A Guide to Whale Watching in New Zealand

A Guide to Whale Watching in New Zealand

New Zealand is a remarkable country, with outstanding wildlife and dramatic scenery making it a truly desirable destination. Against the stunning vistas of wide-open oceans or pretty coastal harbours, whale watching in New Zealand is an awe-inspiring way to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

The Best Time to Visit New Zealand for Whale Watching

The beautiful coastlines of New Zealand are ideal for whale-watching trips at any time of year, with each season bringing their own highlights. While orca and sperm whales can be seen in various locations all year round, other migratory species such as humpback and blue whales are most likely to be spotted during the winter months from May through to August, depending on your location.

The Best Locations to Go Whale Watching

Along the coast of both North and South Islands, you'll be truly spoilt for choice when it comes to destinations to see whales in New Zealand, with local and migratory species enjoying these gorgeous waters.

Bay of Islands

Located off the eastern coast of North Island, the Bay of Islands is an area of breathtaking natural beauty. A collection of 144 islands sit in a natural harbour of around 10 miles, creating a stunning haven for wildlife. Orca whales in pods of up to 30 individuals are regular visitors in the winter months, with pilot whales and the elusive Bryde's whales also making an appearance throughout the year.

Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf

While Auckland, being one of New Zealand's major cities, may not be the obvious choice for a whale-watching experience, the Hauraki Gulf that covers a huge area of coastline, including Auckland, is home to a large orca population. Drawn close to the shores by large numbers of prey - in this case, stingrays - orcas can be regularly seen in large numbers during winter.

Whakatane and the Bay of Plenty

Whakatane, located in the Bay of Plenty on North Island, is a popular destination for those seeking an exciting whale-watching experience. Over 30 miles of tranquil, golden sandy coastline surround the bay where you can spot the real giants of the sea. Humpback and blue whales, which can grow to lengths of 16 and 25 metres respectively, pass through these shores as they migrate north to warmer waters in the winter months from May to July.

Marlborough Sounds

The gap between North and South Islands, or the Marlborough Sounds, were prolific hunting grounds for whalers back in the 1800s and early 1900s. Now it's an area of great conservation and natural beauty, with orcas thriving in the area during the summer months, and humpback whales passing through in the winter.


On the east coast of South Island, many species of whale visit thanks to the Kaikoura Canyon - a continental shelf - around 800 metres off the coast. Boasting ocean depths of over 1,200 metres, it's an ideal hunting and feeding ground. The giant sperm whales can easily be seen all year round, with humpback whales regular visitors in the winter months, and orcas in the summer. This incredible spot is also a destination for the occasional blue and pilot whales, so you'll be sure to have a memorable experience.

Going on an incredible whale-watching trip is one of the best things to do in New Zealand. For more information, or to book your trip, please contact the True Luxury team today.

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