Central Otago Experiences – Cromwell and Wanaka Adventures

The pretty and peaceful town of Cromwell is the ideal base for travellers. And that’s because Cromwell is just a short drive from busy Queenstown, Wanaka and those great wine areas.

Central Otago experiences - Wooing Tree Winery Cromwell

Wooing Tree Winery Cromwell

There really is no better time to stay here than in the beautiful months of Autumn – view details on New Zealand seasons. From April to May, the Autumn golds and reds are just awe-inspiring.

Cromwell Autumn colours

Burn Cottage Retreat Driveway entrance

Where to Stay in Cromwell

But a stay in Cromwell is also an excellent choice for repeat travellers.  Most of you would have stayed in Queenstown or Wanaka on your first time.  So maybe, you’re a bit over the resort towns where peace can be a foreign concept. Even if this is not your first time to New Zealand, we would strongly recommend going on day visits to these busier places. And if you’re not hotel people, a self-contained cottage like this, might just be what you are looking for.

Central Otago stay Cromwell and Wanaka Adventures

Burn Cottage Retreat Cromwell

Burn Cottages Retreat

This is a special oasis that really does live up to its name.  Burn Cottage Retreat sits on a huge acreage. You will very quickly get a sense of tranquility here.  There are only 3 cottages on this large property and they are quite a good distance away from each other.  We stayed in the Moonlight Cottage.  I guarantee, if you are looking for space, you will find it here.  And after a long drive, your cottage will be warm when you step in.  Co-owner, Cecelia, will have lit the fire a few hours before you arrive. This type of service is so appreciated, especially in the colder months of Autumn.

Central Otago Experiences - Burn Cottages Retreat Cromwell

Burn Cottages Retreat

Yet again, it really is about those special touches that only a boutique accommodation can provide. Beautiful walnuts in a bowl just waiting to be cracked. And do not be surprised if you Cecelia appears at your door with hot scones!

Central Otago Experiences - Burn Cottages Retreat

All the mod cons are here with the very latest Nespresso coffee machine gracing the kitchen bench.  The comfort level pretty much goes up a notch with this comfy super king size bed

After breakfast (a continental breakfast is optional) do take time out to explore the grounds.  There are very special little nooks and crannies where you can hide away and read a book.

With only 3 cottages on the entire property, you will find a special place where you can truly enjoy solitude.

What to do if you’re staying in Cromwell

Grab a bike at the cottage or take your car into the historic part of Cromwell.  It is here, you can become fully immersed with the landscape. You will love the most spectacular views at Lake Dunstan – plus the relaxed small-town vibe.

Central Otago Experinces - Lake Dunstan Cromwell stay

Lake Dunstan

Take a wander around at your leisure to the old shops.  These old buildings are heritage protected and have been restored for future generations. Pop into the Seed & Grain Store for a coffee and a chat with the locals.  Everyone here seems to be friendly.

Central Otago Experiences - historic part of Cromwell

Historic part of Cromwell

Jet Boat Tour from Wanaka

There is a Jet Boat company in Wanaka called Wanaka River Journeys. This company are owned and operated by a local family. They have a number jet boating options, one of which is called Jet Boat and Wilderness Walk. This one is a great option if you are a little time short.  It is a half-day tour and an absolute blast!

Central Otago Experiences - River Journeys Jet Boat Tour

Matukituki River

There is nothing more exhilarating than jet-boating down the Matukituki River.

And you will really get off the beaten track here.  You will have a 50-minute walk  that will take you through moss covered forest and waterfalls.

Yet again, you will see firsthand another location that was used for the LOTR films.  And you will get to heat the wonderful stories about this landscape. You will have so many photo opportunities. And often on these trips you will come across something totally unexpected – like this apple tree thriving in the middle of nowhere!

Vineyard Trike Tours

We paid a visit to a Wanaka B & B accommodation named Copper Beach – and found an unexpected gem.  The owners, Yvette & Ian led us to their large garage and look what we found – this shining beauty! So if you are looking for a wine tour with a difference, you might consider a Trike wine tour.

Especially on a hot summer’s day, it would be so good to engage all your senses.

