5 places to see penguins in New Zealand

With increasing numbers of tourists coming to New Zealand, we have to be mindful of the impact on our native wildlife.

There is now an alarming decline in penguin numbers in New Zealand. Research is showing that one of the biggest problems facing our penguins today is people’s desire to see them. Penguins (like any other animals) should not be approached and a minimum distance of at least 20 meters should be kept at all times.

Please do not be a reason for the extinction of our wonderful wildlife. Many of us are trying very hard to save penguins and are mortified by what thoughtless visitors to our country are doing in the sole purpose of getting a photo: e.g. climbing over protected fenced area, taking a selfie and stopping penguins from going home to feed their chicks…


Please do consider a guided tour to assure you do not impact any wildlife.


Here is our selection of the 5 places that you should not miss if like us you care for the penguins.


Pohatu penguin colony.

Pohatu is at the end of a 4WD steep rugged road. A fleet of 4WD mini vans will take you from Akaroa to Pohatu to see the largest colony of Little penguins on mainland New Zealand. And if you are lucky the Yellow Eye penguins as some do breed at the bay.

You will learn of the extensive conservation program run at Pohatu by the landowners and Pohatu penguin team. It is still a natural colony with penguin behaviour unspoiled by public access. You will be able to watch penguins rafting and interacting on the water before slowly making their way ashore with darkness. There is strictly no viewing after dark as the penguins travel huge distances to feed chicks and simply will not come ashore if people are around.

As it has been happening for the last 30 years proceeds from tours help with the costs of conservation of the penguins: predator controls, nesting sites, rehabilitation…


Oamaru - Blue Penguin colony.

This is a penguin Parade that will give you great viewing from grandstands as the penguins come up under dimmed lights. There is wonderful research coming out of Oamaru funded by the attraction.


Otago peninsula.

Here there are a number of good guided tours to see penguins.

Penguin Place has both Yellow Eye and Little blue penguins. It is well set up and part of the rehabilitation program of sick or injured penguins.

Elm Wildlife tours also run a great tour to Papanui Beach where Yellow Eyed penguins and the Hookers sea lion can be seen.

Pilots Beach also has a Little penguin attraction.



At Moeraki there is a very high diversity of wildlife and sea-birds but it is unfortunately the typical example of uncontrolled tourism having a devastating impact on the population of yellow eyed penguins. What has happened at Moeraki is devastating for penguin conservation and has all penguin conservationists very upset. It became overrun by tourists that disturbed the penguins so badly that what was the best penguin colony in New Zealand has almost failed altogether. So please if you do go there join Penguin Rescue a charitable trust operating from the lighthouse. Volunteers care for two colonies by monitoring the breeding and survival of Yellow-eyed penguins as well as rehabilitating sick, injured and starving Yellow-eyed penguins and other species such as Little Blue penguins.


Milford or Doubtful sounds.

The Fiordland Crested Penguins are very elusive and consider as one of the most endangered penguins in the world after the Yellow eyed penguins. But nobody really knows how endangered this penguin is because of the extreme place it lives. Your best bet to see them without disturbance is to join a cruise from either 2 places. Keeping distances is an absolute necessity.


But please DO NOT APPROACH ANY BIRDS ON YOUR OWN. If you think something is wrong call the Department of Conservation on their hotline: 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Remember that like us animals and penguins need time when they require rest so you must move out of their way keeping at least 20 meters between you and them at all times. And feel free to stop any other visitors who are compromising their well being, but only if you can do it without disturbing the birds further or making matters worse.


  • Pohatu Package
  • Penguin Tours
  • Sea Kayaking Tours
  • Scenic Nature Tours

    Follow us

facebook      instagram-946      tripadvisor-128      

Weibo1-125  pinterest




Contact Us 

icon location Wildside Booking Office,
8/2 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa
New Zealand
icon phone 03 304 8542
icon mobile 021 246 9556
icon mail tours@pohatu.co.nz