The Ōkārito and Whataroa areas are a ‘must-explore’ for nature and wildlife lovers. The towering Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana dominate the landscape inland, with the impressive expanse of New Zealand’s largest estuarine lagoon at Ōkārito along the coast.
The Okarito lagoon is home to more than 70 bird species including the rare White Heron/Kotuku. Each year adult Kotuku come from all over New Zealand to the country’s only breeding area on the Waitangiroto River near Whataroa. The Okarito lagoon is their main feeding ground and the permanent home for some of the population.
The farming community of Whataroa is blessed with expansive views of the mountains, glacial rivers and lakes across farmland fringed with native forest. The township is the starting point for the Kotuku nesting site tour and there are several challenging hikes located up the Whataroa Valley nearby.
Okarito is 29km 30 minutes from Franz Josef Village. Whataroa is on State Highway 6 and is 32km 22 minutes from Franz Josef Glacier village and 25km 22 minutes from Okarito.