Staglands Wildlife Reserve
Staglands Wildlife Reserve offers a unique experience for people of all ages to feed and freely interact with a wide range of native and exotic birds and animals
Less than an hour’s drive from central Wellington, Staglands occupies a beautiful reserve, where paths wind around streams, ponds, gullies and hills. This gentle and meandering layout encourages visitors to wander among the different environments and connect with nature. And far from the rigid enclosures of a traditional zoo, this outdoorsy experience is less about fences and more about giving animals the space and habitats they need to lead happy lives.
Staglands is the perfect spot to introduce the kids to some of New Zealand’s quirky native creatures or meet farmyard favourites. From a very friendly, very fluffy merino ram to characterful kunekune pigs, whose name translates to the apt description ‘fat and round’, these animals are used to interacting with visitors and happy to be patted or fed with the special food you can buy at the entrance. And depending on the time of year, you might even be lucky enough to meet some rather cute lambs, piglets, calves and ducklings.
Retreat into the quiet of the bush, stroll to the trout pond and watch as the eager fish fight over their dinner at feeding time. A walk through the aviaries will find you surrounded by twittering native and exotic birds, or head to the stables and cuddle up with guinea pigs and rabbits. At the deer park, it’s not just deer but inquisitive emus, turkeys, peacocks and not-so-shy goats who’ll be competing for your attention.
Cross the swing bridge over the Akatarawa River to the recreation of a ramshackle pioneer village, complete with an old jailhouse that makes for some excellent photo ops. And after some turtle spotting in the pond, loop back to the Secret Garden, a magical Alice In Wonderland-esque spot where bantams, rabbits and pigeons will reward your patience and quiet by coming over for a feed.
And while these gentle creatures are very family-friendly, this isn’t a spot for the whānau only - on your average day, you’ll find plenty of couples and groups of friends wanting to escape the city for a slice of rural paradise out here. Once you’ve explored, fire up one of the free barbeques and cook up some lunch in this beautiful setting. Their onsite cafe also serves up homemade treats and light lunches in an incredible log cabin made from local Douglas Fir. Top off your trip with a free ride around the valley in an off-road tractor-trailer, with two river crossings to keep you on your toes.
Staglands isn’t just a great day out from Wellington - it’s also a rustic wedding venue, with the choice of ceremony on the peaceful riverbanks or in the intimate Settlement Church. You can also hire out different sized spaces for unique Christmas parties or birthdays for the kids. This wonderfully wild setting is the best way to get off the beaten track and have an authentic animal experience, whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to hang out with some baby goats.