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Fifteen minutes’ drive from where the ferry berths in the Wellington CBD is an area known as Red Rocks. It gets its name, as you may have guessed, from the red hue of the rocks formed by ancient undersea volcanoes.
Red Rocks is on the edge of the Taputeranga Marine Reserve on the South Coast, where fishing and hunting is banned, making it a wildlife bonanza. From May to October it’s home to a large seal colony.
There’s a visitor centre at the start of the walk around Red Rocks, where you can learn about local Maori folklore, the area’s rich mining and whaling history and, of course, the delightful seals.
On a clear day you’ll see the Bluebridge ferry crossing Cook Strait against the backdrop of the snow-capped Kaikoura Ranges.
The Red Rocks seal colony is an easy day walk. If you’re fit and keen, you could keep on trekking all the way to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary.
Just 10 minutes from central Wellington, the sanctuary is a unique eco-attraction. It features Zealandia – a state-of-the-art indoor exhibition showcasing New Zealand's incredible natural history and our world-renowned conservation movement.
Then step through the predator-proof fence into a beautiful 225ha (550 acre) eco-sanctuary for your best chance to see some of New Zealand's rarest birds, reptiles and insects in the wild.
If you catch the Bluebridge ferry to Picton you’re a couple of hours’ drive from Kaikoura, famous for its abundant sea life and rugged scenery.
The main highway hugs the coast offering plenty of opportunities to pull over and secure snaps for your very own National Geographic collection.
But the main attraction for nature lovers in Kaikoura is the mighty Sperm Whales that feed in a 2km-deep canyon just offshore.
Whale Watch tours are operated exclusively by the indigenous Kati Kuri tribe of Kaikoura – for bookings see their website.
Further south on the Otago Peninsular you can visit the world’s only mainland colony of Royal Albatross – rated by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s 1000 Ultimate Sights.
Watching these majestic birds nursing their chicks and flying at speeds of 120kph isn’t something you see every day!