Central Otago Experiences - Trike Vineyard Tours

Vineyard Tours on a Trike

Where to Eat in Central Otago

There are so many vineyards around Cromwell and the Bannockburn area nearby. And many of them provide great lunch restaurants overlooking their vineyards. In fact, a lot of these wineries will provide amazing lunch platters.  Wooing Tree, Mount Difficulty and Scott Base are just a few of them. Now for night dining you will get a choice of some great options.  We have heard some wonderful things about Kika in Wanaka. However, if you want to immerse yourself in the local scene, you can’t go past the historic Bannockburn Hotel.

The Bannockburn Hotel is about 8 kms out of Cromwell. They have included separate tapas menu – plus the biggest wine list you will ever see. We dined here recently and can’t say enough good things about the food. The atmosphere was wonderful – definitely not your usual pub decor. And it is worth mentioning, that they also have a courtesy shuttle van that will pick you up and drop you off.


There are so many reasons why Autumn is such a wonderful time to visit Central Otago. There are less people around and plenty of adventures to be had. It is actually a time when nature is at its finest before settling down for a well deserved nap.

Check out some sample South Island travel itineraries.

Happy Travelling through Mid Canterbury!

Travel Mid Canterbury – Methven, Staveley, Mt Somers, Mount Sunday

For a more remote adventure, the Mid-Canterbury region and the High Country has a lot to offer. When you get onto the  Methven-Rakaia Road, from north or south, you’ll quickly see why. There are some hidden treasures in this beautiful part of the South Island. These roads are less travelled by other motorists. So for a large amount of time, you’ll be the only car on the road!

red cottage in mid canterbury

Where to stay in Mid Canterbury

Red Cottages – Staveley

Just 24 kms out of Methven, a great skiing area, you’ll come to the lovely settlement of Staveley. And if you’re looking for a romantic stay, there is an absolute ‘gem’ of a property here.  The Red Cottages at Staveley are located on a beautiful large property owned by locals Nigel & Myriam Birt. For us, it was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

interior of the honeymoon cottage

Comfort plus

You can’t help but notice how generously the owners have planned the cottage. The copper edging around the cabinetry is such a stylish touch. There are so many little extras that will make your stay very special. Just look around and you will see cookies in the jar, a fridge laden with goodies, and a welcome platter.

generous hosting with welcome platter provided

Hot baths for stargazing

Just wait until you see the two baths with direct views to Mt Somers. Surely, after a long drive, there’s no better way to wind down than to sink into a hot bath. And these ‘lovelies’ are outside the cottage for a very good reason.  The night sky in this area is breathtaking. So why not kick back with a wine and gaze at the diamonds twinkling up above you.

outside bath tubes not only for honeymooners

You will find that romance is very much encouraged here.  There are candles sitting in glass containers everywhere. They are just waiting to be lit by you. Perfect for honeymooners in New Zealand!

nice and cozy red cottage interior

Wool Shed -Movie Night

There is so much more to this property than first meets the eye.  You’ll very quickly understand why the owners have a 2-night stay policy.  If you meander down a winding path from your cottage, you will discover another hidden secret. Beside tall and leafy trees there is an historic wool shed.  This wool shed has been decorated with fairy lights and contains huge wood burners.  The sheep stalls still remain and this really brings home the authentic edge.  But the best thing is, you will actually get to have your very own movie night here.

Just book in the time you want.  The wood burners will be roaring away and the blankets laid out. All that you need to do is relax on the sofa and watch your favourite movie – just you and your partner.  How cool is that!

get the cinema ready for the guests at staveley cottage

What to do in Mid-Canterbury

Fishing and Hunting

You might think of Mid-Canterbury and the High Country as being only about green pastures and mountains.  But there is so much more.  In fact, this part of Canterbury is a very famous hunting and fishing area It is worth mentioning here that the owners of the Red Cottages also act as fishing and hunting guides. They can arrange all your flights to and into the high country. There are also a lot of high country farms specialising in Merino Sheep. If you have heard of the label “Icebreaker”, then chances are you could be wearing Merino wool from this very place. We travelled off-season. Also, best times to travel NZ.

pamela at gate to lake heron station

Walking Tracks

If you walk any of the forest tracks here, you could be mistaken into thinking you are in Fiordland. These forests are incredibly dense and lush with native bush. And the swing bridges are constructed well for ease of access.

forest walk near Sharplin Falls Track

The Mt Somers Track and the Sharplin Falls Track, have the most beautiful ferns and moss varieties you will find anywhere in the country.

mosses and ferns on Sharplin Falls Track

Of course it is definitely worth visiting the Awa Awa Rata Reserve at the bottom of Mt Hutt Forest.  What you will find here, is an base for a number of walks. You can choose an easy 10 minute stroll past spring flowering rhododendrons. Or you might want to do a 4.5km tramp onto a mountain ridge – in fact, this one will give you great views of the Canterbury Plains.

