Here's a new top 10 travel wish list for you - how many of these iconic native species have you seen in the wild, asks Kate Ford
Our national mascot may be listed as vulnerable, but there are still plenty of places you can spot a kiwi in the wild. Visit Auckland's Tāwharanui Regional Park for your chance to spy the North Island Brown kiwi. Established as a predator-free "mainland island", the park has a 2.5km predator-proof fence to keep its residents protected. Tours operate using infra-red lights as a means to spot the thriving kiwi population here.
Kiwis can also be seen at Rotokare Scenic Reserve in Taranaki, which is a breeding site for kiwi; Kahurangi National Park in the Nelson-Tasman region, which is home to the largest population of great spotted kiwi; and if you're further south, you may even get to spot a kiwi in the wild on Stewart Island.
The spiky-backed reptiles can be spied sunbathing on the sharp ridges of the Coromandel's Aldermen Islands. One of New Zealand's best open-water dive sites, the Aldermens are not only popular with people but also with these ancient creatures, who share their space with bright blue and orange nudibranchs, which can be spotted just below high tide.
Auckland's Tiritiri Mātangi is another home to some of the estimated 100,000 remaining tuatara. In 2003, 40 female and 20 male tuatara were relocated to the Island and since then, there have been reported sightings of nests with hatching eggs.
3. Glow worms
Glow worms, the glamorous term for the larvae of a fungus gnat, can be seen lighting up dark corners around New Zealand. Most often found in places like lake and river banks or forest undergrowth, one of the most well-known places to spot glow worms is at Waikato's Waitomo Caves.
You'll also find them around forests and caves in Rotorua, and tour operators offer guided trips on stand-up paddleboards, canoes and kayaks, so you can exercise with a unique view.
In the South Island, glow worms are in abundance at The Brook Waimārama Sanctuary and at Anchorage in the Abel Tasman National Park. Take your glow worm experience to the next level and enjoy overnight glamping at Anchorage beach, where guides will accompany you on the journey and you might even get to experience phosphorescence.
From the little blue ones to the yellow-eyed ones, seeing a penguin in the wild is worth making a flap about. Luckily, New Zealand's penguin population can be found in multiple parts of the country. The world's smallest penguin, the kororā, or little blue penguin, is often found in the Marlborough Sounds, Akaroa Harbour, Ōamaru, Dunedin and Stewart Island. You'll have the best luck spotting them when they come ashore at night.
Visit the Ōtāgo Peninsula around the Catlins region for your best chance of seeing the rare hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin. Or head to Ōamaru, where both the blue and yellow-eyed penguins are known to hang out. Time your visit for spring and summer, when they gather in their largest numbers.
Meanwhile, the South Island's west coast is home to the Fiordland crested penguin, one of the world's rarest penguins. These incredible creatures would be the most difficult to cross off in a game of penguin-spotting bingo, as they favour very remote areas around Haast, Lake Moeraki, Stewart Island and Fiordland.
For a high chance of success with your whale watching, look no further than Kaikoura. Famous for its frequent whale sightings, the coastal town is popular with these mammals because of its unique submarine landscape. With deep underwater canyons and a mix of temperatures in the currents causing a higher presence of nutrients in the ocean, whales know this is a place they can thrive.
Sperm whales can be seen all year round in Kaikoura, while orca are present from December to March, and humpback whales make a splash in June and July.
Cruise around Auckland's Hauraki Gulf and you might spot a glorious Bryde's whale. This species has a nationally critical status, with a population of only around 140 mammals. They tend to stay near North Island waters because they enjoy the warmer temperatures here than further south, and as such they are known by the nickname the "tropical whale".
Dolphins make pretty regular appearances along New Zealand's coastline, but there are a few places to go for an extra-special dolphin sighting. Visit the Marlborough Sounds at any time of year for a chance to view the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, and the Hector's dolphin, a species only seen in New Zealand. At threat of bycatch, DOC has put the wild population at just under 15000. A good place to look for Hector's dolphins is around the Southland Coast, such as Bluecliffs Beach or Curio Bay.
Even more rare, Maui's dolphin can be spotted around the West Coast waters of the North Island. There are thought to be fewer than 100 of these round-finned dolphins in the wild.
In the North Island, the Bay of Plenty is a reliable destination for dolphin-spotting. With the warmer waters of the Bay, hundreds of pods are known to call this place home. The best time to find dolphins here is from November to April, where you'll likely spy the common dolphin and bottlenose.
There are plenty of places to spot seals in New Zealand, but their ubiquity makes them no less incredible. The North Island's largest fur seal colony lives in Cape Palliser, about an hour south of Martinborough, where you'll likely find them lolling about on the rocks or taking a dip in the ocean. Visit between November and January for the best time to spot pups.
Other seal sites include Taranaki, with many mammals enjoying the rocky terrain of the Sugar Loaf Islands; Adele and Tonga Islands in the Abel Tasman National Park are home to a bustling seal community that is frequented by guided tours in the area. Cape Foulwind near Westport and Kaikoura are also good seal spotting destinations.
The remarkable and remote Catlins Coast is a great look-out spot for Hooker's sea lions, southern elephant seals and leopard seals. Surat Bay is especially known for its large sea lion colony.
They may not have the majesty of dolphins or the cuteness of seal pups, but it'd be pretty amazing to tick a sighting of a lesser short-tailed bat off the list. Found at only a few places around the country, these native endangered creatures are one of the few bat species that spend most of their time foraging on the forest floor, rather than catching their prey in the air.
The bats can be found in Northland, Little Barrier Island, the central North Island and Taranaki. In the South Island, you'll be looking on Codfish Island and Fiordland for a chance to spot these little bats. Keep in mind they come out after dusk, so it'll be a late night if you're hoping to catch a glimpse.
There are four remaining species of New Zealand native frogs, and some are very slippery to spot. New Zealand's frogs are very distinctive from other species around the world because of their features, including no external eardrum, they don't croak regularly, they don't have a tadpole stage, and they have round eyes.
Of the four native species - Archey's frog, Hamilton's frog, Hochstetter's frog and the Maud Island frog - you'll come across Hochstetter's frog most commonly. These frogs live around the central North Island, Waipū, the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and the Raukumara Ranges. The endangered Archey's frog also lives on the Coromandel Peninsula, where numbers are stable.
Maud Island and Hamilton's frogs are much harder to come by. Found only in the Marlborough Sounds, you'll need a permit to visit their home on Stephens and Maud Islands, which are administered by the Department of Conservation.
There are likely two camps of people when it comes to wētā: those who are fascinated by them, and those who never want to come face-to-face with one in their lifetime.
According to the DOC website, wētā have evolved into more than 100 different species, all endemic to New Zealand.
There are five main groups of wētā: the tree wētā, cave wētā, ground wētā, tusked wētā and giant wētā.
Currently, you can only see giant wētā on Little Barrier Island and you need a DoC permit to visit. Tree wētā are pretty common throughout New Zealand and many people in the country are likely to have crossed paths with one.
Cave wētā, as the name suggests, dwell in cave entrances. You'll find them in places like Waitomo Caves, and in recent years South Island species have been found in the Kaikōura ranges and in North Canterbury.
Find the tusked wētā on the Coromandel's Mercury Islands, so-called for the tusks that emerge from the males who use them to spar in territorial pushing contests.