Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari 🐬

Getting out on the water is simply a must do when visiting Auckland – the North islands largest most vibrant city. Taking a cruise on the Waitemata Harbour and out into the Hauraki Gulf is one of the most popular ways to explore and enjoy this watery wonderland in comfort and style. Family owned and operated, the team at Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari have been providing Auckland sea safari tours for over 20 years.

Explore and learn on this amazing sea safari experience throughout the sparkling waters of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. On-board marine researchers offer passengers insight and specialised knowledge into the underwater world of whales, dolphins and many other marine wildlife in the Hauraki Gulf.

Embracing the future of nature tourism in New Zealand, the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari (AWADS) team combine tourism, conservation and research into one – making the most of each expedition. The purpose built vessel allows for research teams from Universities and the Department of Conservation to study and observe the marine life up-close on a regular basis. In fact, a portion of every sea safari passenger fare goes towards Marine Mammal Conservation in New Zealand.

New Zealand Dolphin

What To Expect

After departing from the Auckland waterfront, passengers will be treated to the sights and sounds of Auckland’s busy Waitemata Harbour as the boat makes its way out to more open waters. Look out for the Devonport Naval Base on your left, Rangitoto Island and Waiheke Island once out in the Gulf and the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula far off in the distance.

Some of the marine-life you can expect to see on the tour are sea birds like the Australasian Gannet, Shearwaters and Petrels as well as Penguins, Shags/Cormorants, Gulls and Terns who all breed in the Hauraki Gulf area.

The most commonly encountered species of whales are the Bryde’s Whale. However keep a look out for Humpback Whales, Blue Whales, Fin Whales and Southern Right Whales which have been known to make an appearance on the odd occassion.

Dolphins are one of the most popular sights on the AWADS tours, the Common Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin or Orca are the most commonly spotted with Pilot Whales and False Killer Whales appearing occasionally.

Gannet Colony, New Zealand

What To Bring

As with any on-the-water activity it is advisable to have several layers of clothing enabling you to adjust to the days temperature and weather variations.

A light jacket, warm sweater or jacket vest are all good options. Sunscreen and sunglasses are essential as most people spend the majority of the tour on the outer decks of the ‘Dolphin Explorer’, seeking out the best views.

A very useful tip is to bring a hat with a chin strap as it keeps the hat from blowing off in the wind. Don’t forget your camera or phone, some binoculars if possible and lastly, suitable flat soled shoes are absolutely a must (anyone wearing heels will be asked to remove them).

8 Cruise Details You Need To Know

Take a look below for all the things you need to know about the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari tours.

  1. The Boat. Aptly named the ‘Dolphin Explorer’, the purpose built luxury 20 metre (65ft) Powercat offers excellent passenger viewing and comfortably allows up to 100 people to enjoy the Hauraki Gulf sea safari.
  2. Duration. The Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari tours take approximately 4.5 hours. If weather or sea conditions deteriorate, and passenger safety is a concern, the trip can be cut short.
  3. Snacks. The Dolphin Explorer is well equipped for passengers with food and drinks available for purchase or feel free to bring along you own. Alcohol can be purchased on board (Proof of age required), but is not permitted to be brought on board by passengers.
  4. Cancellations. Due to the nature of the ocean bound tours, wind, weather, or sea conditions may mean tours have to cancelled, always check the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari website for cancellation notices on the day of departure. Complimentary vouchers and sometimes refunds are provided.
  5. Times. Tour times are set at 1:30pm to 6:00pm year round, but in the summer months December 17 through to January 28 early morning sailings are available, these depart between 8 am and 12.30 pm.
  6. Prices. Sea safari tours cost $180 per adult 16 years and over. Children 15 years and under $125. Family concession tickets for two adults and two children are available at $460 (Additional children $80)
  7. Booking. Passengers are able to book in person from the New Zealand Maritime Museum Booking Office on Quay Street in the Viaduct Harbour precinct or online through the Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari website. Any enquiries regarding booking, tour costs or any other questions you may have, please use the email
  8. Departures. All AWADS sea safari tours depart from outside the New Zealand Maritime Museum, 175 Quay Street, at the Viaduct Harbour, Auckland (unless advised otherwise). It is very important to note that all passengers must check in at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.

Hauraki Gulf Private Charters

The ‘Dolphin Explorer’ is available for private group bookings of up to 100 people. This can be the perfect option for corporate functions, birthday and Christmas parties, team building and more.

Fully customisable, the charters can include dolphin and whale watching, visits to the Islands of the Hauraki Gulf, sightseeing or just cruising the Waitemata Harbour.  

Catering is available along with on-board bar facilities or bring your own. Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari can also arrange music, themes, and decorations along with organising some fun team building activities if required.

Bryde's Whale

Experience the best the Hauraki Gulf has to offer with a sea safari tour with the team at Auckland Whale & Dolphin Safari. Enjoy getting up close and personal with dolphins, whales and other marine life on board the ‘Dolphin Explorer’ and have one of the most memorable oceanic experiences in Auckland. Learn about more fun things to do in Auckland.

Book online or call us now. Our operators are available 8am-5pm, 7 days a week. View our branch locations.


If you have any questions or need help or advice about rental cars or your New Zealand travel plans we’re here to help you. Please contact us

New Zealand Free Phone: 0800 800 956

Australian Free Phone: 1800 771 302

Other international enquiries. Find your nearest New Zealand rental cars branch.


If you have any questions or need help or advice about rental cars or your New Zealand travel plans we’re here to help you. Please contact us

New Zealand Free Phone: 0800 800 956

Australian Free Phone: 1800 771 302

Other international enquiries. Find your nearest New Zealand rental cars branch.