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The Best Places To Go Dolphin Spotting Across New Zealand

If you love wildlife, New Zealand is definitely an excellent place to visit. There are so many animals to see here, especially in the water. Dolphin lovers can expect to see plenty of these creatures swimming around the island. Of course, if you want to guarantee a sighting, you’ll need to make sure you visit the right places.

Hauraki Gulf

Given that dolphin-watching cruises set off around this part of Auckland, it’s no surprise that this is an excellent place to visit if you want to see the animals. On a good day, you can spot plenty of wonderful creatures enjoying themselves in the water, from bottlenose dolphins to minke whales. This part of New Zealand is definitely worth traveling to if you wish to see as much marine life as possible.

Marlborough Sounds

Another area of New Zealand that offers dedicated cruises is Marlborough Sounds. Of course, you don’t always need to go on one of these to see dolphins. The animals sometimes love chasing the ferries that take you here in the first place. The cruise is worthwhile if you like birds, though, because it often stops on Motuara Island, which hosts a sanctuary for these airborne animals.

Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands is already one of the most popular places to visit in the northern part of the country, thanks to its beautiful sights and range of activities. The presence of dolphins here just makes it even more inviting, with bottlenose and common varieties often seen around these parts. The conditions are perfect for these animals – what with the water being calm, sheltered, and warm – as well as the odd orca whale.

Banks Peninsula

If you’re interested in dolphins, then you’re probably aware that there are more than one species of this animal. The rarest of these is Hector’s dolphin, which is also one of the smallest. You can potentially spot them in several places around New Zealand, but the Banks Peninsula is one of the most reliable. While there’s a chance you’ll see some on a cruise, your best bet is to take to the water yourself. Your odds of spotting one while sea kayaking are probably better because you won’t be as disruptive as a big boat.


When it comes to animal spotting, Kaikoura is more favored for seeing whales instead of dolphins. However, just because the former are more common, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to catch sight of the latter. Plenty of dusky dolphins swim around here, thanks to the combination of warm and cold ocean currents. Kaikoura is also worth a visit for the settlement itself, which is a small town in the north of Canterbury.

There’s always a risk that you’ll visit these places and won’t see a dolphin. However, that’s always going to be a possibility, no matter where you look. Thankfully, the odds are largely in your favor if you do hit up one of these spots. So, there’s a good chance you’ll return home with the joy of having seen the animal up close.