Erewhon, Mt Sunday & the Lord of the Rings location of Edoras

The Lord of the Rings locations were chosen for their wild remoteness and beautiful rugged grandeur. We loved it up here at Mt Sunday.  It gives you the feeling of being the only people on the planet!  To get access to these locations, you will be driving along gravel roads. So its probably best to have a 4-wheel drive.

drive through rangitata river valley

There is a carpark at the beginning of the walk into Mt Sunday and Edoras.  You will first walk through paddocks then across a bridge to where the actual climb up to Mt Sunday begins.

michael looking at mt sunday

Bear in mind that it is a reasonably steep climb. Don’t stress, the track is very well signposted – just keep an eye out for the orange posts.  I guess you need to be moderately fit, but the climb won’t take you very long. Once you get to the very top, I guarantee it will be so worth it. And yes the flag you see in the LOTR films is still there!

on Mt Sunday and Edoras


Where to eat in Mid Canterbury

The Dubliner

As you pass through Methven, to get to Staveley, you are bound to come across the Dubliner Restaurant. We have had tremendous feedback about this pub restaurant and their night meals. There are quite a few pubs now in New Zealand that do serve up quality and tasty food – in fact, they have become quite sophisticated.  We have found that these pubs can be the ideal place to get the local vibe.

Dubliner Restaurant in methven

Staveley Cafe & Store

And if its the local vibe you are really after, there is no better better place to find it, then the Staveley Cafe. From the outside it looks fairly unassuming – just another ‘tearoom’.  It definitely is not!  The food here is homemade and very good.  It is a sure sign of a great cafe, when the locals all go there.  On the day we stopped for lunch, the place quickly filled up.  Farmers, farmworkers – you name them – the locals were all here. The staff know everyone by name and it is very clear that they enjoy what they do.  The locals feel the love and you will too.

michael at Staveley Cafe & Store

Why visit mid-Canterbury

Remote experience

This part of the Canterbury region is far less travelled by the mainstream tourists who prefer larger centres with a busy vibe.  Mid Canterbury and the high country specialise more in the boutique experience.  It is an absolute paradise for hunters, those who love to fish and couples who just want to chill. What you will get here, is an overwhelming sense of  freedom.

walking on awa awa reserve track

For a number of sample South Island travel itineraries check out options here.

Happy travelling the Mid Canterbury region!

Romantic Stays in PurePods South Island

For romantic stays, in New Zealand, you’ll always find something incredibly unique. There are 7 very unique PurePods dotted around the Canterbury Region – you’ll get a fantastic choice of truly beautiful isolated locations.  Just remember, PurePods are definitely not your usual tramping huts.  In fact, PurePods are luxury eco cabins that are built of reinforced glass. These beautiful pods are totally powered by solar energy.

Romantic Stays in PurePods South Island

Why are PurePods so unique?


Can you imagine being about to see through a floor and ceiling made of glass?  Well that’s what you’ll get with a PurePod. There are lights underneath the floor which you can turn on at night. But what is really the highlight for so many honeymooners, is being able to see the most amazing night sky. You will be literally miles away from any township, so the stars don’t have to compete with city lights.

Track walk:

You can’t actually drive your vehicle right up to a PurePod.  You will need to have an average degree of fitness for the 1.2 km uphill walk. It will take you a good 25 minutes.  But don’t worry, the tracks leading up to the PurePods are well signposted.  Just remember to arrive in daylight hours.  There will not be any lights to show you the way if you arrive in the dark!

