The sight of scores of rare kōtuku (white heron) nesting, nuzzling and soaring over the water is sheer delight, whether you're a bird-watcher or along for the ride. This operator offers the only excursion to the nests in Waitangi-Roto Nature Reserve near Whataroa. The 2½-hour tour involves a gentle jetboat ride and short boardwalk to the viewing hide. Book ahead.

Standing in the shade of ancient kahikatea trees, you'll also see spoonbills and shags being neighbourly with the herons.

White Heron Sanctuary Tours, a family-run operation for more than 30 years, secured exclusive tour access to the nesting site largely because of their focus on conservation. In season and with demand, tours depart at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm – it's well worth booking ahead.