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Whale Island Tour


    • No Seasickness Guarantee
  • Travel with E-Ko and Support local Conservation efforts
  • Perano Whaling Station – NZ only restored Whale station
  • NZ’s Only Marine Mammal Sanctuary
  • Learn How to Spot Whales with Binoculars
  • NZ Fur Seals and Dolphin sightings possible
  • Albatross and Seabirds
  • Complimentary Hot Drinks , Biscuits
  • Fully Guided by Experienced Experts
  • Wildlife Cruise with many species Viewed
  • HELP Save the Endangered Species (Taonga)

    See how your money gets used for Local Conservation

    Tour info in brief

    4 hours
    8.00 AM
    Pricing: Adult: $145 (16+ years)
    Child: $125 (12-15)
    Infant: NA
    Location: 1 Wellington Street , Picton
    Briefing: 7.45 AM

    No Seasickness Guarantee

    FREE Photos

    About the Tour

    Join us as we take you on an unforgettable (and fun!) whale and wildlife cruise.

    This small, fully guided group tour also encompasses a unique and little known part of NZ’s whaling history – and hopefully a few migrating whales in the Cook Strait.🐋 As usual this tour includes our No Seasickness Guarantee – so you can relax, safe in the knowledge you’ll be in super calm waters!

    Modern Day Whale Hunting (with binoculars!)
    On board, you’ll be helping us spot wildlife and whales! When whales or dolphins are spotted the information is provided to the Department of Conservation, to help them make informed decisions regarding whale conservation. The E-Ko data set is the oldest in NZ, starting in 1998 and you will be involved in “Citizen Science” collecting that data, as your sightings will be officially lodged with DOC. As a daily prize, the first customer to find a Whale also wins a FREE T-Shirt 🙂 The amazing area in which you will be searching for the migrating humpback whales also has dramatic scenery dominated and overshadowed by the highest snow-capped mountain (9465 feet) visible to the south. Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku (footprint of the rainbow). Rugged and isolated vertical cliffs shelter us from the prevailing winds and swell during our journey. A 10 year DOC Whale Survey was conducted here (finishing in 2016) to record and confirm the increase in Humpback numbers.

    The Best Place To Spot Magnificent Migrating Whales
    This is the closest place migrating humpbacks come to our coastline annually and this is why this location also had 10 old whale stations. So this is the best spot in New Zealand place to find these amazing majestic animals moving slowly north to the Pacific. This is the exact location where 90% of whales where historically sighted from 1829. This area is also New Zealand’s only 1500km Marine Mammal Sanctuary and it’s on the annual primary whale  migration route. Nowadays we celebrate the whales returning by promoting whale conservation. You can read about our range of efforts in local conservation on our dedicated webpage detailing the E-ko Conservation Fund. With an annual increase of 10% per year and an expected 300+ whales this year, Humpback Whales are the ultimate symbol for World Conservation success.

    A Future Whale Heritage Site
    E-Ko with the World Cetacean Alliance has accredited this area to candidate status to become New Zealand’s first Whale Heritage Site. This is due to the significant role migrating whales have played in human settlement since Kupe arrived 800 years ago. Now the local conservation efforts are focused on protection.

    Perano Whale Station
    Perano Whale Station is New Zealand’s only restored Whale Station (1920-1964) from the whaling era which spanned 170 years. In 1946 New Zealand was one of the founding members of the International Whaling Commission, and it is now considered to be one of the staunchest advocates of whale conservation. Whaling ceased in NZ in 1964. Here you will view a special audio-video presentation on how Hunters become Conservationists, a great story with original footage. On display are also the original family photos from that era and Department of Conservation (DOC) historical information sheets. You can touch, see and feel original artefacts in this DOC restored historical site. We show you how to use binoculars and give you a Species ID card….then it’s out to sea, weather permitting, to become a modern Whale Spotting Team 🙂

    More Than Whales
    This all-encompassing tour is about more than whales – there is so much other precious wildlife to see. We can also see Dolphins, Albatross and other pelagic seabirds in the famous Cook Strait. Our search area is in the sheltered inshore waters and this is where 90% of the whales have been seen since 1829. In New Zealand due to the ocean currents, this location is the closest place to land that migrating whales come – so this is one of the best places to look! On the way out or back in our calm waters, we look for 5 species of dolphin, New Zealand Fur Seals, Albatross, Little Blue penguins, Gannets, Fluttering Shearwaters, Endangered King Shags and lots of other wildlife.

    Feel like a Cuppa?
    As it’s a little cooler, on the way back we’ll also fill you up with hot chocolate, tea, coffee and chocolate chip biscuits or if you prefer a sample of Award Winning Pinot Gris from Yealands Vineyard 🙂 This tour only runs May-August (during the annual whale migration) and allows you to visit NZ’s only restored Department of Conservation Whale Station.

    In the News
    Our experience was recently featured in as our first 2019 guests were treated to a rare sighting of two breaching humpback whales.

