Leave a Positive Footprint: Your Guide to Eco-Tourism in New Zealand

Aotearoa New Zealand is a beautiful country bursting with amazing little pockets of paradise which can help you feel more connected, fulfilled and refreshed.

She is a land of immense beauty, from its regional and national parks and native rainforests alive with birds, to stunning, yet untouched beaches and majestic mountain ranges. It’s no wonder that eco travel here has become increasingly sort-after, as people from all over the world come to experience the sights and sounds of this wild landscape, flora, fauna and incredible people.

There are many ways to explore New Zealand sustainably. You can opt for eco-friendly accommodation, such as eco-lodges and campsites that use renewable energy sources and promote green practices. You can also choose to explore the regions by foot or on bike, taking in the stunning scenery and avoiding emissions from vehicles.

If you’re interested in learning more about sustainability in New Zealand, there many options – From a selection of eco-tours, country-wide conservation projects and learning about traditional Maori culture, there is something for everyone.

roys peak, wanaka, lake

What is sustainable tourism in New Zealand?

According to the United Nations Environment Program and the UN World Tourism Organisation, sustainable tourism refers to travel that considers the social and ecological impacts of both present and future. It aims to minimise effects and maximise contributions to a destinations economy, society, culture and environment.

The objective of tourism is to ensure that development benefits communities, tourism companies and tourists themselves. Businesses, in this industry should offer quality experiences while also being mindful of their footprint.

new zealand, milford sound, mitre peak

What are the 7 forms of sustainable tourism?


1. Ecotourism – This form of responsible travel focuses on experiencing and learning about nature while respecting the environment and local ecosystems.
Think: Low impact, learning activities to leave no trace. Hiking, wildlife tours.

2. Green Tourism – Also known as sustainable tourism, emphasises reducing the environmental impact caused by visitors.
Think: Low impact activities based on the natural attraction, such as, stargazing, bird watching, exploring national parks, visiting waterfalls.

3. Softer Rural Tourism – These activities and tours allow tourists to experience life and local cultures without harming the environment.
Think: Horseback riding, animal parks, kayaking and surfing.

4. Agritourism – These activities involve tourists either working on or visiting settings while learning about farming practices and history.
Think: Farm or rural-based tours, vineyard visits and incredible off-grid or remote eco-accomodation.

5. Community Tourism – This type of tourism concentrates on enhancing economies by engaging visitors in heritage based activities.
Think: Cultural experiences, cooking schools and experiences, handcrafting experiences or biking around an awesome little town.

6. Solidarity Tourism – also referred to as volunteer tourism aims to support the development of equal communities by offering volunteers experiences.
Think: Volunteering trips and Wwoofing

7. Responsible Tourism – encourages visitors to be mindful of their impact, on the natural environment and to respect the cultures and traditions.
Think: Tiaki promise – being actively responsible in making sure you have a low impact on the people, place and culture.

By choosing activities that promote these forms of tourism you can ensure that your trip or vacation has an influence on the environment in Aotearoa New Zealand.

tree, butterfly, globe

Responsible Tourism Policy In New Zealand

The Responsible Tourism Policy (RTP) implemented by the New Zealand government emphasises tourism sustainability as a priority. This policy encourages operators within the tourism industry to adopt sustainable practices and uphold social responsibility with an aim to foster long term economic development and benefits for future generations.

The policy focuses on four core areas:

  • Environmental protection

  • Fostering innovation in business practices

  • Understanding and respecting the culture and heritage of the destination

  • Promoting community-based tourism initiatives

By adhering to these standards, operators in New Zealand can create opportunities for development that will leave a legacy for local community for years to come. This policy ensures that visitors have meaningful interactions with communities while minimising their impact on the environment.

In essence, the RTP promotes the idea of leaving New Zealand in a better state than we found it. By supporting communities, local people, and preserving the environment, we can ensure that future generations will continue to reap the benefits of this unbelievable land and be proud to share it with the rest of the world.

fiordland, milford sound, fiord

Tiaki Promise – Responsible holidays

The Tiaki Promise plays a role, in New Zealand’s commitment to tourism. It aims to safeguard the surroundings and ensure that visitors have an enjoyable time in our country while also encouraging them to travel sustainably.

