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Enjoy a wildlife getaway in Curio Bay

A visit to Curio Bay, nestled away in the southeast corner of the South Island, to see Hector’s dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins, is a must for any wildlife enthusiast.

Curio Bay, New Zealand

Sometimes, the best sights and sounds in New Zealand are found by turning off the main road and venturing down a narrow, winding track to see where it takes you. This is certainly true of Curio Bay, hidden away in the southeast corner of the South Island.

It's a remote bay that goes unnoticed by many people journeying around the area, but is a must-see if you want to get up close and personal with interesting and rare wildlife on your self-drive holiday.

Say hello to Hector's dolphins

During the summer and autumn months, visitors to Curio Bay can often see the smallest and rarest marine dolphins in the world – Hector's dolphins – playing and leaping among the surf along the beach. The dolphins, which have a population of just 7,000, according to the Department of Conservation, spend large amounts of time very close to the shore to feed on mullet, arrow squid, red cod, stargazers and crabs. Watching them frolic in the water is a truly fantastic sight.

The dolphins are very friendly and curious and will often swim over to people in the water, although you should be careful not to touch them as they have very sensitive skin.

Give a wink to the yellow-eyed penguin

Curio Bay is home to another extremely rare animal – the distinctive yellow-eyed penguin. Several populations of the penguins nest in the area and their interesting appearance brings many wildlife enthusiasts coming hoping to catch a glimpse.

The ancient fossil forest

Stretching around 20 kilometres southwest from Curio Bay to Slope Point is the fossil forest, a 180 million-year-old forest that is submerged by the ocean. At low tide the forest is exposed and with it the many fern fronds and leaves that have been fossilised as the wood gradually turned to rock.

The site is of international significance as it is one of the largest and least-disturbed examples of a Jurassic forest in the world.