    Orca in Picton Whale Spotters in Picton Humpback Whale by Shore Parano Whaling station Wildlife Spotting little blue penguins Dolphin Watching Humpback tail slap Humpback cook strait Migrating Humpback Tory Channel Hectors Dolphin Dolphin Watching in Picton Pied Shag Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku NZ Fur Seal on rock in Picton Bullers Mollymawk in cook strait Albatros looking


    What to expect


    This Whale Island tour includes our NZ only ‘no seasickness guarantee’ (or your money back) Possible whale sightings likely on this tour🐋:

    • Humpback Whales
    • Southern Right Whales

    Other wildlife possible :

    • Albatross
    • Hector’s Dolphins
    • Bottlenose Dolphins
    • Dusky Dolphins
    • Orca
    • NZ Fur Seals
    • Australasian Gannets
    • King Shags
    • Spotted Shags
    • Fluttering Shearwaters
    • Little Blue Penguins

    Please note that we cannot control exactly when and where the whales will be (that’s the nature of nature!). Whilst we see whales 70% of the time our core focus is on the historical and educational aspects of the Perano Whale Station and its unique story. We are only out Whale Spotting for 1-1.5 hours and hopefully, the whales will be passing at that time. As a Bonus, we also see a lot of other Wildlife and will stop with several species, hopefully, Dolphins, on our way to or from the Whale Station.

    Perano Whale Station

    We cruise from Picton to the historic Perano Whaling Station through the calm, beautiful and majestic Queen Charlotte Sound to the Tory Channel, seeing a variety of marine wildlife on the way. The Perano Whaling Station is the only restored whaling station in New Zealand. It operated from 1920 to 1964. On the way there we also stop at Te Awiti on Arapawa Island, which was NZ first land-based whaling operation from 1829.

    From Hunters to Conservationists – This is an Incredible Kiwi Story.

    You will be able to see and touch the actual machinery used during New Zealand’s whaling era. You will experience a specially commissioned audio-visual presentation that tells the stories of the whaling era in the whalers’ old recreation building. See how whalers and their families lived and worked back in those days at this beautiful but isolated location. How they changed from hunters to conservationists and became part of the Department of Conservation whale migration survey for ten years. You will have time to wander the station to touch and feel the artefacts, go to the working station floor and touch the winches and machinery.

    Experience History

    Measure out a whale and hear the stories and read the Department of Conservation information on display at their facility. You will get a genuine feel for what it was to be a whaler two centuries ago. This area historically is where whaling began in 1829 and it is the best place in New Zealand to see migrating whales over the winter months. This area had 10 operational Whale Stations as there was an abundance of whales gathering here on their annual migration. Eventually, the whaling stopped as there were so few whales left and it became un-economical. Whaling was thankfully finally stopped in New Zealand in 1964. Now the whales are returning to their traditional migration route, directly passing the old restored Perano Whale Station at Tory Channel entrance. Also, you will see a display on current whale research; learn about the increasing migrating population and the Cook Strait Whale Survey.

    World Cetacean Alliance (WCA) Partner

    We are the first SMART operator also to become a WCA Partner to help promote ocean conservation on a global scale. This area has been nominated as the FIRST Whale Heritage Site in New Zealand with WCA. Marlborough Whale Heritage Site

    Can you spot a whale?

    Get your own set of binoculars and Whale ID cards and help to find a whale whilst onboard our stable, fully covered vessel. We stay inshore within 2km of the coastline as this gives us the best chance of a sighting and the calmest waters. This area is sheltered by large cliffs so it’s protected from prevailing winds and has a beautiful backdrop of stunning scenery. With the Snow-capped Mount Tapuaenuke (2885M) to the south of the search grounds and the Wellington Coastline to the North. The Tory Channel entrance itself is an incredibly scenic area with large ocean forces at play and passing Interislander rail ferries. Experience what it is like to see migrating Baleen Whales as they travel on the surface in this whale hotspot. Historically 90% of the whales sighted as far back as 1829 travelled close to shore. We will search this area quickly in our catamaran, spending about 1-1.5 hours in this area where you will be a Whale Spotter! As a Whale Spotting Team, we will locate the slowly migrating Humpback Whales 🙂

    During the 2015 whale watching season in NZ, an incredible 140 Whales were recorded in 30 days, their numbers increasing about 10% per annum. This year we are hoping for 300+ whales migrating past. The Whales move very slowly and steadily during migration so that gives us a great opportunity to watch them and record their location. The Whales generally moving along the coast in the morning so we focus on that time. Every year more Baleen Whales migrate, and you can be one of the very few people able to observe this. The observations for that day, made by you, go to the Department of Conservation for their marine mammal DATA base for humpback whales. You will be helping with Citizen Science 🙂 This is your opportunity to experience New Zealand history and our new focus on Ocean Conservation. Please Note for Rough Weather: Going out into Cook Strait is subject to acceptable weather conditions assessed on the day from the Whale Station by the Captain. If the Captain says its too rough and we are unable to go out then a partial refund is available of $25 per Adult, $20 per child. This refund does NOT apply to any Discounted Fares.

