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Sanctuary walks and facilities – find out more at the Visitor Centre

Your Hidden Valleys Waimārama adventure starts at the Visitor Centre where our knowledgeable and friendly staff and volunteers will introduce you to our walks and facilities, and then will help you on your way with suggestions based on your available time or fitness constraints. Whilst in the Visitor Centre, pay your entry fee, pick up a Visitor Map, take out a supporter subscription, view a variety of static displays, listen to recorded bird song to help identify birds on your walks, view our fish tank (koura – native fresh-water crayfish) and meet Gordon the Green Gecko, examine prints left behind on the tracking cards and more.

When you’ve finished your visit, please post comments on our Facebook page, or write us a review on Google


The Visitor Centre has recently had a significant upgrade, the internal and external building works are now finished and we’re currently working on the pathways and landscaping. As part of this upgrade we’ve enlarged the staff offices at the rear, and we’ve put in a new ‘smoko room’ for volunteers with access from the side of the building. The building has been made ‘weather-proofed’ with insulation and additional heating put in. The upgraded feature hall has been extended and now features new displays. Solar panels have been installed on the roof. 

Visitors to our Visitor Centre can view detailed information and displays about the history of the area and our conservation project, listen to bird calls to assist with identification in the Sanctuary and study the native freshwater koura (native crayfish) in a tank. We will soon been adding live camera feed from selected locations within the Sanctuary.

Sanctuary volunteer hosts are on hand to answer questions about our walks and facilities and can provide directions if required.

The Visitor Centre building, is the result of significant community collaboration:

  • A local architect donated the award-winning design
  • Funding was provided by Canterbury Community Trust and the Baigent Family Trust
  • Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology Carpentry school students and tutors undertook initial construction as a donation and as part of the training programme
  • Local businesses and individuals donated supplies, time and services to complete the building
  • The Rotary Club of Nelson also provided significant assistance, both to the Visitor Centre build and the early development efforts of the Sanctuary itself. Rotary contributed via working bees on the loop track, flood water management and the decking of the Visitor Centre, you can read more about Rotary Club of Nelson’s contribution here, and here

There are toilets at the Visitor Centre but none in the Sanctuary.

When you go through the double gates into the Sanctuary you are entering a biosecurity area.  For this reason we need you to check your bags for any small intruders (such as mice).

Click on the Visitor Map to download a copy.

Copies are available in the Visitor Centre on arrival.

We encourage Sanctuary visitors to download the Avenza Maps app (available in both iOS and Android from your App store) to a smart phone (click here to learn more about the App). Once installed on your smart phone, download the Brook Sanctuary Visitor Map (it should look like the visitor map here on the website) once downloaded, it’s then available for off-line use in the Sanctuary, enabling you to identify where you are within the Sanctuary on your visits.


There are a number of tracks for you to explore using a map from the Visitor Centre or utilising the information panels as you come across them.

The easiest is The Loop track which is a charming and easy walk of some 45 minutes and accessible for push chairs, wheel chairs and mobility scooters, and features the newest addition to Sanctuary the Founders Bridge across the dam.

An extended walk that takes in a higher loop back is not quite so well developed (narrower track) but takes visitors further into the beautiful central valley floor or up the ridges.

A variety of other tracks that are a little more challenging – some with river crossings and steep terrain – weave throughout the Sanctuary suitable for different fitness levels and time.


Alternatively, you might take a guided walking tour to ensure the very best experience in a short time frame.  Your guide will ensure you understand what you are seeing, the history of the area and our vision for the future.

Click here for more details and to book your guided walk.

We don’t mind people leaving their stress or footprints in the Sanctuary but please don’t leave anything else behind.


Gordon’s actually a visitor himself (he’s an Auckland Green Gecko).  He lives very comfortably in his own little gecko vivarium in our Visitor Centre.

Gecko at one time inhabited this region.  Happily, one of our team recently spotted a couple of Nelson green gecko (Naultinus stellatus) in the undergrowth and we are hoping they will become more common now that mammalian predators have been removed.


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