Penguins are Awesome. Enough Said.
New Zealand gives you the rare opportunity to observe penguins in their natural habitat. The three main penguin species native to New Zealand are the little blue penguins, yellow-eyed penguins and Fiordland-crested penguins. There are many penguin-spotting options in New Zealand, from the commercial operations where you are most likely to see penguins to seeing them by chance on New Zealand’s beaches. When going to observe penguins by yourself, be sure to give them enough space in order to not disturb their natural behaviour. So where can you see penguins in New Zealand?
Well, blue penguins/little penguins are the most common sightings in New Zealand with some being seen as far north as Auckland all the way down to Stewart Island. Take a look at the list below for a list of where to see some of the rarest penguins in New Zealand.
1. The Banks Peninsula
The largest mainland colony of little blue penguins can be found on the Banks Peninsula outside of Christchurch. They also hold a species of white-flippered little blue penguins only found here in Canterbury. With feedings for blue penguins in rehabilitation and plenty of spots to observe them behaving naturally from Pohatu Penguins’ tour leaving Akaroa, the Banks Peninsula allows you to get the closest look at New Zealand’s little blue penguins. It’s likely that you’ll spot the odd blue penguin out on the water in the Akaroa Harbour. Learn more in The Complete Travel Guide to Akaroa.
Location: Tours start from Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, Christchurch
See blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins just before sunset. Oamaru has even been dubbed Penguintown. Either spot them finding their nesting burrows along the coastline at dusk or watch rafts of penguins come home after a hard day’s fishing at the Blue Penguin Colony. Find out more in Oamaru & Waitaki – Guide for Backpackers
A popular backpacker destination, Dunedin hosts wildlife tours and has several yellow-eyed penguin conservation areas. Although you may spot penguins randomly on the beaches on the Otago Peninsula, we recommend taking a wildlife tour to significantly increase your chances of spotting one of the rarest penguin species in the world. Check out The Complete Travel Guide to Dunedin.
Location: Otago Peninsula, Dunedin
4. The Marlborough Sounds
As well as the little blue penguins, the Marlborough Sounds is a great place to also see dolphins, seals and whales. Keep your eyes peeled when taking a boat cruise through this stunning area on the top of the South Island.
Location: Marlborough Sounds, Picton, Marlborough
5. Stewart Island
Stewart Island is arguably one of the best places to see a variety of birds in New Zealand. Among that variety of birds are possible sightings of little blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins. Have a look around the wharf in Oban and the coastline at dusk for your best chances of spotting them.
Find out more about how to get to Stewart Island here: Stewart Island – Guide for Backpackers.
6. Munro Beach
Munro Beach is home to the world’s second rarest penguin species: Tawaki a.k.a Fiordland-crested penguin. If you are lucky enough to see one, enjoy observing them from a distance in order to not disturb their natural behaviour.
Location: Munro Beach, Lake Moeraki, 30km north of Haast.
Little blue penguins flock to Caroline Bay at dusk, nesting along the edges of the beach in the roped-off areas. Observe them from behind the rope, watching parents feed their chicks and nesting burrow interactions.
Location: Caroline Bay, Timaru, Canterbury
8. The Catlins
The Catlins Coast in Southland is home to many fascinating marine wildlife, including penguins! A commonplace to see yellow-eyed penguins is at Curio Bay when parents are often seen coming back to shore in the early morning/evening to feed their chicks. Please respect the signs at Curio Bay to indicate how far you should keep your distance. Find out more in 18 Amazing Attractions You Can’t Miss in The Catlins.
Location: Curio Bay, Catlins, Southland/Otago