10 Stunning Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand© Rob Suisted - Destination Fiordland
10 Stunning Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand

10 Best Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand

© Rob Suisted – Destination Fiordland

Where to Go Sea Kayaking in New Zealand

There’s a pretty common rule in New Zealand that where there’s a coastal town, there’s kayaking. Kiwis love to get out on the water and kayaking is an awesome way to do it! Nothing beats the feeling of working for those stunning coastal views of pristine beaches, rugged cliffs, islands and marine wildlife. With more than 15,000 km of coastline in New Zealand, you bet there is a lot of sea kayaking to be done here. We’ll make the decision of picking a kayaking location easier by listing these stunning spots for sea kayaking in New Zealand!

All kayaking tours in New Zealand include a quick introductory lesson for kayaking, which is great if you have never paddled before. Otherwise, there are often options to hire a kayak and explore at your own leisure.

1. Auckland

Off the shores of Auckland is the body of water known as the Hauraki Gulf, dotted with volcanic islands and incredible to explore by sea kayak. Do just that with Social Nature Movement and their four-hour sea kayak tour to the breathtaking Motukorea (Browns Island). Suitable for beginners, this trip provides the perfect opportunity to spot all sorts of marine life on your journey across the Waitemata Harbour to this uninhabited volcanic island and wildlife sanctuary. Book your sea kayaking tour at socialnaturemovement.nz.

Location: Auckland Central, Auckland, North Island.

10 Best Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand© Social Nature Movement

2. Abel Tasman

The most popular activity in the Abel Tasman National Park (well, maybe apart from the Abel Tasman Great Walk) is sea kayaking. This national park is all about the coast with its pristine golden sand beaches backed by native forest. With lots of hut accommodation along the coast, it’s a great location to do a multi-day kayaking adventure. Otherwise, there are plenty of day options with water taxis taking you to the best kayaking spots. Kayaking trips depart from Marahau, Kaiteriteri and Golden Bay. Check out Abel Tasman Kayaks, R&R Kayaks and Wilson’s Abel Tasman to get you started. Plus, don’t miss these 10 Amazing Things to Do in the Abel Tasman National Park.

Location: Marahau, Kaiteriteri or Tata Beach (Golden Bay), Nelson Tasman, South Island.

10 Stunning Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand© Kaiteriteri Kayak - www.nelsontasman.nz

3. Milford Sound

Milford Sound was already on your New Zealand bucket list, right? One of the awesome ways to experience the towering fiord mountains and an obscene amount of waterfalls is by a kayak tour. Nothing else will make you feel smaller in this grand landscape. Book your kayak tour with Rosco’s Milford Kayaks or Southern Discoveries (more info on Viator and Klook). Plus, don’t miss these 15 Best Things to Do in Milford Sound.

Location: Milford Sound, Southland, South Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

4. Goat Island

Sea kayaking with a difference: the kayaks available to hire at Leigh‘s Goat Island Marine Reserve are completely clear so you can see the underwater wildlife. Marine life is thriving in this reserve where fishing and disturbing the marine life is prohibited so it’s a great way to see what lies beneath without getting wet! Clearyaks can be rented from the Goat Island Marine Reserve. Find out more about Goat Island in our 5 Fun Things to Do at Goat Island Marine Reserve.

Location: Leigh, Auckland, North Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

5. Queen Charlotte Sound

A paddle in the Queen Charlotte Sound in Picton is usually full of surprises, whether it’s the marine wildlife spotted or the stunning wilderness areas to enjoy within an hour’s paddle of Picton. Either take a tour from the Picton Harbour or hire a kayak from one of the many Queen Charlotte Sound resorts and see what you discover! Check out kayak tours with Wilderness Guides. Get some inspiration for more things to do in our 10 Awesome Activities in the Marlborough Sounds.

Location: Picton, Marlborough, South Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

6. Bay of Islands

In a bay named after its 144 islands, you know there’s plenty to explore by kayak! However, one of the more unique kayaking experiences in the Bay of Islands you can have is at night. Check out the bioluminescent algae creating sparkles in the water with the stroke of your paddle on The Rock Adventure Cruise. For more ways to get out on the water at this coastal paradise, check out the 10 Best Water Activities in the Bay of Islands.

Location: Paihia, Bay of Islands, Northland, North Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

7. Cathedral Cove

With vibrant turquoise water, white coastal cliffs, arches and caves, Cathedral Cove is a fantastic location for sea kayaking in New Zealand. Join Cathedral Cove Kayak Tours from the beaches of Hahei for an adventure paddling through island archways, delving into caves and spotting all sorts of marine animals and seabirds along the way. Of course, a highlight is reaching Cathedral Cove itself, where your guide will spruce up a barista coffee picnic. And try out these other 20 Best Things to Do in the Coromandel while you’re at it.

Location: Hahei, Coromandel, North Island.

10 Stunning Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

8. Whakatane

Either kayak to the island sanctuary of Moutohora (Whale Island) full of native birds or in the unique ecosystem of the Ohiwa Harbour. Whatever you choose, there are plenty of opportunities to marvel at the wildlife and see the beautiful coastline in the North Island coastal town of Whakatane. Tours are available with KG Kayaks. Check out more things to do in the area using the 15 Best Things to Do in Whakatane.

Location: Whakatane, Bay of Plenty, North Island.

NZPocketGuide.com© NZPocketGuide.com

9. Akaroa

The sheltered waters of the Akaroa Harbour are ideal for a kayaking tour or freedom kayak hire. See the awesome scenery of this harbour formed in the crater of an ancient volcano and watch out for Hector’s dolphins and little blue penguins which are abundant in the area. Check out tours with Akaroa Guided Kayaks for their fantastic sunrise wildlife kayaking experience. Plus, don’t miss more things to do listed in the 15 Best Things to Do in Akaroa.

Location: Akaroa, Canterbury, South Island.

10 Stunning Spots for Sea Kayaking in New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

10. Doubtful Sound

And last but certainly not least is the pristine natural wilderness of Doubtful Sound. Most have heard of Milford Sound, but Doubtful Sound is its big brother being twice the size! If you want that wilderness kayaking experience where you hear nothing but the water and the calls of native birds, then consider a day or multi-day trip in Doubtful Sound. Tours are available with Doubtful Sound Kayak and RealNZ. It’s definitely one to add to the Fiordland must-do list along with the 15 Best Things to Do in Fiordland National Park!

Location: Lake Manapouri, Southland, South Island.

 Steve Cadman on Flickr© Steve Cadman on Flickr

More About Sea Kayaking in New Zealand

That’s it for our guide to sea kayaking in New Zealand and the best sea kayak tours in New Zealand. Looking for a specific type of kayak tour? Check these out:

Finally, complete your NZ bucket list with the 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List.


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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