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  • Writer's pictureMia Westwood

Best Places to Watch Orcas in New Zealand

New Zealand, a land of pristine natural beauty and diverse wildlife, offers a unique opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts and adventure seekers to witness one of the ocean's most magnificent creatures – orcas. Also known as killer whales, these majestic marine mammals are highly intelligent and awe-inspiring to observe in their natural habitat.

If you're looking for the best places to watch orcas in New Zealand, we have compiled a list of top destinations where you can increase your chances of encountering these incredible animals up close.


Located on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, Kaikoura is renowned for its incredible marine life encounters. This coastal town attracts visitors from around the world to witness orcas, along with other marine mammals such as humpback whales, dolphins, and seals.


Boat tours are the most popular way to explore the waters of Kaikoura, offering a chance to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat while enjoying the breathtaking backdrop of the Kaikoura Ranges.

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands, situated in the North Island, is not only a paradise for water-based activities but also a prime location for orca sightings. The best time to visit is from December to March when the marine life is most active.

Take a whale-watching tour, and you might be lucky enough to witness pods of orcas hunting and playing in the clear blue waters of this picturesque region.


The remote and stunning Fiordland, located in the southwest corner of the South Island, is another hotspot for orca sightings.


The fiords, with their dramatic cliffs and serene waters, offer an extraordinary backdrop for witnessing these awe-inspiring creatures. While you can't guarantee orca sightings, exploring this pristine wilderness is a memorable experience in itself.

Hauraki Gulf Marine Park

Situated near Auckland, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park is a protected area with abundant marine life. Orcas are frequently spotted here, especially between November and March.

A variety of tour operators offer boat trips and eco-tours that focus on responsible wildlife viewing, ensuring the preservation of these beautiful creatures and their natural habitat.

Stewart Island

For the adventurous souls, Stewart Island, located off the southern tip of the South Island, provides a unique opportunity to see orcas in their natural environment. The island's secluded and rugged coastline offers a fantastic chance to observe these magnificent marine mammals in a more isolated setting.

Stewart Island
Image via TripSavvy

Guided boat tours and kayak excursions can enhance your chances of encountering orcas and other marine species.


Nestled in the Banks Peninsula on the South Island, Akaroa is a charming French-inspired town known for its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife. Akaroa Harbour is a popular spot for dolphin and orca sightings, and many tour operators offer cruises to give visitors a chance to witness these captivating creatures in action.

Watch Orcas in New Zealand, But Safely

When planning your orca-watching adventure in New Zealand, remember to prioritize responsible tourism practices. Opt for tour operators that adhere to strict guidelines for approaching and observing marine wildlife, ensuring minimal disturbance to their natural behavior.

Please keep in mind that while these locations increase your chances of encountering orcas, wildlife sightings are never guaranteed due to the unpredictable nature of marine animals.

Nevertheless, the stunning landscapes, rich marine biodiversity, and the possibility of witnessing orcas in their natural habitat make these destinations truly remarkable for any wildlife enthusiast.

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