The “Tiaki” promise stands for:

  • Protect NZ by acting sustainably and respectfully when travelling in Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Drive on the left-hand side of the road

  • Respect and care for land, sea and nature

  • Follow safety instructions from official sources

  • Protect NZ by respecting culture and local customs

  • Keep New Zealand clean – take your rubbish with you when you leave

By embracing these guidelines visitors can contribute towards maintaining a stunning New Zealand for future generations, while remaining safe themselves.

inspiration, motivation, life

What types of ecotourism activities are available in New Zealand?

Aotearoa New Zealand offers ecotourism activities that allow individuals to immerse themselves in our breathtaking, natural landscapes responsibly.

These activities include bushwalking, mountain biking, kayaking, bird watching and fishing. By engaging in these pursuits one can appreciate nature and the beauty of our country while minimising their impact.


In Aotearoa there are a total of five officially recognised Dark Sky Sanctuaries that offer an experience, for stargazing and observing the night skies. It’s a way to appreciate our place in the world.

astronomy, milky way, constellations

Wildlife watching

Aotearoa New Zealand is blessed with a diversity of birds and animals including the beloved kiwi. Travellers can embark on birdwatching tours that journey through forests and wetlands. Take a boat trip to cruise the Hauraki Gulf for a whale watching experience. The countrys stunning coastlines are perfect for spotting wildlife.

tui, bird, nz

Adventures – land, sea and sky

If you’re up for an adventure kayak trip, tours allow you to get up close and personal with NZ wildlife such as dolphins, seals, penguins and even discover waterfalls that would otherwise inaccessible.

If the mountains are calling, New Zealand offers travellers plenty of opportunities for climbing and hiking with a range of difficulty levels.

There are many options to get an aerial view too; with companies that are centred around sustainability practices – such as award winning Altitude Tours.

girl, kayak, lake

Conservation Projects

Additionally, you have the opportunity to participate in conservation projects aimed at protecting birds and other species, as well as regenerating native forests to support eco-systems.

ponga, fern, palm

Hiking, Trekking, Tramping

New Zealand is renowned worldwide for its awe inspiring mountain landscapes and wildlife. From the Southern Alps to the peaks of Tongariro National Park there are endless opportunities for hiking and trekking enthusiasts.

new zealand, tongariro crossing, emerald lakes

Cultural Experiences

Opting for an eco holiday in New Zealand offers not environmental benefits but also a chance to immerse yourself in local cultures. Many tours and activities provide insights into customs. Traditions specific, to each area.

maori, men, leap

Why not consider immersing yourself in eco travels to experience of the country by participating in activities that offer a glimpse into local life? Additionally by opting for eco accommodation and activities your financial support will contribute to the preservation of the environment.

Benefits of choosing an eco-friendly holiday

Choosing an eco holiday, in New Zealand allows you to explore this part of the world while also contributing to a cleaner and greener future.

You’ll be able to experience the country in a more authentic and immersive way, as many of the the activities available are designed to give you a taste of local life. Also, by choosing eco-friendly accommodation and activities, your money helps to support those who work hard to conserve the environment.

dolphin, ocean, nature

Take action and make your contribution today!

Take action by researching tour operators that offer eco tourism experiences and book your holiday now.

You can also make an impact by minimising waste during your travels. Bring lunch containers and travel coffee cup, re-useable water bottles, re-usable shopping bags and other items to reduce dependence on single use plastics. Additionally be conscious of energy consumption during your stay; opt for green-energy activities like walking or biking, whenever possible.

e-bike, bicycle, field

By taking steps to reduce your footprint you’ll make a significant difference on your eco friendly holiday, in Aotearoa New Zealand! Your support is incredibly important. You will play a role in safeguarding this magnificent country and its people for many years to come. Begin planning your eco vacation today and leave a positive impact on the future of New Zealands environment!

earth, globe, birth

Join the Eco-Tourism Movement

By participating in eco tourism endeavours you have the opportunity to conserve landscapes and resources while also providing support to communities. Numerous tour operators offer an array of experiences that prioritise sustainability, such as hiking or kayaking excursions. You can even enrol in volunteer programs that allow you to directly contribute to conservation efforts while gaining insight into the culture and environment.

mount maunganui, beautiful wallpaper, summit

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