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Where to See the Kaikoura Seal Colony – South Island New Zealand

Where to See the Kaikoura Seal Colony – South Island New Zealand

Visiting the Kaikoura seal colony in New Zealand’s South Island offers one of the best wildlife experiences in the country. Hundreds of native fur seals call Kaikoura home, and here are the best locations for spotting them.

Kaikoura is famous for its diverse and numerous marine wildlife species. Even before we reached the Kaikoura township, we spotted hundreds of breaching dolphins and spouts of great humpbacks from the coastal road.

While whales and penguins are popular with wildlife spotters, none get as much attention as the Kaikoura seal colony.

In this quick guide, I’ll detail the best locations for spotting seals in Kaikoura, as well as some useful tips to ensure sustainable and safe wildlife viewing.

Unmissable Activities in Kaikoura

Before I get into the information about the Kaikoura seals, check this out!

If you'd prefer to experience more of Kaikoura's unique wildlife, check out these selected activities below. They are the best-rated experiences in Kaikoura.

Best Locations to Spot the Kaikoura Seal Colony

The truth is that seals are everywhere on the Kaikoura Peninsula. There are dozens of separate seal colonies along the coast.

However, there are two main locations that are best for visiting; The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway and the Ohau Point Colony.

1. Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

The most popular place to spot seals in Kaikoura is the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. This is a flat, and rocky headland loop track located approximately 3 kilometres from the main street.

There is a large car park at the headland point but if you don't have a car, it's only a short, leisurely walk along the coast from town.

Map of kaikoura seals
Keans point lookout kaikoura

Peninsula Walkway Seal Spotting

If you're up for it, taking the 2-3 hour Kaikoura Peninsula walkway loop is a great way to guarantee seal sightings.

The seal population encompassing the headland consists of dozens if not hundreds of seals. This means that you won't have any problems spotting them.

If you don't want to walk the loop, then the best bet is to visit Kean Point during low tide and walk out onto the rocky headland. Here, you'll often find many seals dozing in the afternoon sun. Just be mindful of a rising tide, which might result in wet legs crossing back to the car park.

While this seal colony area isn't typically an active breeding area, you should still maintain a safe distance of at least 20 metres.

Kaikoura peninsula walkway seal colony

In my opinion, Kean Point viewpoint and the Peninsula Walkway is the best location for seal spotting in Kaikoura. This is because it is more of a natural wildlife spotting experience, where you truly get the privilege of watching and photographing seals in their natural environment.

Kaikoura fur seals
Seal spotting in kaikoura

Tip: Keep an eye out to sea. Dolphins, whales and occasionally even orcas, pass the Kaikoura peninsula walkway and Kean Point.

Where to Stay in Kaikoura Near the Seals

  • Dusky Lodge and Backpackers – Budget 
    A great budget backpacker joint that is close to the beach and Kaikoura town. It has a heated pool and a hot tub to relax in after a day of exploring. The rooms are large and there is a kitchen that can be used to prepare and cook meals. For $30 a night this place is a great place to stay. 
  • Brook House B&B & Cottages - Bed and Breakfast
    The Brook House B&B & Cottages offers a free continental breakfast with each stay. There is a communal kitchen and each room is equipped with heating for those colder nights. With views over a beautiful field and only 2km from town, the Brook House B&B & Cottages is a great B&B option.
  • Admiral Court Motel Kaikoura - Motel
    If you’re looking for a place to stay that is still within the town radius but is quiet then Admiral Court Motel Kaikoura is a good bet The views overlook the ocean with a beautiful mountain backdrop and the motel is only a 10-minute walk from town.

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2. Ohau Point Seal Colony

One of the biggest and most well-known Kaikoura seal colonies live on the rocky outcrops near Ohau Point.

The Ohau Point Lookout is located 30 minutes north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1 towards Blenheim.

Ohau point seal colony map
Kaikoura seal colony at ohau point

The Ohau Point Seals

Since this is a breeding colony, you can't walk down to the seals. However, there is a newly-constructed viewing platform just above the colony to spot them from afar.

Ohau point seals kaikoura

We spent close to an hour watching the baby fur seals playing in the water and the adults basking in the westering sun.

Best Time of Year to See the Seal Pups

The New Zealand fur seal breeding time means that seals are often born between December and February. Therefore, the best time of year to see seal pups in Kaikoura is between April and September.

Any later than this and the pups would have already grown quite large.

Fur seal pup in kaikoura
Fur seal pup at ohau point lookout

Kaikoura Seal Swim

Swimming with the Kaikoura seals is one of the best up-close wildlife experiences you can have in New Zealand's South Island. There are tour groups offering these guided swims, all of which take a boat just offshore from the Kaikoura Peninsula.

No experience is required. You will just need to be a confident swimmer and be prepared to get a little chilly (wetsuits are provided). I've compared rates and reviews online, and by far the best Kaikoura seal swim tour is this one on Viator.

If you'd prefer not to get in the water, another option is to take a cheaper kayaking tour. While kayaking in Kaikoura, both wild seals and penguins came right up to the kayak! We also spotted humpbacks and dolphins breaching in the distance.

Kaikoura dolphins

Kaikoura Freedom Camping

Unfortunately, there are no freedom camping areas for non-self-contained vehicles near Kaikoura.

However, If you’re staying in a self-contained vehicle there are many different places along the beachfront where you can pull up overnight for free. These can be found on the Campermate app.

The main self-contained vehicle stop is the West End car park which is situated near the Kaikoura Museum. If you do stay here please be mindful of others and remember to take your rubbish. 

More Things to Do in New Zealand's South Island

I hope you enjoyed this quick guide for finding the best locations for spotting the Kaikoura seal colonies.

If you're looking for more adventures and travel inspiration on New Zealand's South Island, make sure to check out some of the free guides below. A good starting point for great hikes is this mega-post of the 31 Best Hikes in South Island New Zealand.

Kaikoura seal colony
Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure travel journalist & photographer. Traveling non-stop since 2018, I've published over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. These draw on my personal experience to share unique itineraries, accommodation tips, & fun adventure guides covering hikes, viewpoints, beaches, waterfalls, & tours. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.

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Debbie

Tuesday 26th of March 2024

Hi We have visited the Ohau seal colony many times before the large earthquake. I believe the waterfall, where the baby seals played was destroyed. Is it still possible to see the seals in the waterway leading up into the forest? It was truly amazing to see prior the earthquake

Christine

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

Hi can you see the seals all year?

Olly Gaspar

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

yeah they hang out there all year, but the pup season is April - September