5 Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand


Where to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand

Not many experiences match that of swimming with some of the world’s most intelligent (and ridiculously cute) creatures. A must-do in New Zealand is to swim with dolphins, where they can be playful and swim close to you. What’s more, there are no pools, no confinement or treating the dolphins cruelly, you swim with dolphins in New Zealand in the wild. You are in the dolphins’ environment and they choose whether they want to swim with you. Spoiler alert: they usually want to!

One pointer: make sure to check with your tour operator if there is actually swimming taking place when on a dolphin tour. The Department of Conservation (DoC) guidelines determine whether you can join the dolphins, so their natural behaviour is not disturbed. Nevertheless, the opportunity to see dolphins so closely in the wild is an unforgettable and unique experience.

1. Kaikoura

There are opportunities to swim with dusky dolphins all year round in Kaikoura. This species of dolphin is known for their acrobatic ability, so swimmers could be in for bonus entertainment. Wildlife-lovers will also enjoy Kaikoura for its seal, whale and albatross sightings too! Book your dolphin swim with Dolphin Encounter on Klook. Find out more about Kaikoura in The Complete Guide to Kaikoura.©

2. Akaroa

Swim with the world’s smallest dolphins: Hector’s dolphins. Hector’s dolphins are super friendly so are bound to come close and say hello (in their own dolphin way). What also makes swimming with dolphins in Akaroa special is the vibrant blue water, as well as the high possibility of spotting penguins and seals along the way. Plan your dolphin swimming experience with Black Cat Cruises and find out more about Akaroa in The Complete Guide to Akaroa.©

3. Marlborough Sounds

Beautiful scenery surrounds you while there is a possibility of seeing five different species of dolphin. There is a high swim success to be had in the summer at Marlborough Sounds. Book your tour with E-Ko Tours on Viator, Tripadvisor or Klook for dolphin viewing and/or swimming. Learn more about this beautiful part of the South Island in Top 10 Natural Attractions in Marlborough.©

4. Bay of Plenty

There is the opportunity to swim with more than just dolphins, as the waters of the Bay of Plenty hold seals, whales, sunfish and blue penguins. Dolphin swimming tours depart from Tauranga and have a different style of swimming where you hold onto the back of the boat while it slowly pulls you along, making you seem a lot more interesting to the dolphins. Book your trip with Dolphin Seafaris (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) or Orca Wild Adventures (on Viator and Tripadvisor). Check out Tauranga and Mt Maunganui – Guide for Backpackers.©

5. The Bay of Islands

[Update: swimming with bottlenose dolphins is now prohibited in the Bay of Islands. Dolphin-viewing cruises still operate in the afternoons].

The Bay of Islands has warmer water in summer making it a more pleasant swimming option. Dolphins are common visitors to the bay and many cruises have the option to pop on a wetsuit and get in the water when the opportunity arises. If your sighting is unsuccessful, then a couple of companies offer you to come back again free of charge. It’s worth checking whether you can swim with dolphins in the Bay of Islands due to common DoC restrictions.©

More About Swimming with Dolphins in New Zealand and More

If these dolphin pictures didn’t make you melt, maybe you should have a look at our:


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in New Zealand over 10 years ago and with a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to travel New Zealand. She knows Aotearoa inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience New Zealand’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides and is the co-host of NZ Pocket Guide’s live New Zealand travel Q&As on YouTube.

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