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Who doesn’t love to get up close and personal with some cuddly (and not so cuddly) animals?

The North Island has plenty of opportunity to have all sorts of animal experiences.

FARMS

In Auckland, Kiwi Valley Farm is a great day out for the kids where they can hand feed the farm animals, have a pony or tractor ride or pat the multitude of small animals.

Tauranga has Marshalls Animal Park and Farm where you can feed and play with a host of farmyard animals and see the character filled emus, giant African ostriches, Texas longhorns, sheep, deer, goats, birds, pigs and horses – from Clydesdales to cute miniatures.

Bullswool Farm near Waihi, offers an authentic taste of Kiwi farm life with a sheep shed display, early NZ milking shed, early NZ farm tools and lots of rare breed farm animals.

Rotorua is farmyard central with Heritage Farm and Agrodome offering farm tours, shows and demonstrations such as sheep herding.

Ambury Farm in Mangere is a working farm and close to town. You can walk around at your leisure, pat and interact with the animals and what’s great is – It’s FREE.

In Taupo, Lilliputt Farm offers you the opportunity to cuddle bunnies and guinea pigs or touch a blue tongue or bearded dragon lizard. There are the usual array of farm animals to handfeed as well as Llamas and Alpacas.

For a farm of a different kind, nearby is Huka Prawn Park – NZ’s only Prawn Park! It offers a fun filled day of entertainment for the whole family. Pack a picnic and a towel and spend the day creating exciting prawn memories. Take a guided tour through the nursery and hatchery, hear about their 30-year history, meet the  prawns up close and personal and while you’re there- you have to feel the strange sensation of hand feeding the baby prawns.

Race up and down the massive new boating lake on stand-up paddleboards, water trikes, and pedal boats.

Watch the excitement on your child’s face as you head down the adventure trail trying out all the interactive activities. Feed the trout, battle the family on our water cannons, (only the brave tackle the water gauntlets), and end at the kids playground and footbaths.

Prawn fishing is included in the entry price, so catch them if you can!

ZOOS

Auckland Zoo is home to at least 144 different species, over 1400 animals and has the largest diversity of wildlife in New Zealand.

Hamilton Zoo is home to over 600 native and exotic animals and set amidst 25ha of lush and tranquil surroundings. Hamilton Zoo boasts the largest walk-through aviary in New Zealand dedicated to native birds and plants; take a stroll through and a cheeky kaka may land close by. For an experience not to be missed, go behind the scenes on a Face2Face encounter, or catch a ‘Meet the Keeper’ talk highlighting the characters and personalities of the animals, their feeding and enrichment.

There’s a lot to see; if you need a break, swing by the on-site cafe and check out the delicious treats, or dine al fresco in one of the scenic picnic areas.

Wellington Zoo is the country’s first zoo and offers animal activities & programs, plus themed playgrounds & picnic areas. There are keeper talks all day and up close and personal programmes that you can book for.

KIWIS

Where can you visit to see the symbol and nickname of New Zealand?

The Otorahanga Kiwi House located 2 hours south of Auckland, 1 hour from the Hobbiton Movie Set, 1.5 hours from Rotorua and Taupo, and 15 minutes from the world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Black Water Rafting and caving adventures, have been conserving kiwi and other NZ natives since 1971. Visit and learn about the active brown kiwi breeding programme, as well as view active kiwi throughout the day. Brown Kiwi are on display in a night time setting.

Get a personalised wildlife experience with keeper talks held throughout the day. Get up close with the large collection of NZ birds and reptiles and learn about each individual animal.

Rainbow Springs in Rotorua is home to the National Kiwi Hatchery. Visit the National Kiwi Hatchery to see real conservation in action, support the efforts to save the kiwi, and, if you are lucky, witness a kiwi chick hatch or get a health check!

NATURE PARKS

Paradise Valley Springs in Rotorua is a delightful park set in natural surroundings with trout pools, a 20-ft.-high treetop boardwalk, native animals, birdlife & lions. Staglands is located just out of Wellington and is a wildlife park that allows you to connect with friendly animals, native birds and the natural beauty as you journey around this unique reserve. (DCA)

Zealandia is situated close by to the city centre of Wellington. It is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary, with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state. The 225 hectare ecosanctuary is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced over 20 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years. Set around a picturesque reservoir, Zealandia is home to some of New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife.

Butterfly Creek, located near the Auckland Airport, is part zoo exhibits and part fun attractions. It offers a unique and fun visit for everyone. Check out the amazing array of animals for you to see, touch and learn about. (DCA)

AQUATIC LIFE

With a wide variety of colourful sea life, from anemones to sharks, you are sure to be mesmerised by the underwater exhibits at Kelly Tarleton’s Sealife Aquarium in Auckland. Get hands on in the Tidal Touch Pools, enjoy the wonder of Seahorse Sanctuary, take a stroll through the famous Shark Tunnel and get up close to the penguin colony at the Antarctic Ice Adventure. You will think you were at the South Pole!

Let Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari take you searching for whales, dolphins, and seabirds during a tour of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park—it’s just a short boat ride from Auckland city’s Viaduct Harbour. The best part is … their guarantee- If you don’t see marine mammals, you can cruise again for FREE – it’s that simple!!