We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Where to see penguins and seals for free?

Waterloo, Canada
Level Contributor
128 posts
598 reviews
Save Topic
Where to see penguins and seals for free?


We are visiting the South Island first three weeks in January. These are the places on our itinerary:



Abel Tasman Track (doing the entire thing)

Fox Glacier



Routeburn Track

Milford Sound


My question is - are there places in or close to these areas where we can go see penguins and seals for free? If so, please indicate what is the best time of day.

We have found a few sanctuaries and parks where we can pay to see the animals, but we are on a budget, so would prefer to see them for free if possible.

Thanks very much for any help


Level Contributor
6,573 posts
68 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

North of Dunedin you can find yellow-eyed penguins at Moeraki's Katiki Point. Take the track over the hill from the lighthouse towards the point.

There are seal colonies at Abel Tasman and they can sometimes be seen on Milford Sound cruises. Dunedin as well.

Edited: 20 September 2013, 16:14
Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
30,878 posts
307 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

At Mutton Cove on the Abel Tasman i've seen people swimming with NZ fur seals.

If you are driving from Nelson to Fox Glacier over 2 days, you can turn off atEstport to Cape Foulwind and walk to Tauranga Bay seal colony

There are several beaches along the south Westland Coast where seals may be found.

You don't appear to be going to Kaikoura, but if you are there is a seal colony in Kaikoura and another just north at Ohau Pt.

If you take the Southern Scenic Route from Te Anau to Dunedin (via the Caitkins) you are likely to see sea lions at Surat Bay and possibly penguins.

However these are all wild animals and you sometimes need to be in the right place at the right time. IMO the Elms Wildlife Tour on the tago Peninsula is greta value for money - at least 5 species, including the albatross.

Wanaka, New Zealand
Level Contributor
2,994 posts
21 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

Cape Foulwind would be the best place to see seals that is on your route. There is a nice walk along the clifftops around here - I think it starts at a lighthouse and ends at Cape Foulwind, but it could be the other way around.

Level Contributor
6,789 posts
419 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

The very best place to see seals in nz is at ohau waterfall about 20km north of kaikoura. Be sure to look it up. But there are resident seals on the island off tonga bay on the abel tasman. Not as likely go see seals if walking Abel Tasman but very likely if taking a boat one way.

Cape foulwind, milford sound all have seals as well with good chance of seeing them. As for penguins, Dunedin has penguin tours when you will see them. Also sometimes seen on milford and abel tasman.

San Antonio, Texas
Level Contributor
2,266 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

Sandfly Bay near Dunedin has yellow-eyed penguins and sea lions. I saw tons of sea lions there when I went, but was run off by weather before the penguins came in.

Ballarat, Australia
Level Contributor
1,318 posts
Save Reply
6. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

If you are going back to Christchurch from Dunedin, I would recommend the stop at Katiki Point. Late afternoon till dusk is the best time to go.

Wellington, New...
Level Contributor
30 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

My suggestion would be whilst you're in Dunedin head out to the Otago Peninsula. As someone else has already mentioned Sandfly Bay is my go to spot for awesome sunsets, sea-lions and yellow-eyed penguins. Arrive late afternoon/early evening, walk to the lookout hut along the beach, if you're lucky passing sea-lions on route. The penguins come in from the sea, heading to their burrows once the sun begins to set. It's worth taking some binoculars if you have any. Another spot I recommend is near the Albatross Centre on the Peninsula. Not only will you get to see albatross (in the wild) but Blue Penguins come in from the sea at dusk. Enjoy.

8. Re: Where to see penguins and seals for free?

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 23 September 2014, 06:19