We loved our time in New Zealand, (you can search by city to see what we recommend on the South Island), but the highlight of our trip was a wildlife cruise in Akaroa. Akaroa is a long extinct volcano just south of Christchurch known as the Banks Peninsula. Plan a day in Akaroa as it was the most beautiful place we saw on the South Island.
We chose Black Cat Cruises for our wildlife cruise, though there are other options. We had a great cruise, and though it was winter (June) we saw little blue penguins, seals with pups, several types of birds including giant petrels and albatrosses, and Hector’s Dolphins. These are the smallest dolphins in the world, and they can only be found in New Zealand. Black Cat Cruises guarantees Hector’s dolphin sightings on their wildlife cruises.
The cruise starts out in the calm water of the bay. As the boat started out slowly through the harbor, the captain invited our boys upfront to the cockpit. This obviously wasn’t included (guaranteed) in the tour, but that fact that he let them drive shows how nice Black Cat was to us. The captain was really good with our three boys and asked them questions and spent time with them.
Our tour took us past some beautiful Maori buildings before moving to the other side of the bay. The captain was a great spotter and pointed out different bird species. He also showed us some penguins swimming near the boat. Then he took us to the other side of the harbor to see the seals sunning in the rocks. There were dozens of seals, and the boat was able to get quite close (50 meters).
Next we headed out to open waters. It got a little choppy as the ocean swells bounced the large ferry around, but we ended up right in a pod of a dozen Hector’s dolphins. They only surface very briefly, but they love to play on the pressure waves created by the boat, so they were swimming right around us. Our boys were in heaven as they watched the dolphins frolic around the boat.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should take a wildlife cruise in Akaroa, you should. It was our favorite experience in New Zealand!