Awesome Landscapes:

The greatest feature for our stay, was being surrounded by the most amazing landscape on all sides. You’ll see the most beautiful views across the tussock grasses and rolling hills down to the long, sheltered bay of Port Levy. The morning bird life was wonderful. In fact, rural life goes silently on around you. You are the observer.

How do you get access to a PurePod?

What Information do I get?

We stayed at the Pōhue PurePod between Darling Harbour and Pigeon Bay.  This Pod overlooked Port Levy. At the booking stage, we were emailed a very clear map of how to get there and how long it would take.  As with all the PurePods, we were driving along very scenic farm roads. There is a carpark at each PurePod location.  From the carpark, there is a well signposted track.


You need to be very selective about what you’ll take to the pod.  After all, you don’t want to face a 25 min walk back to the carpark to get your food supplies! So it is essential that at least one of you has a backpack to carry all the stuff you will need.

Solar powered Eco Romantic Stays in PurePods South Island


The beauty of the whole process is that you don’t have to check-in with anyone.  In fact, you won’t see another human being for your entire stay. The door of the PurePod will be open for you, so just to walk right on in.

What is provided?

Wet Weather Gear

At the bottom of the carpark, before you go up the track, there is a tiny open shed. This shed contains wet weather gear.  So if you arrive at the carpark and it is raining, just put a raincoat on and the gumboots that are provided.  You will need to remove all your footwear and raincoats before entering the pod.  The floor is glass and will become slippery if it gets wet.

Food packages

At an additional cost you can order food packages.  However, we chose to carry up our own wine and food that we had purchased at a supermarket deli on the way.  It was a fine feast!  We also took our own breakfast supplies.  Hence the need for back packs.

Modern facilities

With the exception of your food supplies, everything else is pretty much provided – including the kitchen sink!  There is a barbie outside for cooking. Inside you’ll find all the kitchenware you’ll ever need.  And you needn’t ever be cold.  There is underground heating in the glass floor and heating above you. You’ll love the high-powered hot shower. You can use a shower curtain, but there really is no need. The bed is top quality to ensure a blissful sleep.

Total Solitude

You might want to ask yourself, how serious you are about getting away from it all.  There is NO wifi connection, radio or television.  But there is a USB connection for your cellphones.  That way, you can also get to play your own music. I can pretty much guarantee you’ll quickly cast your cares away!

If you have trouble adjusting to the vastness of the environment, there are night blinds.  But on the night of our stay, we chose to keep these up. There is something very special about watching night fall and seeing an unobstructed sky.


Remember, that with a PurePod, you’ll be totally isolated.  You will only have each other. I guess that’s pretty much perfect for honeymooners and the romantic at heart.  For a lot of busy couples, PurePods are a great way of reconnecting with nature and with each other. It’s a pure experience.

Check out some of our New Zealand honeymoon and nature focused self-drive itineraries, into we can incorporate a PurePod experience for you.

Happy Travelling!

Top 10 Eco Tours to Explore for your New Zealand Holiday

New Zealand is famous for its stunning and diverse nature experiences. It’s the reason why so many people come here from all over the globe. But what exactly is the best way to explore these unique offerings? In our view, there is one key answer: go on a New Zealand eco tour!

What is an eco tour?

The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” So, an eco tour is an organized tour that pledges to practice eco tourism in how it delivers its experience. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • To educate tour-goers on conservation and foster environmental awareness
  • Profits providing direct benefits to the environment and wildlife
  • Have the lowest impact possible on the surrounding ecosystem
  • Ensuring that the rights and guardianship of Indigenous Peoples is not infringed

Not surprisingly, New Zealand is a virtual mecca of fantastic eco tours. With such a unique natural environment, this country has so much to offer visitors.


New Zealand coastline


Why should travellers consider an eco tour on their New Zealand holiday?

In recent years, travelling to New Zealand, and all over the world, has become more accessible than ever. The cost of flights has gone down, and we can explore possible destinations and accommodation at a tap of our smartphone. But this democratization also has a dark side. Visitor numbers to New Zealand have skyrocketed to over 5 million a year. This might not sound like a lot compared with some of the most popular cities in Europe, but it is when you consider that NZ’s total population hasn’t even hit 5 million. This is a country famed for its untouched wilderness, and loved exactly because it isn’t as ‘touristy’ and accessible as other places. But increasing visitor numbers and a lack of infrastructure is putting this environment under increasing strain, causing a lot of worry amongst locals.

