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Riding a Motorcycle in New Zealand’s South Island Meet the Wildlife!

Riding a Motorcycle in New Zealand’s South Island: Meet the Wildlife!

Riding a motorcycle in New Zealand will make you grin like a maniac.

Every. Single. Time.
It’s easily one of the best things about living here.

Down in New Zealand’s South Island, there are wide sweeping corners, and often no cars in sight.
The mind-blowing scenery makes it hard to focus on the road ahead.

If you’ve seen the Lord of the Rings movies, you already know about the snow-capped mountains, rugged landscapes and the rolling green hills.

But it’s not just the scenery that will astound you in New Zealand’s South Island.

You’ll also meet a surprising range of animals when you ride a motorcycle here.
It’s like riding through a random and unpredictable petting zoo.

New Zealand’s South Island is jam-packed with animals.
Ride a motorcycle here, and you’ll come face to face with sheep, horses, alpacas and ducks.
Look up, and you might see falcons and albatrosses soaring overhead.
And you might just find yourself sharing the road with a squealing, escaped piglet out on the adventure of his life.

Here’s a quick tour of some of the wildlife you’re sure to see on two wheels here at the bottom of the world.

10 Animals You’ll See When Riding a Motorcycle in New Zealand’s South Island

Let’s start with the most likely…

 1.  Sheep

Yep, there’s a reason for all the jokes about New Zealanders and sheep.
You see field after field full of sheep on most of the motorcycle roads we ride every day.

There are about 26 million sheep in the whole country, so there are about 5 sheep for every person who lives here.

Get out of the major cities, and you’ll see sheep everywhere in New Zealand’s South Island.
They nibble away at the lush green grass, ignoring the drizzling rain on the grey winter days, protected by their thick greasy wool coats.

And when the sun comes out again in the springtime, the fields are suddenly full of newborn lambs kicking up their heels, and scattering at the sound of a motorcycle engine roaring past.

(More info here.)



ride a motorcycle - meet the sheep


2.  Falcons

These beautiful creatures are our most threatened bird of prey, and are only found here in New Zealand.
They range from a pale cream color to a dark russet red.

With a wing span of between 25 and 39 inches, you often see them gliding over open ground, looking for mice and smaller birds – at up to 125 miles an hour!

We’re often cruising down a motorcycle road here in New Zealand’s South Island, and glance up to see a falcon swooping overhead, hunting for its dinner.

But these falcons don’t just hunt.
They also like an easier meal.
And road kill is lazier alternative to hunting.

So you’ll often round a corner to find a big dark red bird perched in the middle of the road, feasting on a squashed possum.
He’ll look up, annoyed, open his majestic wings at the very last minute, and drag his full belly back up into the sky.

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the falcons


3.  Albatross

Dunedin is a small city in New Zealand’s South Island that hosts the world’s only mainland breeding albatross colony.

These gigantic black and white birds with their distinctive pink beaks have a wingspan of almost 10 feet.
It’s incredible to watch them suspended in the air on the cold currents blustering straight from Antarctica.

To see one, you can ride a motorcycle around the harbor and down a twisty motorcycle road that ends up at the albatross center.
Then you can take a tour up the hillside where you can see the enormous albatross chicks in their windswept nests.
They’re HUGE – often from 17-30 pounds – and these are just the babies!

On a windy day, you can stand at the edge of the cliff and gaze up at the sky, where you mighT see an albatross soaring around on the updrafts.
They spend 3-5 years at a time at sea, and can be on the wing for an estimated 120,000 miles a year!

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the albatross


4.  Horses, large and small

Back on the country motorcycle roads of New Zealand’s South Island, you’ll notice small groups of horses, standing around in fields, and looking up curiously as you ride by.

They’re all different colors; from black to a deep mahogany brown, or a dappled cream.
They seem to be deep in conversation, until they’re rudely interrupted by the sound of your motorcycle engine.

You’ll also sometimes see miniature horses just hanging out in the fields.

I’m not sure what these horses actually do – they might be children’s pets, I guess.
They look a little like circus attractions.

