Kaikoura famous to be one of the best places for whale watching is situated almost 200 km north of Christchurch. It's less than three hours drive on Hwy 1.
Kaikoura is a popular tourist destination and the best in New Zealand for whale and dolphin watching throughout the year. There are resident sperm whales with a 95 % chance of a sighting. Common, Hector, and Dusky Dolphins are also spotted year-round. Usually, there are two seasons for whale watching but exceptions occur, and you watch an unexpected pod of orcas during the winter. Continue reading to figure out details when to spot the different whale types in Kaikoura and what kind of trips are offered.
2 Whale Watching Seasons
- During the colder season from May to October migrating whales are spotted; southern right whales, humpback whales, pilot whales and sometimes even blue whales.
During spring and summer, you may spot pods of orcas and sometimes blue whales as well.
Crowds / Fully Booked Tours
It's a very popular attraction and advisable to book these tours in advance especially during the peak season in summer. Early morning trips are not always fully booked, but from 10 am onwards the boats fill up pretty fast. Either book an early morning whale watching trip or far in advance if you prefer a later tour. One of the best tours is being offered by Whale Watch Kaikoura: Kaikoura Whale Watching Cruise (book in advance)
Temps are pleasant from November to March often around 20°C during the day. Nights temps are usually around 10°C. From April to October, the temps are on average above 10°C up to 16 °C. Significant rainfall can happen throughout the year. The wettest months occur from March to August. Due to the forecast tours can get canceled. Often the wind increases in the afternoon, and it's pretty rough on the boat. Be prepared if you struggle from sea-sickness.
Seal Colony in Kaikoura
There are day trips available from Christchurch to Kaikoura and back just for the whale watching trip. If you are limited in time that's a good idea. We loved to stay in Kaikoura for three reasons; First tours can get canceled due to poor weather, second, if there isn't any whale sighting you get 80 % refunded and you could book a second trip, third there is so much more to explore in Kaikoura like the fur seal colony. Bookmark the link for the best accommodation deals in Kaikoura and stay here at least for two nights.