Eco-friendly activities in New Zealand

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Here are some ideas for eco-friendly activities in New Zealand. From kayaking New Zealand's most beautiful river to hiking its highest volcano, choose a couple of things from this list and look forward to enjoying unforgettable experiences. Safe in the knowledge that you're not harming the ability of future generations to enjoy them, too.

New Zealand is blessed with incredible natural beauty and some amazing outdoor experiences. And we want to keep it that way. That’s why we love activities and tour operators that let you get up close and personal with nature, experience something utterly unique, yet not impact or harm the local environment.

By Land

Cycling, hiking, horse-riding, and walking in New Zealand

Cutting down on cars and carbon emissions are pretty key when it comes to reducing our environmental impact. Luckily, switching out an engine for a human (or animal) powered alternative is easily done. Better yet, it opens up a number of beautiful places and off-the-beaten-track places you might otherwise not find!

Eco Friendly Activities in New Zealand - Otago Trail
Central Otago Rail Trail


When it comes to pedal-powered activities in New Zealand, it's hard to beat the Central Otago Rail Trail, a 153-kilometre network of tracks following disused railway lines between Clyde and Middlemarch. You can choose to break it up into 3, 4, or more -day itineraries, depending how fast you want to go. One tip: don't rush it. There is plenty to see and enjoy along the way: from quaint, quirky old towns like Wedderburn and Ranfurly, to rolling golden hill country, sheep-dotted farmlands, and remote lakes and rivers. You'll never be too far from a cosy bed and breakfast or old musterer's hut, either. Not to mention some superb wineries!

New Zealand's brilliant tramping and hiking trails let you get into the heart of New Zealand's nature without damaging the environment (provided you take out everything that you bring in with you). For a serious but safe family tramp, tackle the 4- to 5-day Heaphy Track on the South Island's West Coast. For a shorter overnight option, or the 2-day Kauaeranga Trail up to the 759m summit of the Pinnacles in the Coromandel Peninsula offers a shorter overnight option. If you've only got a day, you can still fit in the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Or escape the crowds and head to Rawhiti in Northland (an hour north of Whangarei) to walk the breathtaking, 16-kilometre Cape Brett Walkway.

Another climate-friendly option when visiting Fiordland, instead of joining the hordes heading to Mitre Peak and Milford Sound, is to take a horse trek up to a high point of the Te Anau basin. You'll get to enjoy superb 360-degree views over Fiordland National Park, whether you’ve never ridden before or you’re an expert equestrian who wants to take the stead at a gallop!

Eco Friendly Activities in New Zealand - Horse riding in Fiordland
Horse trek in Fiordland


If you’re not planning on leaving the city but are still looking for an eco-friendly activity to do, try one of Wellington’s fabulous walking tours! These take you through the capital city’s history, shows you some of its most important and impressive buildings, and details the prominent role that ‘Wellywood’ had in the production of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies.

By Water

Kayaking, sailing, and wildlife encounters in New Zealand

New Zealand’s waterways provide plenty of amazing outdoor activity opportunities. They also offer many means of transport and ways to explore them without stamping your carbon footprint on Aotearoa.

It’s hard to argue against the fact that in New Zealand – who are three-time winners and current defenders of the prestigious America’s Cup – yachting is the main marine recreational activity. And Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour is the centre of it. As well as hosting the America’s Cup, Auckland, a.k.a. ‘The City of Sails,’ is home to dozens of yacht clubs and more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world. For a thrilling taste of the big time, you can go out on a real America’s Cup boat for 2 hours, joining in with the same jobs and responsibilities as the crew have during the races (though, of course, under the supervision of experts). If you prefer taking things a bit more leisurely, go out for an elegant lunch or dinner sailing cruise, getting fantastic views of the Sky Tower and Auckland Harbour Bridge lit up while enjoying a lovely 3-course meal in the sheltered waters of Westhaven Marina. If you’re a trusted skipper and would rather do it all yourself, you’ll have no trouble finding a boat to hire for a day or more.

Eco Friendly Activities in New Zealand - Pelorus river
Pelorus river in Havelock, Marlborough New Zealand


In the South Island, you can enjoy eco-friendly water-based adventures while also getting to know New Zealand’s unique wildlife. Take the famous, eco-friendly Hobbit Kayak Tour on the Pelorus River down a dramatic stretch of gorge chosen by Sir Peter Jackson to film the memorable dwarves’ barrel-escape scene in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Along the way you can spot several species of native New Zealand birds, while near Pelorus Bridge is a rare colony of New Zealand’s only native land mammal, the long-tailed bat.

In Akaroa, you can swim with one of the world’s rarest species of dolphin, the Hector’s dolphin, without disrupting them and their natural habitat. This 2.5-hour eco-friendly dolphin swim leaves from Daly’s Wharf and travels only a minimum distance by boat to the swimming location. The family who operate the tours are also closely involved in local conservation and natural preservation efforts, having donated swathes of land to D.O.C. and supported the protection of local nikau palms, the southernmost population of naturally growing nikau palms on mainland New Zealand.

Eco Friendly Activities in New Zealand - Dolphin swimming in Akaroa
Swimming with dolphins in Akaroa


So, whether you feel like getting out on the water or keeping your feet on terra firma, those are just a few of the options for unforgettable adventures in New Zealand that have minimal environmental impact.

Keen for an adventure on New Zealand's most beautiful river? Here's a special gift from us! Use promo code Blog19-20 when reserving your place on our Hobbit Kayak Tour and get 10% off your booking to experience the world-famous filming location of The Hobbit for yourself in all its glory. See you on the river!

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