Where to See Seals in New Zealand
Why is New Zealand an awesome country for backpackers? Because of these priceless activities such as watching wild seal pups playing in the water. But where exactly can you see seals in New Zealand?
A number of coastal walks in New Zealand take you to viewpoints for seal colonies or you can get a closer look by even swimming with them with specialised activity providers.
When seeking seals along the coast, The Department of Conservation advises people to stay at least 10m away from seal colonies, especially if you are in a group. The seals you are most likely to see are the native New Zealand fur seal. Look out for seal pups between mid-November to mid-January.
1. The Kaikoura Peninsula
Kaikoura is famous in New Zealand for attracting a wealth of wildlife from dolphins to whales. Part of that group is the New Zealand fur seals, which have numerous colonies around the Kaikoura Peninsula. A great way to see these colonies is along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Alternatively, just park up at the Kean Point car park at the start of the walkway, and it’s likely that the seals will be taking up the parking spots. For more information, check out Kaikoura – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Kaikoura, South Island
2. Swim with Seals in Kaikoura
Take it a step further from just seeing. Experience a close encounter with seals showing off their water acrobatics for you. This wildlife encounter is one of the cheaper options in Kaikoura so is ideal for a backpacker budget. Book your adventure with Seal Swim Kaikoura on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Location: Kaikoura, South Island
3. Milford Sound
Frolicking in the water or snoozing on a rock, the seals can be seen on a cruise or kayak around the waters of Milford Sound. They are most commonly seen on “Seal Rock”. Don’t worry, you’re guide will point them out to you.
Location: Milford Sound, South Island
4. Tauranga Bay/Cape Foulwind
This short coastal walk near Westport on the West Coast has a viewing platform for a seal colony. For full details, see Westport – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Westport, South Island
5. Sandfly Bay
Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula is the place for seals to top up their tan. You can spot yellow-eyed penguins here too. Remember to not approach these creatures too closely. For more places to spot penguins, check out 8 Best Places to See Penguins in New Zealand.
Location: Dunedin, South Island
6. Sinclair Head
You will have to take the Red Rocks walk to get to this seal colony. The bachelor seals that couldn’t find a mate come to Sinclair Head between May and October.
Location: Wellington, North Island
7. Wharariki Beach
A walk leading to the northern tip of the South Island gives you the opportunity to do some seal spotting along the way. There are even seal pups around March to May. Warning: the extreme cuteness of these seal pups may make you melt. For more information, see Tasman and Golden Bay – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Goolden Bay, South Island
8. Cape Palliser
In the most southern point of the North Island, you can see the North Island’s largest seal colony and climb 250 steps to view from the lighthouse. Find out more in Wairarapa – Guide for Backpackers.
Location: Wairarapa, North Island
9. Nugget Point
Not only a stunning photo opportunity from the lighthouse, but a great view of a seal colony chilling out on the rocks below. Find out more in 18 Amazing Attractions You Can’t Miss in The Catlins
Location: Catlins, South Island
10. Shag Point
Close to the Moeraki Boulders, north of Dunedin is Shag Point. Apart from a suggestive name, Shag Point is home to seals and penguins.
Location: North Otago, South Island
Akaroa, off the coast of Kaikoura, is another wildlife hub in New Zealand for penguins, dolphins and, of course, New Zealand fur seals! Hop on a boat tour to really make the most of seal viewing. Check out The Complete Travel Guide to Akaroa.
Location: Akaroa, South Island
12. Abel Tasman National Park
A kayaking trip or water taxi in the Abel Tasman National Park often comes with sightings of New Zealand fur seals. They’re either lying on rocky islands or swimming around kayaks.
Location: Abel Tasman National Park, South Island
13. Farewell Spit
Farewell Spit is the longest sand spit in New Zealand, situated in Golden Bay. This is one of the most protected areas in New Zealand for its wildlife, some of which include New Zealand fur seals.
Location: Golden Bay, South Island
14. Marlborough Sounds
It’s not unusual to see seals on islands and swimming in the waters of the Marlborough Sounds. Go kayaking from Picton or head on a boat trip to D’Urville Island to improve your chances of seeing seals.
Location: Picton, South Island
Can’t Get Enough of Cute Marine Wildlife?
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