Does this mean you shouldn’t visit New Zealand? Of course not! But it does mean that you should consider how you can visit without adding to the problem. There are few pristine places left in this world and we all have a responsibility to try and preserve them, whether we live there or not. So, choosing tours which put sustainability at the heart of how they operate is a fantastic way to do your bit!

New Zealand road trip

Why we have chosen these eco tours?

Obviously, New Zealand offers far more eco-tours than what is on this list. Just because we haven’t mentioned them doesn’t mean we don’t think they’re worth doing! We’ve chosen these as our top ten eco tours for a few different reasons:

They are spread out across the country – Giving you a list of eco-tours all within one region would not be a very helpful resource! Everyone plans out their New Zealand holiday slightly differently. Depending on your style of trip and where you are choosing to spend your time, certain places might be better fit for an eco-tour than others.

New Zealand is also a hugely diverse nation in more ways than one! Due to it’s long thin shape, the climate differs massively in New Zealand depending on where you are. Within the space of just a few hours, you can go from coastline to rainforest to snow-covered mountains. This means that flora and fauna differ remarkably, even just miles apart. So, an eco-tour offering in Steward Island would be totally different than one in Rotorua. So, we want to give travellers a broad overview of what eco tours are available throughout New Zealand.

We have vetted them ourselves – We would never recommend an eco tour that we haven’t tried and tested ourselves! All the tours in this list have their own blog post attached, where you can read in-depth about our experience and find more details. Although they are very rich in variety, they all have a few very important things in common:

They have credible environmental commitments, and work with local authorities to minimize their impact as much as possible.

They prioritize small group sizes to deliver a more authentic experience

Their tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced

In our opinion, the points above are the key ingredients for any great eco tour. So, we want to ensure that every tour we endorse can deliver on these things.

They offer something unique – For the majority of travellers who visit these shores, New Zealand is a long to way to come to. (You could argue that it is literally at the end of the earth!) So, you most likely want to spend your time doing activities that you could never do it for home country. New Zealand as a reputation as a nature haven (not undeserved!) so this forms the focal point for most people’s itineraries. Whilst there is a lot you can do on your own, organised eco tours give you a level of insight into New Zealand life and culture that is hard to find elsewhere. For example, when would you ever get to ride in a vintage tractor across the beach on your own? (Yes, you really can do this! Read on!)


Cape Kidnappers eco tour



1. Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colony Tractor Tour


As we mentioned above, New Zealand contains every kind of eco tour. If you want a tour which really sums up New Zealand’s quirky aesthetic, Gannet Beach Adventures is it! Cape Kidnappers is headland at the southeastern end of Hawkes Bay, and is a beautiful place for coastal walks. It is also home to massive Australasian Gannet breeding colony – over 20,000 birds!

Their four-hour eco tour could’ve just bussed visitors up to the colony, but where’s the fun in that? Departing at high tide, they transport visitors in beautiful vintage tractors and trailers along the beach up to view the birds! The tour also gives people ample time to relax on the beach, take photos, swim and enjoy stunning views over Hawke’s Bay.

You can check out our blog post on this eco tour here!


Rotorua Canopy Tour

2. Rotorua Canopy Eco Tours

New Zealand has such unique plant and wildlife because it split off from other landmasses at such an early date. The result is the pristine temperate rainforest that visitors and locals love so much. However, introduced plant and animal species since human habitation has put this under threat. Rats, possums, and stoats all wreak havoc on native birdlife. And once Pandora’s Box has been opened, it’s not so easy putting it back in.

However, Rotorua Canopy Tours have been working diligently since 2013 to change this. Their flying fox eco tour operates within Dansey Scenic Reserve, one of the most pristine reserves in the country. They sponsor an extensive trapping programme, and co-founded the Canopy Conservation Trust with the Department of Conservation for future conservation projects. So, if you want to fly through the forest canopy like a bird, you can do it here with the knowledge that you are helping restore a native ecosystem.

You can read about our experience of Rotorua Canopy Tours here.


