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New Zealand Whale Watching Holidays

Gasp as they breach, sigh as a fluke disappears back under the waves, scan the ocean’s sparking surface for a tell-tale plume of spray. Whale watching is a magical experience and, with thousands of miles of unspoiled coast and unpolluted nutrient-rich seas, New Zealand’s coastal waters are an incredible place to do it.

A variety of whales and dolphins can be spotted from the shore and on boat trips all around the country, so it’s easy to include a whale or dolphin watching excursion into your independent touring or self-drive itinerary.

The most reliable place to see whales in New Zealand is at Kaikoura. Mighty sperm whales, the largest of the toothed whales, gather to feed just a few miles off this seaside town on the east coast of the South Island. You might also encounter visiting orcas, humpback whales and perhaps even blue whales in New Zealand’s coastal waters. Keep your eyes peeled for them on a whale watching cruise or during a thrilling scenic flight over the ocean.

Common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and dusky dolphins also frolick in the surf, as do Hector’s dolphins – one of the world’s smallest species, which are only found around New Zealand. You’ll be able to spot them on a dolphin watching boat trip, but you can also get even closer and swim with dolphins in New Zealand.

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Top locations for spotting cetaceans in New Zealand

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North Island

  • Paihia (Bay of Islands)
  • Whakatane (Bay of Plenty)
  • Auckland
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South Island

  • Kaikoura
  • Akaroa (Banks Peninsula)
  • Milford & Doubtful Sounds
  • Marlborough Sounds