Swimming with dolphins is an experience that many people crave, and for good reason, it's an unbelievable experience! In New Zealand there are quite a few places that you can swim with wild dolphins. They aren't in a tank and if they swim with you it's their choice to do so. Dolphins are notoriously friendly so they do often choose to get very close to swimmers.

The NZ DOC (Department of Conservation) has strict rules about getting close to marine life and the companies who offer dolphin watching or swimming tours are very good at sticking to them. The dolphins won't be harrased or disturbed, and pods with young calves will be left alone.

So with all that in mind, knowing that swimming with dolphins in New Zealand is a positive experience for people and dolphins alike, let's get onto where you can actually swim with dolphins in NZ.

Swimming with Dolphins NZ

1. Kaikoura

Let's start with Kaikoura as it's the place most well known for dolphin swimming in New Zealand. Kaikoura is famous for it's marine life and you'll have a high chance of not only seeing dolphins but whales and seals too. It's not legal to swim with whales but jumping in the water with the dolphins is perfectly ok.

You'll find dusky dolphins in Kaikoura, and they're known to be the most acrobatic dolphin species. This is a show like no other, and one you won't easily forget, especially with the stunning coastline as a backdrop.

swim with dolphins kaikoura
Dusky Dolphins are a common sight in Kaikoura

Dr. Mridula Srinivasan, NOAA/NMFS/OST/AMD. [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsDr. Mridula Srinivasan, NOAA/NMFS/OST/AMD. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Akaroa

Akaroa is not on many backpackers radar, but this is the only place in the world that you can swim with the worlds smallest and rarest dolphin - the Hectors Dolphin. If you want to have this experience then pre-booking is essential as Black Cat Cruises only allow a maximum of 12 swimmers on any trip.

Akaroa is found just south of Christchurch, so make sure you make a little detour for this truly once in a lifetime experience.

native new zealand marine life
Hectors Dolphin

CC BY 2.5, Link/

3. Bay of Islands

One of the most popular places to swim with dolphins is in the Bay of Islands and that's because the water is much warmer here than many other places. Going out on a boat when in the Bay of Islands is an absolute must-do activity anyway because the area is so beautiful. So head out on a dolphin watching boat, enjoy the spectacular scenery, watch the dolphins in their natural habitat and then jump into the warm waters to swim beside them. What a day!

Swim with Dolphins in Bay of Islands

swim with dolphins paihia
Swim with Dolphins in the Bay of Islands

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4. Marlborough Sounds

This is a particularly good place to go dolphin spotting for those that may occasionally suffer from seasickness, as the waters are so calm. There's an abundance of wildlife you can see here, including orca, NZ fur seals and even penguins, as well as a variety of sea birds.

Dolphins you can see here include dusky, common and bottlenose.

swim with dolphins in new zealand
Bottlenose Dolphins Marlborough Sounds

Photo by Jason Pratt - license

5. Tauranga

Dolphin Seafaris offer dolphin swimming tours in Tauranga, located in the North Island (south of the Coromandel). There are normally lots of common dolphins to be seen as well as the chance of seeing bottlenose dolphins, orca, pilot whales, humpback whales, turtles, seals and much more.

This trip is particularly good for people who might not be overly confident in the water as they have 'swim bars' which you can hold onto whilst in the water.

swim with dolphins nz
Common Dolphin with calf

Jessica Redfern (according to photo caption) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsJessica Redfern (according to photo caption) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you're more interested in seeing dolphins and not so much with getting in the water with them, then an Auckland whale and dolphin safari is a fabulous option. The Hauraki Gulf is filled with marine life and you'll see all sorts of marine life.

The 5 places listed above are all amazing places to visit anyway and if you've always wanted to swim with dolphins New Zealand is the place to do it!

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