Abel Tasman Eco Tour

3. Abel Tasman Eco Tours

Abel Tasman National Park is the most-visited national park in the country. Visitors simply can’t get enough of its turquoise waters and white beaches – its photos could have been taken in Fiji! There are plenty of fantastic nature opportunities here, from kayaking to hiking to sailing. As a result, several companies have moved into the eco tour space in an effort to appeal to a more environmentally-conscious customer base. The most successful of these has been Abel Tasman Eco Tours, who offer a variety of nature tours across the park.

Abel Tasman is home to hundreds of idyllic bays and inlets, which large boats cannot have access to without a Department of Conservation permit. As the only SMART certified tour provider in the park, Abel Tasman Eco Tours is able to deliver close-up wildlife encounters from an entirely new perspective. Their slogan, “Open your Eyes” is pretty apt here!

You can read about our tour here.



4. Driftwood Eco Tours

The Marlborough region is known best for its fine wines, rather than its nature offering. But we ensure you; both are in plentiful supply here!

Driftwood Eco Tours have been operating in Marlborough since 2003, headed up by Will and Rose Parsons. They are 4th generation kiwis from the Marlborough region, and take pride in showing visitors parts of this area that few get to see. In particular, they specialise in boutique eco tours which publicize different ecosystems to ensure their ongoing protection. The wetlands around Blenheim are a particular area of focus, and they work closely with local iwi to ensure that their tours are respectful of taonga (natural resources).

Their tours range from 2-hour kayaking trips in the wetlands to 5-day tours in the Marlborough Sounds. In this regard, they are a really unique tour provider. For those who are photography enthusiasts, they also arrange specialist photography tours!

You can read more about our adventures here.


White Heron eco tours

5. Waitangi Roto White Heron Colony eco tours

The West Coast of the South Island is one of New Zealand’s wildest and most remote regions. For this reason, it tends to attract travellers who really want to explore a slice of wilderness. Due its lack of development, the West Coast is truly one of the greatest places in the whole country for eco tours! With its rich rainforests and stunning snowcapped mountains in such close proximity, it really looks like a land without civilization.

The White Heron colony at the Waitangi Roto Scenic Reserve is truly one of a kind. These birds are a highly endangered species, and this is currently the only breeding site in New Zealand. Incredibly sacred the Maori people, it is truly breathtaking to watch them in flight.

White Heron Tours is a local, family-run operation, and the only way that people can view these birds up close. It was started in 1987 by the Arnold family, and still remains in their hands today. They have been granted a 30-year permit to run these tours by the Department of Conservation, an incredible testament to their dedication to these birds.

You can read our post on the Waitangi Roto White Heron Colony here. 

Ziptrek eco tours


6. Zip trek eco tours

Ah, Queenstown. This township in the mountains offers everything for thrill-seeking travellers. Bungy-bumping, sky-diving, white-water rafting… you name it, it’s there. This is what has turned Queenstown into a global destination. It has so many of offerings all in place, along with stunning natural vistas. But it also has its fair share of New Zealand’s eco tours too!

Since Queenstown is pretty likely to be on your itinerary for a least a couple of days, this is a great place to seek out an eco tour really get to know this region. Ziptrek Eco Tours is a fantastic option if want a slightly alternative nature experience. It’s similar in format to the Forest Canopy Tours, but offers to the additional experience of Queenstown’s Skyline Gondola, which gives you incredibles views over the southern alps! They offer four different tour types depending on the adventurousness of the participants, and put sustainability at the center of their operation.

When Ziptrek Eco Tours first set up in 2009, Bob’s Peak was covered in Wildling Pines, an invasive introduced species. In years since, they have worked hard to eradicate them and have introduced an extensive nativt tree and shrub-planting programme. The whole operation runs off the basis of the Tiaki Promise, a nationwide pledge to show respect for culture, protect the environment, and educate visitors.

You can read more about Zip Trek Eco Tours here.


Dart River adventures

7. Dart River Adventures

Glenorchy one of the most famous regions of New Zealand, owing to it featuring in so many feature films: Lord of the Rings, X-Men and the Narnia movies, just to name a few. With its close proximity to Queenstown, there is no shortage of ways to explore this outstanding place of natural beauty. It’s the perfect place for a New Zealand eco tour!

