Whale Watch Kaikoura with kids

Whales are one of the world’s most magical creatures. We had the chance of seeing them in the wild and, well, couldn’t skip it. Good thing that Kaikoura is whale heaven, isn’t it? Scroll to know all about a tour with Whale Watch Kaikoura with kids!

whale watch boat
Our boat – it was a bumpy ride, but it’s super warm (it was winter) and comfortable on the inside!

* We received tickets for this tour. Still, all the opinions are 100% ours. We tried it in June 2016.

Kaikoura Whales

Kaikoura, due to the unbelievable Kaikoura Canyon – underwater – is where sperm whales feed year round. Apparently, only males, but yes, they’re there throughout the year.

But it’s also on the path for migrating whales so if you’re lucky, you may see some humpback whales, blue whales, pilot whales, and even southern right whales.

I really think this is one of the best whale watching tours in the world, and even more so if you’re looking into whale watching in the South Island!

dusky dolphins at kaikoura whale watch
The super fun dusky dolphins – adorable, they would’ve been worth the ride! Dolphins are amazing!

Kaikoura Whale Watching Season

There are whales all year round in Kaikoura. Mostly sperm whales.

During winter (June to August), you may be able to see the migrating whales – mentioned above. The weather is colder, but, I mean… you’re mostly sitting comfortably in a warm and enclosed place. And when you go out to see the whales, you won’t mind the cold, I assure you.

During spring-summer (October to March), the weather is warmer and they often see pods of orca! Though they did play a little video of an orca fighting a dolphin when we were there. I may not want to see that.

What else can I see Whale Watching (New Zealand)?

Fur seals are definitely there. Then dolphins, albatrosses, and a lot more, if you’re lucky enough.

During summer, maybe even orca pods!

whale spout at whale watch kaikoura
The spout and the whale back. If there are more majestic creatures than whales, I’d like to meet them!

Kaikoura Whale Watching tours – our experience

We love whales. And when we found that we were in the right place at the right time, we knew we had to try to see them. But…

Our seasickness from the ferry left us TERRIFIED of this activity. We considered skipping it. It took us a week to decide to give it a shot. Even then, we took our motion sickness homeopathy and we bought their natural seasickness pill because we’d been warned it’s a bumpy ride.

We had our tour scheduled for a Monday but Angelo and the kids were sick, so we decided to postpone it. Angelo called them and they were extremely nice and rescheduled for Friday.

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The day of the tour

On Friday, Angelo woke up screaming “Whale Watch!!!!!” at 9:44. We had to be there by 10 am. Everyone was still sleeping. Miraculously, we were there at 10:05. Lucky Kaikoura is such a small town.

We arrived, did the check-in and had our breakfast (muffins from the Whale Watch Kaikoura Café and they were good and cost NZ$ 3,50 each) while we waited for the safety video. The kids were given an activity book and a small pencil. Coral (4) loved it, the boys (9 and 11) finished theirs before we got to the boat and Melissa (12)  never touched hers. After the safety video, we took the bus that drove us to the wharf.

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The boat ride

The boat fits around 50 people very comfortably. It was almost full. They handed each child a different size life jacket, and they (except Melissa, who was 12 and tall) wore them during all the trip.

We were not allowed to be out on the deck while the boat was moving for the boat changes direction often and moves quite fast. When it stopped, we could go anywhere we wanted, including the upper deck, which is awesome for having a different view. I found it’s A LOT more unstable than the lower deck (of course) and avoided it, but Coral loved it.

whale tail shot at whale watch kaikoura
I love the way the water falls from the tail… If I were a bit more talented, I could write a poem about it.

The incredible Kaikoura animals

Our first stop was when they spotted the Dusky Dolphins. There weren’t many, but the few we saw were adorable and stayed with us for all the time we were there – less than 10 minutes.

Then we saw albatrosses. They are huge and flying around, so the boat didn’t stop, but it moved slow enough to allow people to go outside take a few photos. I didn’t catch any, sorry.

