Upper South Island and the West Coast Feature
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Back in 1866 Okarito was a thriving town of more than 1,200 people, with three theaters and 25 hotels. People came for the gold and for many years there was a working port inside the bar at the entrance to the lagoon. Things have changed dramatically and Okarito is now a nature sanctuary, drawing visitors keen to see kiwi, seabirds, and white herons, and to paddle on the silent lagoon. Its wild black sand surf beach is home to nesting birds and sleeping seals, so watch where you walk.
Okarito Kiwi Tours. Ian Cooper's Okarito Kiwi Tours holds the only concession on the South Island to take visitors to see kiwi in their natural habitat. Ian is absolutely passionate about the Okarito kiwi. He'll have you walking softly through the bush, listening for their scuffles and calls, before catching a glimpse of these elusive flightless birds. It's an incredibly rare experience and Mr. Cooper promises a 95% chance of seeing one on a night tour; all you need to bring is patience and some warm, quiet clothes (no nylon windbreakers). 53 The Strand, Okarito, 7886. 03/753–4330. www.okaritokiwitours.co.nz. From NZ$75. Evenings only.
Okarito Nature Tours. Okarito Nature Tours offer kayak rentals and guided kayak trips on the lagoon, which is the largest and possibly least modified coastal wetland in New Zealand. It's renowned for its bird life. Look for the plucky godwits and other migrants who fly here all the way from Siberia each spring (and back in autumn!). It's also a great spot to see white herons, who pop over here to feed from their sole New Zealand nesting ground in the Waitangiroto River, close by. Enjoy the views—dense rain forest backed by the Southern Alps—then nose your way into a tiny inlet, where the vegetation on each bank almost touches across the water. 1, The Strand, Okarito, 7889. 03/753–4014. email@example.com. www.okarito.co.nz or www.birdingwestcoast.co.nz. From NZ$45 unguided and NZ$85 per person for a guided trip (minimum of 2 people).
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