Top 8 Locations In New Zealand To Spot Whales

Whales to spot in New Zealand
Top 8 Locations in New Zealand to Spot Whales

Any visitor to New Zealand wishes to watch whales, and you can spot whales throughout New Zealand. When you spot the massive mammal, you will jump in excitement, and looking at the whale’s appearance for the first time is a real-life experience for many.

New Zealand’s waters are the fourth largest marine territory in the world, with a whale migrating route going straight through them.

It will be no surprise that there are some excellent whale-watching tours from the coast of New Zealand.

From the year-round show of sperm whales in Kaikoura to the frequent visits by orcas in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand provides an excellent opportunity to see an unreal variety of whale species.

Almost half of the world’s whale species are seen around New Zealand’s coast.

Types of whales in New Zealand

Types of whales in New Zealand
Types of whales in New Zealand

Whales and dolphins belong to a group of animals called cetaceans. They can be divided into two families:

  • Toothed whales have teeth, though these may not always be obvious. These whales use sound waves in echolocation to navigate and hunt for fish and squid. New Zealand examples include sperm whales, pilot whales, and dolphins.
  • Baleen whales have plates of baleen suspended from the roof of their mouths, through which enormous quantities of krill are sucked from the water. These whales are generally larger than toothed whales and include the largest whale of all, the blue whale. New Zealand examples include humpbacks and southern right whales.
  • Blue Whales: The blue whale is the largest animal in the world. There are two subspecies of blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere: the Antarctic (or true) blue whale and the pygmy blue whale.
  • Humpback Whales: Humpback whales are easy to identify and well-known for their spectacular breaching and beautiful, complex songs.
  • Southern Right Whales: These baleen whales can be recognized easily by their strongly arched mouth, lack of dorsal fin, and V-shaped blowhole spray.
  • Sperm Whales: Sperm whales are one of the easiest to identify at sea. These animals are widespread around the world but have a patchy distribution.

So here are the five top locations to visit if you want to spot whales.

Remember, you can spot them simply by chance when exploring New Zealand’s coast by boat or kayak and have your camera ready to take a shot.

Top Locations in New Zealand to Spot Whales

1. Kaikoura


Kaikoura is the only place you can see giant sperm whales on a tour. Plus, you can visit them all year round. You can view the whales by boat, hop on a plane, and get a unique view of them from the sky.

On a whale-watching encounter in Kaikoura, you will likely see other sea life, such as fur seals and dolphins. All of which are attracted to the continental shelf close to the land known as the Kaikoura Canyon.

2. Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf

Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf
Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf

Search for whales straight from the city of Auckland. Orcas are known to be regular visitors to the Auckland harbour, making the Hauraki Gulf, the body of water on the east coast of Auckland, a great place to start searching for our flippered friends.

Ryne’s whales and common dolphins are the usual species seen on the Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari, although you may see four or five different species on one trip. 

The probability of seeing a whale on an Auckland whale-watching cruise is 75%, depending on your luck.

3. Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands
Bay of Islands

Though no tours are dedicated to whale watching in the Bay of Islands, whales are frequent visitors to the bay.

Keep an eye out for orca and Bryde’s whales, most often seen between May and July when on a boat or kayaking trip out in the bay. It is also possible to see long-finned pilots, humpbacks, and even blue whales.

4. Marlborough Sounds

Marlborough Sounds
Marlborough Sounds

Situated along a migratory route between the North and South Island, it’s no surprise that the Marlborough Sounds has its fair share of marine mammals.

Back in the day, Marlborough Sounds was a hub for whaling, but today, thankfully, all that has changed is viewing them from a safe distance (for the whales). You are most likely to spot orcas among several species of dolphins in Marlborough Sounds.

5. Whakatane


Take a cruise from Whakatane to the active volcano of White Island and the aptly named Whale Island for multiple wildlife encounters.

The ocean around White Island is a hugely popular diving spot and a great attraction for marine mammals: spot whales and dolphins on boat tours on the bay. Otherwise, orca, minke, and pilot whales can sometimes be seen from Whakatane’s shore.

6. Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

You will not find all the whale-watching sights on the South Island of Aotearoa. The Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is a wonderland for marine life with more than 1.2 million hectares, six marine reserves, and 50 islands, making it a tremendous whale-watching spot in New Zealand.

This has become a paradise for sea creatures, resulting in one-third of the world’s marine species having visited the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

This is the home to the highly rare Bryde’s whale, as fewer than 200 of them are in New Zealand, all located within or close to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

7. Moutohora Island

Moutohora Island
Moutohora Island

Moutohora Island, also called Whale Island, is named for a good reason. It is not only home to endangered whales, but the unharmed nature of Moutohora Island has made it a sanctuary for other rare species, such as plants, reptiles, birds, and other sea animals.

The four-hour tour lets us get a good look at the island’s magic while preserving this haven’s natural beauty for rare specimens. It can be said to be one of the best places to see whales in New Zealand.

8. Akaroa


Many link Akaroa with the infamous Akaroa salmon they’re so famous for. Akaroa is also where dolphins love to swim, and whales love to dive.

Over the past few years, the number of visitors to Humpback whales has been increasing, and if you are Lucy, you can also see these scarce mammals passing through the waters at Akaroa.

You may also like: TVNZ on demand


These are some of the top whale-watching locations that you can visit in New Zealand if you happen to pay a visit to this vibrant city.

About the author

Kamal Kaur

Kamal Kaur

Kamal Kaur has been an integral voice in the New Zealand gaming landscape for years.

As a senior writer for PokiesMobile NZ, Kamal brings rich experiences from her diverse background.

Born in India and later migrating to New Zealand, she effortlessly blends her cultural insights with a deep love for gaming.

Kamal is renowned for her in-depth game analysis, player strategies, and knack for spotting industry trends.