We saw the first whale at the 40 minutes mark. A huge sperm whale. We first saw the spout, and then the grey-black torso. We kept watching it for a few minutes while it oxygenated, spouting every now and then. And it dived. What a sight!

So we had our first encounter. A beautiful sperm whale. I was amazed and dazed, I even forgot a bit of the seasickness, which was already on me.

say bye bye, whale!
By the end of the dive….. this is right before it dives completely back into the water and we can’t see them

A curiosity: all the sperm whales that feed in Kaikoura are adult males.

After that, we saw 2 other sperm whales. The crew listened for whale sounds with an instrument a few times, looking for them, and they do change directions and move quite fast, so they would tell us suddenly to get inside the boat and sit as fast as we could.

Tu (the guide) did his best to keep us entertained all the time, told us about the geography of Kaikoura Peninsula, the biology of the whales, fun facts about the dusky dolphins and all about the animals we encountered along the way. Every time we saw a whale, he was ready to tell us when it was going to dive, so everyone could get their cameras ready for the tail shot.

whale watch kaikoura central
Whale Watch Kaikoura Central – easy enough to find, it has an OK cafe and a cute little shop.

We also saw fur seals swimming and resting on rocks along with spotted shags, and an unidentified lonely fin.

It was worth doing it, the kids were all very excited and happy.

Seasickness and the Whale Watch Kaikoura tour

It IS a bumpy ride. I started feeling sick around 15 minutes after departure. Melissa also felt sick after the first hour but everyone else was completely fine for the whole ride.

Even feeling sick, I think it was worth the tour and the money spent. If you don’t deal too well with motion sickness, this tour might not be for you. And it’s for children over 3 years old – if the weather is good because if it isn’t, they do change the minimum age on the day.

Everyone from the café, the call center, the receptionists, the bus driver and the boat crew, was extremely nice, friendly and helpful.

Whale watching is one of the most exciting moments in ones' life! Whale Watch Kaikoura, NZ, was a perfect family activity! Click to read more! #kaikoura #whalewatch #newzealand #visitnz #familytravel
For you, to read later, a pin ready to go!

Kaikoura Whale Watching price

It’s pricey, yes. But it’s a 3-hour trip (around 2 on the water) and it’s an awesome tour.

The price for 2019 is NZ$ 150 per adult and NZ$ 60 per child. During school holidays or other special times of the year, they have great deals where one child per each paying adult goes for free – so try to find the best deal before booking!

To finish it…

I can’t tell you the joy on the kids’ faces when they saw the dolphins or the first whale. It was an amazing experience. It IS expensive (adult NZ$150 and child NZ$60, in July 2018), and the 2 hours do fly. But we are all for paying for experiences rather than things anyway, who cares if the kids pants are a bit short?

  • What / Where
  • Duration of the tour
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • Whale Watch Kaikoura / Kaikoura, NZ
  • 2 hours +1 for safety briefing and all
  • $$$
  • It is for kids 3+
  • Boat, of course, but car until the central
  • It’s safe, but it requires moving quickly and wearing life jackets
  • Oh, yes!

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  1. 10 Incredible Things To Do in the South Island - New Zealand Travel Tips says:

    […] of the best experiences we had in the stunning South Island was going on a whale watch tour in Kaikoura.   The town in itself is a wonderful place that should be visited by […]

  2. […] was Joao’s only ‘absolutely MUST GO’ place. He really wanted to see the albatrosses and the whales, but the dolphins and the fur seals were a huge bonus. It’s said to be paradise for the animal […]

  3. […] is such an incredible place! That’s where we saw up-close wild fur seals and whales. It’s a super small town, but well worth the visit – we need to see it again, after the […]

  4. […] in the middle of nowhere and playing in the snow, even if it was just a little, we had fun. Going whale watching and keep mistaking the whales for a pile of seaweed (#seaweedwhales). Eating yummy cookies at the […]

  5. […] did the Whale Watch boat tour, which was really cool. We saw 3 sperm whales, dusky dolphins, fur seals, albatrosses and other […]

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