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Whale History and Wildlife Cruise


  • 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 Dolphins Possible
  • Albatross and Seabirds
  • Complimentary Hot Drinks , Biscuits
  • Fully Guided by Experienced Experts
  • Wildlife Cruise with many species Viewed

Save the planet –
Take an E-Ko Tour!

A portion of each tour fee goes back into 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

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.

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) to the south. Mount Tapuae-o-Uenuku (footprint of the rainbow).

Rugged and isolated vertical cliffs shelter us from the predominant 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 Humpbacks numbers.

The Best Place To Spot Magnificent Migrating Whales

This is the closest place migrating humpbacks come to our coastline annually and 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 on the primary whale annual migration route.

Now we celebrate the whales returning and promote for whale conservation. You can read about our range of efforts in local conservation.

With an annual increase of 10% per year and an expected 300+ whales this year, Humpbacks 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 (1920-1967 ) from the whaling era which spanned 170 years, closing in 1967.

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.

Then we show you how to use binoculars and give you a Species ID cards. 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 Albatross, Dolphins other pelagic seabirds in the famous Cook Strait.

Our search area is in the sheltered inshore waters and were 90% of the whales have been seen from 1829. This location is the closest place in New Zealand migrating whales come to, due to the ocean currents, that’s why we just search.

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 quality Pinot Gris and some Marlborough Green Shell Mussels 🙂

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 tour includes our NZ only ‘no seasickness guarantee‘ (or your money back)

Possible whale sightings found on this tour🐋:

  • Humpback Whales
  • Southern Right Whales

Other wildlife possible :

  • Albatross
  • Hectors 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!).

While 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 are passing at that time. As a Bonus, we also see a lot of other Wildlife and will stop with several species, hopefully, Dolphins, on the 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 1967. On the way there we also stop at Te Awiti which was NZ first land-based 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 as it was prolific and is the best place in New Zealand to see migrating whales over the winter months.

This area had 10 operational Whale Stations as it was hugely prolific in Whales.

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 whale 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 is 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 while onboard the fully covered and stable 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 protected from predominate winds and a beautiful backdrop of stunning scenery. With the Snow-capped Mount Tapuaenuke (2885M )  to the south of the search grounds and 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. 90 % of the whales sighted historically back to 1829 travelled close to shore in the search area we will cover in a 20Kots Catamaran. We spend 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 season, 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’s 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.


2021 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 traveling on the surface close to shore, if it is calm 🙂

What to bring

  • Camera
  • Suncream
  • 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.