conservation, protection, and monitoring. Spending time with Pohatu even helps the preservation of these beautiful birds for future generations. 

Frequently asked questions about Canterbury, New Zealand Ecotourism

What are other things to do than Ecotourism that are worth visiting in Canterbury, New Zealand?

The other unmissable things to do in Canterbury, New Zealand are:

Which Canterbury, New Zealand Ecotourism are taking additional COVID-19 precautions?

Other Sightseeing Options in Canterbury, New Zealand

Want to discover all there is to do in Canterbury, New Zealand? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Canterbury, New Zealand

Overall rating

4.3 / 5

based on 3 reviews

It was a wonderful tour with the dolphins.A special thanks to Instructor Emma on the boat helped me not only enjoy the swimming but also with some beautiful videos. I can't thank her enough. It's not easy to swim with the waves and beautiful, friendly dolphins. I think they know how to make everybody comfortable. I am definitely coming back :) Thank you very much

That the most wonderful time. Ben our guide was an absolute gem & made the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable. We saw seals, penguins & many varieties of sea birds. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable & I certainly learnt a lot. Would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Akaroa

Very good, and an awesome experience. The only area for improvement was the long safety video, which was mostly relevant to the swimmers.

Totally loved it …interactive lots of animals we hadn’t seen before like kea… we had an awesome time and would definitely recommend.

Couldn't have asked for a better day perfect weather lots of dolphins ,friendly staff very good experience