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Where to Whale Watch in New Zealand

By Editorial Team   Last Updated: 31 March 2023

Exploring New Zealand by yacht charter is like no other experience, with towering mountain ranges, magnificent lush landscapes and striking coastlines making it a spectacular superyacht destination.

Whether you’re looking for an activity that gets your pulse racing on your superyacht charter, or something a little more relaxed, whale watching off the coast of New Zealand is an unmissable and truly magical experience for everyone.

Not only one is New Zealand one of the world’s most pristine destinations with an incredibly diverse landscape with a third of the land protected, the waters are home to 25 out of 37 of the Southern Hemispheres marine mammals, making it some of the best seas to spot a plethora of whales and dolphins.

From year-round residents to seasonal migraters passing through on their travels from Antarctica to the tropics, the geography of New Zealand provides the perfect environment for sighting these majestic creatures on a crewed yacht charter. 

Whale fluke in the waters of New Zealand

Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island, the Bay of Islands situated at the northernmost peak of the North Island, and Hauraki Gulf in Auckland are some the best places to spot whales from Humpbacks to Orcas and, if you’re lucky, a fleeting glimpse of the giant Blue Whale. At these locations the chance of whale sightings are almost guaranteed; creating a moment to cherish with your friends and family for years to come.

In Kaikoura, there are year-round sightings of Sperm Whales; one of the only places in the world where you are guaranteed to spot them. The 18-metre, 60 tonne giants are the deepest diving of the species and treat the nutrient rich subtropical waters off the coast of this South island point as one of their favourite hangouts for feeding. For unrivalled views of these whales revelling in their natural habitat, why not take a helicopter ride and keep your eyes peeled for their blow-spray breaking the surface as it reaches heights of up to 15 feet.

Aerial view of a Humpback whale in sea in New Zealand whilst whale watchingSperm whale at water's surface in new zealand
aerial view of Kaikoura in New Zealand

What draws Sperm Whales, and others such as the Humpback, Pilot, and Southern Right Whale, to this area repeatedly is the unusual submarine landscape. Due to the extremely deep underwater canyons produced by the drop in the continental shelf, the conditions are ideal for the whales that retreat to these ocean's mysterious depths.

For the best chance of spotting the inquisitive and acrobatic Humpback Whale, the Southern Right Whale – which is extremely active on the surface – and large pods of Pilot Whales, visit these desired regions between the months of June and August. The whales pass through the area from the Antarctic in the summer and the South Pacific for the winter. During October to March you’ll also be able to spot the majestic apex predator Orca Whale in pods of five to fifteen.

The landscape of New Zealand is as equally remarkable as the marine life, and with snow-peaked mountains in the background and golden sands in the foreground as a whale breaches the surface, the whole experience becomes something utterly spellbinding.

Whale watching is a unique experience and no sighting is the same. It’s the mystery of these enigmatic creatures which fascinates and captivates you

The Bay of Islands is home to some of the most breathtaking beaches peppered across more than 100 islands in secluded inlets and across immaculate sweeping bays. The striking volcanic black rocks and rugged cliffs that mark the coastline are ideal for exploration and dropping anchor on a relaxing New Zealand yacht charter vacation – or returning to after adventuring out to the bountiful marine adventure playground.

aerial view of Bay of Islands in new zealand
Orcas seen in New Zealand when whale watching

Covering an area of 4000 square kilometers Hauraki Gulf is privileged to be one of the world’s richest marine regions with more than twenty-two species of whales and dolphins are estimated to inhabit the Gulf’s waters. In a similar way the Bay of Islands is host to an abundance of sea wildlife from penguins, Fur Seals and sea birds from Australian Gannets to the endangered Dotterel, displaying how plentiful the wildlife around New Zealand is and a spectacle that cannot be missed. Vast pods of Bottlenose Dolphins will also be on your checklist as they spend all year feeding, breeding and frolicking in the safe balmy waters, making these areas perfect for marine watching whether that’s diving, snorkeling or onboard your charter yacht in New Zealand.

For your chance to spot some of the more endangered species visit between June and July to catch a rare glimpse of the Blue Whale, or head to Hauraki Gulf to spot the endangered Bryde’s Whale, one of the most anticipated whales amongst whale watchers. These relatively small elongated whales with twin blowholes are New Zealand inhabitants for most of the year and are sometimes seen with their heads out of the water, also known as spy hopping. Grab a canoe to get a closer and more personal experience, grasping the true size of the mammal as it effortlessly swims past.

Bryde Whale eating in New Zealand at water's surface
Fur Seal underwater in New Zealand
Bottlenose dolphins seen whilst whale watching in New Zealand

Across New Zealand the whales are protected by the Marine Mammals Protection Act which is fantastic for the future of the whales and also means that you get unrivalled and extraordinary sightings of some the world’s most mysterious mammals in their natural, and exquisite, environment. Whale watching is a unique experience and no sighting is the same, from far away or up close you might capture whales feeding skilfully and methodically, majestic tale flicks marking a deep-dive or impressive acrobatic displays. It’s the mystery of these enigmatic creatures which fascinates and captivates you.

Yacht charters in New Zealand

Whether you’ve never seen a whale before, or whether you’re eager to see your next gentle giant, your breath is guaranteed be taken away. For your chance to whale watch in New Zealand, please contact your preferred charter broker to plan an itinerary.

Alternatively, compare all our luxury yachts available for charter in New Zealand.

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