The deep south of New Zealand is a place like no other. Here, time moves slower; the un-crowded, rugged natural beauty and old school kiwi hospitality of the region charming all who visit. Southland is a little-known part of New Zealand, but it’s one of our best-kept secrets – the rare wildlife, untouched landscapes and fascinating history captivating the imagination. We think Southland makes for a unique kiwi holiday – here’s why.

A land of sweeping plains and ruggedly beautiful coastline, Southlanders are down-to-earth and passionate about where they live. Known for their friendly, colourful nature, locals love nothing better than having a yarn and showing off their little slice of paradise to visitors. We believe that it’s the combination of these lovable locals, tranquil, windswept landscapes and unique coastal and marine life that creates a quintessentially New Zealand experience.

Extraordinary wildlife - A bird watching paradise

A short scenic flight from Invercargill is Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island and a playground for nature and bird lovers. Visitors wake up to the pretty melody of the tui and bellbird before exploring the wildlife of the surrounding area. The endangered kiwi bird, New Zealand’s national symbol, thrives here – kiwis outnumber the locals of Stewart Island by 50 to 1! Nearby Ulva Island is a predator-free open sanctuary teeming with rare and unique birdlife. Covered in unspoilt native forest, the island is home to the endangered and rare South Island Saddleback as well as native tui, kaka, rifleman and fantail. It’s a magical experience to hear only birdsong, the rustle of the trees and the gentle lapping of the waves when you visit this place.

Living fossils, rare dolphins and Yellow Eyed Penguins

Back on the mainland, the Southland Museum is home to 80 living fossils - the reptile that is the tuatara. The only beak-headed reptile in the world, tuatara can live for over 100 years and are fascinating to see up close. Just offshore from the coast, the Hector’s Dolphin is one of the most unique and endangered animals to call Southland home. They are the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin and are sometimes seen frolicking in the waves just offshore from the Catlins – there’s only between 3,000 and 4,000 left in the world, so visitors who see them are privileged. As well as the world’s rarest dolphin, the Catlins are home to the world’s rarest penguin – the Hoiho, or Yellow-Eyed Penguin. Their distinct yellow eyeliner makes them easy to spot during dusk and dawn, when they come ashore.

Nature-loving travellers will also enjoy watching the fur seals and Hooker’s Sea Lions cavorting on the beaches in and around the Catlins – their cheeky personalities and unusual shapes making for a fascinating wildlife watching experience.

Southland’s Great Outdoors

Beautiful beaches, stunning waterfalls and endless, rolling plains characterise the Southland landscape. Don’t miss the stunning Purakaunui Falls, which cascade 20 metres down three tiers of rock. Nugget Point, covered in golden tussock, makes for stunning coastal views as well as brilliant wildlife watching. One of the best things about the Southland environment is that it’s off the beaten track, so you’re likely to have many places all to yourself.

Our MoaTrek 8-day Southern Odyssey small group tour takes in the best of Southern New Zealand, getting nature lovers up close to rare wildlife and touring some of the prettiest parts of this region. Find out more about our Southern Odyssey and Stewart Isalnd tour here.