new zealand kaikoura sperm whale shore backdrop istk

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.

Here is a list of places throughout New Zealand where dolphin watching and swimming trips operate:

North Island

  • Paihia (Bay of Islands)*
  • Whakatane (Bay of Plenty)*
  • Auckland

South Island

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

* offers the chance to swim with dolphins when conditions are right, but this cannot be guaranteed

Speak to a specialist

Whale Watching Holidays in New Zealand

Whale and Dolphin Explorer

from £3,676
excluding flights
20 nights Year round
Immerse yourself in a wealth of wildlife and nature on this fantastic self drive.
  • Wildlife
  • Self Drive
  • Whale Watching
  • Bird Watching

Wildlife Encounters

from £4,686
excluding flights
21 nights Jan-Mar, Oct-Dec
Track down New Zealand's endemic wildlife on this self drive nature tour.
  • Wildlife
  • Self Drive
  • Whale Watching
  • Bird Watching