The much-loved kiwi bird is a national icon in New Zealand. Seeing a kiwi should be on the top of your bucket list whether you live in New Zealand or you’re just visiting. Because kiwi are nocturnal, and not as common as you might think, the chance of spotting one when out and about in New Zealand is pretty low. If you are wondering where to see kiwi in New Zealand, I’ve put together this comprehensive guide that shows you many of the places where you’ll have the opportunity to spot this elusive bird.
When I visited my home country of New Zealand with the Haggis, he really wanted to see a kiwi bird. Because we were travelling all over the country, I decided to plot on a map all of the places you can see kiwi throughout New Zealand.
This was a super handy resource for us, so I’ve decided to share this with you so you can find the closest kiwi sanctuary on your travels in New Zealand. You’ll find the map at the bottom of this article.
I’ve also included the 10 best kiwi sanctuaries, places you can see kiwi in the wild, where you can book online, and some fun facts about kiwis so you’re completely prepared when you visit!
Coming to New Zealand? Be sure to read my ultimate guide for how to plan a trip to New Zealand!
Where to see Kiwis in New Zealand
10 best kiwi bird sanctuaries in New Zealand
There are over 20 kiwi bird sanctuaries located throughout New Zealand- here are some of the best places to see kiwis in New Zealand.
1. Kiwi Birdlife Conservation Park, Queenstown
Kiwi Birdlife Conversation Park is a popular place to catch a glimpse of kiwi in Queenstown. They have a kiwi breeding programme, and release kiwi into the wild when they’re mature. Here you have the opportunity to see conservation shows, visit their nocturnal houses (so you can see kiwi during the day) and even feed them! It’s open 364 days of the year [closed Christmas Day].
Read more: Hidden gems in New Zealand
2. Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre, Wairarapa
Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre is one of the best sanctuaries to see kiwi in New Zealand. We visited this wildlife centre on our most recent trip to New Zealand and highly recommend it!
Pūkaha is an unfenced sanctuary for native wildlife, spanning 942-hectares of forest. They have a kiwi breeding programme, and when the kiwi are old enough they release them back into the wild.
You have the opportunity to see brown kiwi here. Pūkaha was once home to a rare white kiwi, but sadly she passed away in 2020. As well as kiwi, you can also see native bird to New Zealand including kākā [bush parrot], kākāriki [parakeet], kererū [native pigeon] and many more.
3. Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch
Orana Wildlife Park has an array of wild animals, from gorillas to giraffes, and lions to rhino. The park also has a brown kiwi breeding programme. You can see kiwi, and many other birds native to New Zealand [including the cheeky Kea!] at this park.
If you’d like to add more outdoor adventure to your experience, this Kayak and walking tour to Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary in Franz Joseph will do just that! Kayak across Lake Mapourika’s pristine glassy waters while taking in the stunning mountain and glacier backdrop, and then take a guided tour through Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary!
4. Zealandia, Wellington
Zealandia is an eco-sanctuary and home to some of New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife, including the Little Spotted Kiwi, New Zealand’s smallest kiwi! The best tour to see the kiwi here is the Zealandia by night tour, when the kiwi are most active. They also have a day tour available. Zealandia is known for its world-leading conservation efforts, so it is a fantastic sanctuary to visit and support.
5. The National Kiwi Centre, Hokitika
At The National Kiwi Centre you can see the North Island brown kiwi. You can also feed the kiwi and the longfin eels here.
Read more: Things to do in Hokitika [by a local]
6. West Coast Wildlife Centre, Franz Joseph
The West Coast Wildlife Centre is home to two of New Zealand’s rarest kiwi: the Rowi and Haast Tokoeka. There is a self-guided indoor tour, and you can also purchase a backstage pass which takes you into the hatchery where you can see baby chicks! If you book online you can save $2 per ticket.
>> Want to see the Franz Joseph Glacier too? This guided tour, departing from Greymouth, first takes you to see the Franz Joseph Glacier, followed by a guided tour of the Franz Joseph Wildlife Centre to see kiwi!
7. Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, Otorohanga
The kiwi house at Otorohanga is set up in a dark environment so you can see kiwi during the day. Here you can see four Brown Kiwi. They also have the largest free-flight dome aviary in New Zealand where you can see other native birds.
If you plan on visiting the Waitamo Glow Worm Caves too, this tour [departing from Auckland] will take you to both the Waitamo Caves and the Otorohanga Kiwi House!
8. The National Kiwi Hatchery, Rotorua
The new, purpose-built National Kiwi Hatchery is just 10 mins from downtown Rotorua. Most staff who work at other kiwi sites in New Zealand have either trained or worked here- so they really know their stuff.
Since 1995, they have hatched over 2,000 brown kiwi eggs! You can visit the hatchery and take part in their National Kiwi Hatchery Experience. Funds from this tour go into kiwi conservation efforts.
Read more: A guide to solo travel in New Zealand
9. Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, near Cambridge
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari is an eco-sanctuary and home to untouched native New Zealand forest. Surrounded by one of the world’s longest pest-proof fences, it offers a sanctuary for many of New Zealand’s endangered species. Join conservationists on the Kiwi Release Experience tour and see kiwi being released into the wild. You can also buy day passes, guided tours and evening tours where you can see a North Island Brown Kiwi!
Read more: How to spend a day in Auckland
10. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, Christchurch
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve incubates eggs for four out of five species of kiwi: Rowi, tokoeka, Great Spotted Kiwi and the North Island Brown Kiwi. They have a nocturnal house for kiwi, and guarantee you will see a kiwi when you visit! It’s a fantastic place to take the kids to see all sorts of New Zealand native species, farmyard animals and zoo/exotic species.
Where to see Kiwis in the wild
Kiwi are a protected species in New Zealand and there are only 68,000 kiwi left in New Zealand. Each year, 2% of unmanaged kiwi are lost- that’s 20 kiwi per week!
While it is possible to see a kiwi in the wild- don’t go expecting to bump into one while out hiking- kiwi are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and are active at night.
I recommend booking a tour where local experts take you to a kiwi burrow at night. I suggest you book one of the following tours:
- Wild Kiwi Encounter [Stewart Island] – Visiting Stewart Island to see wild kiwi is an experience you’ll never forget. You’ll depart Oban by ferry to reach the island, and then your guide will take you on a bush walk by torchlight to reach a secluded beach where kiwi are often spotted feeding!
- Overnight Kiwi Spotting Tour [Kapiti Island] – Predator-free Kapiti Island has the largest population of Little Spotted Kiwi [over 1,200] and is one of the most reliable places to see kiwi in the wild. Their overnight tour gives you two days on the island, and is one of the best tours to see wild kiwi in New Zealand.
- Guided night walk to see Kiwis [Auckland] – This tour that is north of Auckland takes you on a guided tour through a natural kiwi habitat at night. Enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as you marvel at kiwi!
Map: Where to see Kiwis in New Zealand
>> Be sure to bookmark this article for future reference!
Have you seen a kiwi in New Zealand? Where did you see one?