Naturally we’ve come up with our own name for these dwarf horses: dworses.
I don’t think that’s the technical term, somehow.

But it’s kind of strange to glide around a corner on a motorcycle road, and come face to face with a startled tiny horse.

I can never tell which of us is more surprised.

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the dworse


5.  Alpacas and Llamas

You’ll see more alpacas than llamas in New Zealand’s South Island (but it’s hard for non-experts to tell the difference – especially when you’re busy riding a motorcycle).

These weird looking creatures live on hobby farms where they’re bred for their wool and are also kept as pets.

Their exotic long necks, curved ears and strangely woolly faces will make you look twice.

But that’s just another reminder to try and keep your eyes on the road.
That’s always a challenge when you ride a motorcycle in New Zealand!

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the alpacas


6.  Cows

Cows are almost as common here as sheep.
You’ll see large herds of cows everywhere.

You remember those old-school ads on TV for butter?
They feature impossibly green hills and picture-perfect cows with full udders, grazing happily.

Well, that image exists in real life here.
In New Zealand’s South Island, the vivid green fields and hundreds of cows look like they’re waiting for a film crew to arrive.

And the cows themselves are surprisingly beautiful.
With their huge soulful eyes, some are a rich chestnut brown, while others seem to have been hand-painted with the black and white splotches you might see in a kid’s cartoon.

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the cows


7.  Spoonbills

If you’re riding beside a harbor or lake at the right time of year, you might just spot a spoonbill.

In the Northern hemisphere spoonbills are bright pink, but in New Zealand’s South Island they’re pure white, with long black spatulate beaks that snuffle through shallow water looking for their next meal.

Spoonies! We always shriek happily as we spot a little family of them when we roar past on the motorcycle.

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the spoonbills


8.  Pigs

There are farms galore in New Zealand’s South Island, but you won’t see a whole sty full of pigs as you cruise along a motorcycle road. But you may just meet a wild one who’s escaped.

We’ve been riding a motorcycle along a country road here several times, and looked down to see an escaped piglet galloping in delight along beside us.

Do piglets actually gallop?

It looks like they do when they’re out on the adventure of their lives!

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the pigs


9.  Seals

In New Zealand’s South Island, there are lots of hidden remote beaches (we’re surrounded by water here, you know).

So on a sunny Saturday afternoon you might find yourself following a motorcycle road to see where it goes.
If you end up at a completely deserted beach, you could well meet a seal relaxing on the sand.

And if you’re riding beside the sea along the west coast of the South Island, you’ll also see groups of brown seals sunning themselves on rocks before slipping back into the choppy blue waves.

But you don’t have to be riding a motorcycle to get up close to a wild seal.
A few years ago, a seal jumped a low fence separating the sea from the local salt water swimming pool.

The swimmers got the shock of their lives as a wild seal belly-flopped into the pool to do a few laps with them.
Council workers tried to coax him back to the sea for some hours, but then 5 o’clock came around.
So naturally they went home for the day, and left the seal to settle in for the night.

Yep, this is New Zealand.

(More info here.)


riding a motorcycle - seal in pool


10.  Ducks

There are 9 species of ducks in New Zealand’s South Island, and you’ll mostly see them if you ride a motorcycle by lakes or rivers.
Which you can’t really avoid doing.
There’s water everywhere around here.

Most species of ducks have their babies around August, so that’s the time to keep an extra careful eye on the motorcycle road ahead. You could easily cruise around a corner to find a mother duck proudly leading her brood of fluffy chicks slowly across the road.

They don’t know about crosswalks, clearly.

(More info here.)


ride a motorcycle – meet the ducks


New Zealand’s South Island is Full of Animals

This is a green, agricultural land where many animals and birds thrive.

So if you ride a motorcycle through these rolling country landscapes, you’ll meet a wide range of beautiful, wild creatures.
It’s like being on a sweet, rural safari.

No roaring lions will come bounding out of the bushes here, it’s true.
There are no giraffes wandering down the roads either.
But you might get a second glance from one of our 26 million sheep.



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