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.
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.
25 of the Best Things to Do in New Zealand
Windswept alpine crossings, towering mountains peppered with snow, deep fjords, secluded stretches of golden sands, volcanically charged geothermal zones, primal forests and a unique culture. You’d be forgiven for thinking this blissful description doesn’t fit just one country. Add onto this active volcanoes and vast glaciers, and New Zealand has it all – a country so spectacularly diverse, it’s rare for a person to leave without falling in love with the place. Read on to pique your wanderlust with 25 of the best things to do in New Zealand.
When is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand
New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are in direct contrast to Europe. It’s also around the same size as the UK, so the climate can vary between North and South Islands.
17 Incredible Beaches in New Zealand You Have to Visit
With over 14,000 km of spectacular coastline, New Zealand is a fantastic destination for a beach holiday. Whether you want to surf, swim, dive or simply lay back and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, you’ll be sure to find the perfect beach in New Zealand.