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Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin

Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin

New Zealand is home to heaps of interesting native birds, and the best place to see them in New Zealand (on the South Island at least) is at Orokonui Ecosanctuary. It’s high on the hills above Dunedin (a 25-minute drive from town) and, as you might expect, is full of birds enjoying the predator free environment.

The Visitor Centre and Café

We’d been to Orokonui a couple of times before actually paying to go inside the fenced area. There’s a café with some nice views (good food too) and it’s on the “scenic” route from Dunedin to the likes of Waitati, Karitane and further on to Oamaru (this whole stretch is one of my favourite coastal drives in New Zealand).

Orokonui Ecosanctuary view, Dunedin, New Zealand

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

The main reason for visiting the Orokonui Ecosanctuary is to see native New Zealand birds, and it didn’t take us long to make our first sightings. We walked up the hill a bit where we saw some tuatara in an enclosure (a remnant from the age of the dinosaurs) and bellbirds, as well as other birds which didn’t get close enough to identify.

A tuatara in Dunedin, New ZealandA New Zealand bellbird, Orokonui, Dunedin

Next, it was down through the forest where the tui roam. These are some of the prettiest New Zealand birds and it was great to see so many of them up close. There’s a little feeder thing along the track and we saw a few gathering around there. We also saw one chasing another bird – it seemed pretty aggressive!

READ MORE: 30 Fun Things to Do in Dunedin

A tui feeding at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, Dunedin, New Zealand

Further along the track, in the far distance, we saw a kaka (native New Zealand parrot) standing on the track. It soon moved, but from then on we made it our mission to see another one. After a little while we did just that – there were two flying around the forest near us and they occasionally stopped so we could get photos. It’s kinda hard to get good photos if you don’t have a professional level camera but we were happy enough.

A kaka at Orokonui, Dunedin, New Zealand

After that we saw a small robin. It wasn’t scared of us at all and just kinda stood there looking cute while we took some photos. From there we headed back to the visitors centre. All up we walked for around an hour and saw heaps of birds – definitely our best bird watching experience in New Zealand so far!

A robin in Dunedin, New Zealand

Orokonui Ecosanctuary FAQS

  • Why are there so many birds there? It’s a predator free environment, so the birds are obviously a fan of that. Make sure to close the gate properly when you go in and out!
  • How much does it cost? A self-guided walk will set you back $20, or you can join a guided walk for $35 (one hour) or $50 (two hours). It’s pretty good value and if you’re really into your birds and want to learn a thing or two a guided tour could be a good idea.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary predator free fence, Dunedin, New Zealand

  • Are there longer walks? Yes! We only did a short one but there are a few other tracks which take you further down into the forest. Let me know if you’ve ventured further than we did and if you saw anything cool.
  • How do you get there? Orokonui Ecosanctuary is a 25-minute drive from the city and there are few things to see on the way. You could stop off in Port Chalmers for a coffee or lunch, see some nice views around town and then maybe head up to Murdering Beach or the Heyward Point Track. This side of the harbour doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the Peninsula side but in my opinion it’s just as nice!

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.