    2024 Whale watching season Departure Dates and Times

    • Starting approximately 1st June and finishing 20th August
    • Sundays and Wednesdays main focus
    • 8.00 AM – 12.00 PM
    • Or afternoon booking for groups over 8 on request, 12.30 – 5.30
    • Any other day possible for group booking over 10 passengers (please contact us)


    • $145 per Adult passenger
    • $125 per Child passenger

    How to Book

    A fantastic opportunity for a limited number of people to fully immerse themselves in a whale experience during the annual migration. See and feel the history, see the conservation in action, view lots of Wildlife and go out to sea in a boat looking for the migrating giants travelling on the surface close to shore, if it is calm 🙂 Read More

    Look, Learn, Love and Help on a Whale Island Tour in New Zealand

    Whales are majestic creatures, the kings and queens of the ocean, and getting close to them on one of our Whale Island tours is a magical experience. The original Maori name is Motuara Island, but as whales are such a huge part of its history and its present, everyone calls it Whale Island.

    This small, fully guided group tour takes you around the calm waters of Queen Charlotte Track, an area that has always fascinated visitors, not least the famous 18th century English explorer Captain James Cook.

    This was once a significant place in the whaling industry, but such thoughtless human activity ceased in New Zealand in 1964 and in our enlightened age, what we do on our Whale watching tours in New Zealand is observe without causing any disturbance.

    We’ve got binoculars to bring the whales into close view, and by spotting them, you will be helping the Department of Conservation, which keeps a close eye on where the whales are and how many of them we see. As a fun bonus, the first person to spot a whale on your Whale Island Cruise wins a commemorative t-shirt.

    All the while, our experienced, accredited guides at E-Ko Tours will tell you stories and give you all the information you want about whales and Whale Island in particular.

    Fear Not, Landlubbers, Our Whale Island Cruise has a “No Seasickness Guarantee”!

    The amazing area in which you will be searching for the migrating humpback whales also has dramatic scenery dominated by the highest snow-capped mountain (9465 feet) visible to the south. Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku (which means the footprint of the rainbow) is quite a sight, and then there are the rugged cliffs that shelter us from the prevailing winds and swell during our journey. The waters are so calm and our vessel so stable that on our Whale Island Cruises, we offer a money-back guarantee against anyone getting seasick.

    While these fabulous mammals go about their business without regard to what we humans are up to, and therefore we can’t guarantee that they will cooperate, this is the closest place migrating humpbacks come to our coastline, so there is every chance you’ll get spectacular memories and images in your camera to show the folks back home what fun you had on your day around Whale Island.

    The Global Significance of Whale Island in New Zealand

    Such is the importance of this spot where your Whale Island tour takes place, the World Cetacean Alliance (cetaceans being a group comprising dolphins, porpoises and whales) has given the area candidate status to become New Zealand’s first Whale Heritage Site.

    Contact us to Book Your Whale Island tour

    If you’re interested in Whale watching tours in New Zealand, our endangered species tour or if you’re looking for the best activities in Picton, you can contact us by filling in the online form, sending us an email or calling us on the phone. We’ll give you all the information you need about options, prices and so on. So, get in touch and let’s make sure you have the trip of a lifetime.

    You’ll look, you’ll learn, you’ll love the experience and you’ll be doing your bit to help one of our planet’s legendary species.

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    What to bring

    • Camera
    • Suncream and sunglasses
    • Dress warmly and wear flat shoes.
    • If you wish to spend time on the outside decks of our vessels you may need light waterproof clothing depending on the sea conditions.

    Where are we?

    We are located conveniently on Picton’s main waterfront with car parking close by and only a 1-minute walk from the main street.

    Just look for the Dusky Dolphin outside our shop.

    Before your tour starts feel free to take a seat inside the shop or outside on our sun drenched deck and enjoy the stunning views.

    Customers can also get online with our free WiFi, and purchase a tea or coffee to enjoy on the deck.

    You will Never Miss your Ferry

    Our tour schedules are integrated with the Interislander – so there is no chance that you’ll miss your ferry.

    What people are saying about us

    “Absolutely brilliant”

    Facebook – 5 Star ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Absolutely brilliant, we were blessed enough to see 2 humpback whales. The Perano whale station Is a must if you are into our local history.????

    “A fantastic time”

    Facebook – 5 STAR ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ We had a fantastic time yesterday – we saw whales! (and dolphins and fur seals and all sorts of seabirds)

    “What a great trip”

    Trip Advisor – 5 STAR ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ What a great trip out to see migrating whales in Cook Strait. When we got into Cook Strait I wondered how we were going to be able to see any whales as the area is so vast. But Paul had it covered with whale spotters up the hill and they saw two large whales quite quickly. They surfaced about 8 times close to the boat. What an awesome experience. We also went to the old whaling station which was great background information. Put this on your list. But they only migrate in winter so book in quick.

    “An excellent morning out”

    Trip Advisor – 5 STAR ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ We went out on this trip today in overcast weather, towards Cook strait via the Tory channel. This is an amazing trip with a skipper who is very passionate about conservation and his first mate who made passengers comfortable and looked after the periphery of the boat. The commentary was knowledgeable and the video at the whaling station was excellent. It was a good day to go, alas no whales were sighted (one maybe but too hard to tell): for all that it was an excellent morning out and the competency of the skipper and crew is to be commended, thank you so much.

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