Photo: Paul Ramos Little
The Karori Sanctuary Experience

The experience

The sanctuary valley

Photo: Rob Suisted

Welcome to the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary – a conservation success and safe haven for some of New Zealand’s rarest native animals. Remarkable species of birds, reptiles, insects and more are living wild within a beautiful 225ha (one square mile) valley – just 10 minutes from central Wellington.

Photo: Brendon Doran

Rare species in the wild

Around 40 native and endemic species of birds can be found at Zealandia. Kākā – our playful forest parrots – have made an impressive comeback to the area and are lots of fun to watch at their supplementary feeder stations. Endangered hihi (stitchbird), tīeke (saddleback), kākāriki and kiwi are flourishing here and our pair of critically threatened takahē are often to be seen at the wetlands.

Tuatara, lizard-like “living fossils” from the time of the dinosaurs, are back on the mainland for the first time in 200 years and are often seen basking outside their burrows.

Almost all of our wildlife lives wild, just as nature intended it, but we offer a friendly “boost” to some species with protective enclosures such as our tuatara nurseries and gecko rearing enclosures. You can also spot wētā through their “hotel” windows and see native fish in a small aquarium.

Ask our roaming guides to help you spot a particular species and remember to pause regularly for a quiet moment, and let the nature come to you to make the most of your visit.

Photo: Daniel Allen

Free “Walk & Talk” tours and species talks

Join us for a fascinating 45 minute wander around the lower valley on a “Walk & Talk” guided tour. You can also take in one of our popular species talks to learn more about some of Zealandia’s most exciting residents, such as kākā, takahē and eels. These free tours and talks run up to four times a day.

More information on tours and talks.

Boat rides and the Morning Star Mine

At weekends and holidays (subject to availability) leisurely boat rides run on our Lower Lake and the historic Morning Star Mine is open for a close-up view of cave wētā.

Photo: Peter Fisher

Tracks for everyone’s tastes

Choose from 32km (20 miles) of tracks ranging from wheelchair and buggy friendly to rugged tramping grade – all through scenic terrain. Our popular ‘red’ loop takes around 1.5 hours and showcases the best of the valley’s nature and conservation highlights.

Take a look at our suggested Itineraries.

Forest, lakes and streams

The forest at Zealandia is regenerating native bush that includes wetlands and rich broadleaf forest that varies over the length and breadth of the valley. The sanctuary is an old water catchment area with two lakes and decommissioned dams that provide dramatic views up and down the valley.

Photo: Tom Lynch

Kiwi at Zealandia

Our valley is home to a population of over 100 little spotted kiwi, flourishing in their natural environment and often discovered on our guided Zealandia by Night tour. Kiwi are nocturnal so you are unlikely to see them in the daytime.

Next stop: A bite to eat at Rata Café (or discover Zealandia: The Exhibition).