If you want an adventure which is authentically New Zealand, why not consider a jet boat ride? The jetboat is actually a New Zealand invention in the 1950s, to help farmers navigate shallow waterways. Today, it is an adrenaline-filled thrill ride which is well-suited to any traveller!

Dart River Adventures are by no means the only jet boat company in the region, but they are one of the best known for a good reason. They have been operating for over 25 years and are an operation of Ngai Tahu Tourism, the main iwi in the South Island. They are also passionate about conserving their ancestral lands and sharing indigenous history with travellers, so their eco tours offer a side of New Zealand which not all visitors get to encounter. The best part? Their wilderness jet tour makes an effort to include Lord of the Rings shooting locations, for you Tolkien fans out there!

You can check out our post here.


Eco wanaka adventures

8. Mou Waho Island

Wanaka is right within New Zealand’s tourism heartland, but there are still plenty of untouched spots if you are willing to go just a little further – to the islands on the lake! These can be seen from the shore, but most visitors don’t realise that they can be visited. It gives you a really unique perspective on the surrounding region – not the mention stunning mountain views!

Because of their isolation, these islands are classed as protected by DoC, meaning you need to be on an organized tour to visit. The best of all is Mou Waho Island. It’s the largest, and has a thriving native bird population. Eco Wanaka Adventures offer dedicated tours to the island, where visitors can explore the conservation efforts in a really hands-on way. It’s not just a guided walk – you get the opportunity to plant your very own tree on the island and  ‘give back’ to this special place.

You can check out our dedicated post here.


Elm wildlife tours eco tour

9. Elm Wildlife tours

If you are a real bird lover, the “Peninsula Encounters” Tour with Elm Wildlife Tours down on the Otago Peninsula is a New Zealand eco tour that should definitely be on your list!

As an island nation with a lot of coastline, New Zealand is home to a huge variety of marine life and sea birds. Most famous of all is the Royal Albatross colony on the Otago Peninsula at Taiaroa Head, which is the only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross in the world! This eco tour picks you up from Dunedin and drives you over to the headland (about 50 minutes) so you can observe the birds in their natural habitat. There is an enclosed viewing platform which gets you nice and close without disturbing them. This is a truly unique eco tour that you cannot do get elsewhere!

Best of all, Elm Wildlife Tours is totally carbon neutral, and uses its tours as a way to publicize the important of conserving these natural environments for future generations.

You can check out our full post here.


Ulva Island eco tour


10. (Ulva Island) Steward Island eco tours

When it comes to tourism in New Zealand, Stewart Island is the one place that few visitors ever make it to. Why? Because it’s that little bit too far off the beaten track for most. In fact, many aren’t even aware that New Zealand has another inhabited island at the bottom! There is a tongue in cheek saying by locals that nothing ever changes in Stewart Island. But this is most definitely a good thing when it comes to its incredible eco tours!

It’s exactly because Stewart Island hasn’t undergone any significant urbanisation that it has some of the highest levels of pristine rainforest in the country. This makes it a paradise for native wildlife of all kinds. Ulva Island is just a 15 minute boat ride away from Stewart Island, is one of New Zealand’s best eco tours. Its isolation has made it a fantastic breeding ground run by the Department of Conservation for many native bird species.

Ulva Goodwillie started her eco tour ‘Ulva’s Guided Walks’ in 2000. A descendant of the local maori iwi of the area, she herself is name after this island! Because visitors to Ulva Island need a guide as per DoC rules, she set about filling this gap with her own unique knowledge. Her eco tour is a half-day walk around the island. Visitors will have the rare opportunity to interact with little-seen native birds. There’s the Stewart Island Robin, Albertross – even kiwis! This is a truly unique experience you won’t find elsewhere.

You can read our dedicated Ulva Island blog here.


A New Zealand eco tour really is the perfect way to cap off your trip to this incredible country. We guarantee it will be one of the highlights of your holiday.


Happy Travelling!

Exploring Abel Tasman with Abel Tasman Eco Tours

We can’t help but rave about Abel Tasman National Park on this blog – it’s such a jewel with New Zealand’s nature offerings! No matter what time of the year you choose to visit, your time in Abel Tasman will create some enduring memories. If you want to see a different side of this paradise, check out Abel Tasman Eco Tours. We guarantee it will be a highlight of your New Zealand adventure!




