New Zealand is a fascinating country and one with many things for all to see and explore. New Zealand has many stunning endemic birds on the mainland (like the iconic kiwi) but little else by way of wildlife. Where New Zealand does have significant wildlife is marine life along the shores. One of the best places in New Zealand to see the best marine life is the Otago Peninsula on the lower South Island.

This general coastal region is also the best place to see New Zealand's forgotten stunning penguins - there are two species of penguins that one can see along this enchanted coast. If one would like to take one's trip to a whole new leave, then consider a sub-Antarctic cruise and see remote islands teeming with life.

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What To Know About New Zealand's Remarkable Otago Peninsula

The Otago Peninsula is located just adjacent to the southern city of Dunedin with the Otago Harbour cutting through it. It is a long, hilly finger of land formed from long-extinct volcanoes. The peninsular is quite small being around 20 kilometers long with a maximum width of 9 km and an isthmus of just 1.5 km joining it to the mainland.

  • Marine Animals: 2 Species of Penguin, The Royal Albatross, Sea Lions, and Fur Seals
  • Time Needed: One Can See it In A Full Day
  • Season: Spring/Summer - See The Breeding Seasons of The Animals

This peninsula is famous for its many species of wildlife - in particular The New Zealand Sea Lion (one of the rarest seal species), penguins (including the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin/Hoiho, and the Blue Penguins), The Royal Albatross, and other seabirds.

There are a number of eco-tours offering close-up viewing of these delightful animals. Come at the right time and one may be lucky to see yellow-eyed penguins, sea lions, albatrosses, fur seals, and blue penguins all in one tour. These tours explore the inlets and visit remote beaches that are known to be wildlife hotspots.

Related: Your Guide To New Zealand's World Famous Fiords

Elm Wildlife Tours

One of the eco-tour companies here is Elm Wildlife Tours. They offer a complimentary pick-up and drop-off service from central Dunedin's hotels and other accommodations. They offer a few different tour options (there's more to be seen on the peninsula than just wildlife). There are also options of including a Monarch Wildlife Cruise, a private tour, or a trip to the Royal Albatross Centre.

Their full-day extended tour visited every natural hotspot on the Otago Peninsula and is great for guests who want to have maximum exposure to the resident wildlife.

  • Adults: $257NZD ($170 USD) Children (5-14yrs): $125 ($83)
  • Duration: Around 10.5 Hours
  • Tip: Dress For Four Seasons In On Day

The tour is led by an expert local guide. One will see the peninsula's rugged coastal cliffs, huge sea lions, Taiaroa Head, the Royal Albatross Centre, the Yellow-eyed Penguin conservation reserve, and more. Watch as the world's rarest penguin returns ashore to feed its chick.

Summer Season: 1 December - 31 March:

  • 9:00am to 7:30pm
  • Operating daily except Thursday

Winter Season: 1 April to 31 October

  • Only For Private Booked Groups For 6 or More

Related: What To Know Of Exploring New Zealand's Famed Southern Alps

The Royal Albatross Centre

At the viewing observatory at the Royal Albatross Centre, visitors can see the only Royal Albatross on a populated mainland (normally they nest in far-flung uninhabited islands). One will be able to see these majestic birds of the south with a wingspan of some three meters (yards).

If one is planning to visit the Royal Albatross Centre (as well as other wildlife), plan around their breeding cycle. Depending on the season, they will be courting, laying eggs, raising their huge fluffy chicks, or out to sea.

  • Taiaroa Head: The Home Of The Only Royal Albatross Colony In The World
  • Tours: The Center Offers Guided Expert Tours
  • Entry: Free Entry to The Educational Displays
  • Open: 10:15am – 4pm

At the Royal Albatross Centre, one can explore a hidden underground tunnel system underneath the albatross colony and view the world’s only fully restored Armstrong Disappearing gun. Watch these mighty birds and never forget the sight of them silently and effortlessly gliding past one with their massive 3-meter-long wingspan.

These stunning seabirds can spend years at sea (up to 6 years without touching land) and circumnavigate the world's Southern Ocean.