There are quite a few accessible wildlife colonies in the South Island, some are free, although DOC always appreciates donations to help with upkeep of tracks and facilities.
Fur seals – Tauranga Bay & Cape Foulwind, Westport
A short walk from the car park at Tauranga Bay takes you to a viewing platform to see fur seals. As the name foulwind implies, you may well smell the seals before you see them. A zoom lens helped us get the best photos. For a longer walk, take the Cape Foulwind Walkway. (Seal viewing free)
Fur seals & crayfish – Point Kean in Kaikoura & Ohau Point (27km north)
One of the reasons we always stop in Kaikoura is to visit the seals at Point Kean. You’re likely to see the seals as soon as you pull in to the car park – for many, the hot tarmac is a good resting place. (Seal viewing free)
Crayfish – On the way to Point Kean, the Seafood BBQ serves Kaikoura on a plate – kai = food and koura = crayfish.
About 20 minutes north of Kaikoura, on the way to Ohau Point (see below), you can visit Nins Bin, or our koura choice – Cays Crays. Our crayfish (below) was $36 – seafood connoisseurs we’re not …..it tasted … fishy. Nin’s Bin, on the sea side of the road, is a particularly scenic stop to make.
Fur seals at Ohau Point (27 km north of Kaikoura)
At Ohau Point there’s a car park and seal viewing area right next to the highway. The seals are often quite active, sliding into the water and clambering over rocks. Nearby is the Ohau Stream Walk, from April – September you’re likely to see curious seal pups playing in the water.
Royal Albatross Centre, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin
The Royal Albatross Centre runs land based tours and has an information centre where you can learn about the albatross, particularly the Northern Royal Albatross. As the world’s largest seabird, the albatross can have a wing span of over three metres and can fly / glide up to 1000 km a day!
We opted to pay the small fee to visit the information centre only, and take a sea based tour with Monarch Wildlife Cruises nearby. A bonus of our visit to the Centre was watching the cute sea gull chicks outside the cafe.
Monarch Wildlife Cruises, Taiaroa Heads, Otago Peninsula, Dunedin
We thoroughly enjoyed an informative one hour boat cruise around Taiaroa Heads on a Monarch Wildlife Cruise. Binoculars and a warm jacket are standard issue and were much appreciated. As well as watching albatross fly over head and land on the water, we saw fur seals and other ocean birds. We didn’t see dolphins or penguins unfortunately, but that’s up to Mother Nature on the day.
The MV Monarch travels well, it may have been good luck, but neither of us felt sea sick. The knowledgeable skipper identified all of the wildlife we saw including the different types of albatross. May you hear “dolphins ahoy”.