Exploring Abel Tasman National Park

Abel Tasman National Park is the smallest but most-visited of all of New Zealand national parks, and it offers some spectacular day trips. This often surprises travellers, because they expect the record to be held by Fiordland. In comparison however, Abel Tasman is much more accessible and better-connected, being just an hour from Nelson. It also benefits from a mild sunny climate year-round, with stunning beaches and plenty of opportunities for water excursions such as kayaking and boat tours. Needless to say, there is a LOT to do here!


The value of a guided tour

At Guest NZ, we’ve always been big advocates of guided tours. Why? Because they add so much value to any holiday. New Zealand is a pretty easy destination to get around and explore. But there’s only so much you can see in the space of a few weeks. If you really want to get ‘under the skin’ of somewhere in this timeframe, you will need the help of the locals. They can give you information and ‘secrets’ that you simply won’t find on your own. For this reason, we always suggest that travellers put at least a couple of tours into their itinerary.

And that’s before we even mention just what fantastic people New Zealanders are. By and large, people run tours because they are genuinely passionate about showing their country to travellers, not simply to make money. Getting to know the locals is the best part of any holiday, but it’s especially rewarding here.



Stew Robertson

Abel Tasman Eco Tours 

Abel Tasman Eco Tours has a great company slogan “Open your eyes.” The owner Stew Robertson has these words written on his boat and t-shirts. It’s a great way to show his passion for the Abel Tasman National Park.

Abel Tasman Eco Tours have gained popularity with international travellers who are genuinely interested in eco-tourism. Started in 2013, their mission is simple; to deliver the highest quality eco tours to the Abel Tasman region. Determined to spread the word about the unique ecology of this region, they offer all staff in the national park the opportunity to come on one of their tours. They are also extensively involved in marine conservation, and are the only tour operator in Abel Tasman who are SMART certified by the Department of Conservation. This means that they promote and practice responsible behaviour around marine mammals.

There are three different tour options on offer. We chose the Golden Future Boat day tour. This is a small group tour with a maximum of 14 people, which takes you on a coastal boat tour around the bays and inlets of the park.



Abel Tasman – A Nature Paradise

The photos in the Abel Tasman Eco Tours brochure are true to life. Heading out to the open sea, the emerald green of the water was striking! We came across a school of curious Dusky Dolphins. What a moment that was!

Larger boats don’t have access to the idyllic inlets along the coast – but Abel Tasman Eco Tours do! It was in these areas that we managed to get a close-up view of Eagle Rays gliding elegantly beneath us. There were also a number of very relaxed fur seals chilling out alongside the boat:

There’s very little sea traffic in this coastal paradise. And the local operators you occasionally meet on the journey are happy to share the information of the day. This kayaking guide stopped for an interesting chat just before we exited the inlets.


Abel Tasman Eco Tour


Stew’s knowledge is impressive.  Throughout the tour, he was able to answer every question fired at him. This is a sign of a truly exceptional tour guide. On eco-tours especially, you are usually dealing with a group of people who want more in-depth information.

Abel Tasman Eco Tours – Forest Walk




We stopped at Sandfly Bay for lunch and a  peaceful forest walk.  Silver ferns (Pongas) feature all along the track here.



This waterfall provided a welcomed moment of serenity!


Abel Tasman Eco Tours

Stew was determined to find some whitebait and after a bit of wading around, he found some of this New Zealand delicacy…



…plus some rather impressive jellyfish!




Abel Tasman Eco Tours helps in various conservation projects and pest control programmes all across the park. It’s always a great feeling when you support tour operations who are doing such great work. Stew knows where to find those cute little Blue Penguins, gannets and cormorants!




Flexibility is always the key to any good eco-tour.  Stew was able to change the plan at any time to suit a particular request. It truly makes all the difference to have tour guides who are willing to cater to the individual desires of their customers. It’s a sign that rather than being on aut0-pilot, guides treat every tour as unique, no matter how many they have taken.




For more information, you can check out Abel Tasman Eco Tour’s website here. For more itinerary ideas for the Abel Tasman region, check out our dedicated nature and lifestyle itineraries!


Happy Travelling!



Latest Articles