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Stories from our backyard: Meet Dunedin’s little Blue Penguins

Sep 12, 2022 | New Zealand, South Island

Dunedin's little Blue Penguins

Blue Penguins Pukekura. Photo Credit: Enterprise Dunedin

OK we know they are cute. After all, what is not to love about the world’s smallest penguin?

Meet Kororā, the world’s smallest penguin, emerging from the sea at dusk at Takiharuru/Pilots Beach, near Dunedin, on the South Island, New Zealand. Located on the Otago Peninsula, Blue Penguins Pukekura is a wildlife sanctuary and tour operator that loves to feature their most famous resident. Expect close up views of penguins returning from a day at sea to the Takiharuru/Pilots Beach nature reserve. Watch from a purpose built observation deck as Kororā scurry up the beach to reach their burrows. The tour includes a “walk behind the scenes” through the penguin reserve and an opportunity to learn about other flora and fauna found within the wildlife reserve. Viewing of Dunedin’s Little Blue Penguins is guaranteed and is simply an attraction not to be missed when visiting New Zealand’s wildlife capital.

See almost 200 of the cutest, little happy feet rushing out of the sea across the sand to their burrows…

Blue Penguins Pukekura pack so much into their small group tours that they are proud be voted in the top 10 experiences in New Zealand (TripAdvisor 2022). The Kororā little blue penguin tour is hosted by local guides who share their knowledge on culture, history, botany and zoology of the area, an area which is of historical and cultural significance to the descendants of Korako Karetai. It’s the mission of Blue Penguins Pukekura to ensure the protection of the land and increase the diversity of wildlife in this nature reserve, while also ensuring visitors experience one of nature’s marvels. The 90-minute tours are currently running every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday evenings and cost NZ$120 for a family of 4. With a maximum of only 75 visitors, this is a simple, small group tour that enables a close view of the world’s smallest penguins without the big crowds and distractions. The focus of the tour is purely all about the little penguins, their precious environment, and the culture of the country on which they call home.

The Kororā, (Little Blue Penguin) are native to New Zealand and Southern Australia. They are the world’s smallest penguin, standing at about 30 cm in height. Being small they have adapted their behaviour to return to land from sea only at dusk to avoid some of their natural predators. These little penguins weigh around one kilo on average. The numbers living in New Zealand are in decline except in areas where they have greater protection. Takiharuru/Pilots Beach is one of the main Kororā breeding areas in mainland Otago. Their population has dramatically increased from 20 pairs in the early 1990s to over 250 pairs currently. This increasing population of penguins is largely due to increased protection of the birds by the local whanau (families) and the Blue Penguins Pukekura Trust.

Dunedin's little Blue Penguins

Blue Penguins Pukekura. Photo Credit: DunedinNZ

Experience one of nature’s marvels & contribute to the protection of the Kororā …

The focus of Blue Penguins Pukekura is not only on providing a platform to view the little blue penguins. Their priority is the preservation, enhancement and education of the natural environment, flora, and fauna of the Takiharuru/Pilot’s Beach reserve on the Otago Peninsula. So far, revegetation is well underway with the planting of over 5,000 native plants. The project will eventually provide a living insight into the flora that was once abundant over the entire Otago Peninsula. 300 nest boxes have also been provided to facilitate the protection of the Kororā/little blue penguin colony during breeding season. And finally Blue Penguins Pukekura serves as guardians of Dunedin’s little blue penguins by actively instigating ongoing predator control in the area, benefiting the little penguins and other wildlife. And the good news is all of this amazing work to protect the land and the penguins is solely funded by revenue generated by the tours!

We want our guests to have an experience of a lifetime…

Blue Penguins Pukekura are so honoured to receive a Travellers Choice Best of the Best award and are thrilled to be on the Top 10 list of best attractions in New Zealand. Their team love hosting visitors, sharing their stories of penguins, people, and places. They’re out in all-weather events, enthusiastically guiding people to this wonderful natural attraction. The team are the kaitiaki (guardians) who care for the land, the flora, fauna and keep the penguins safe – plus plant hundreds of bushes to restore the habitat and give the penguins the chance to flourish. This is all possible due to the visitors, who through their support, help Blue Penguins Pukekura look after their precious nature reserve at Takiharuru/Pilots Beach. So make sure to include a tour with Blue Penguins Pukekura on your next visit to Dunedin…. I know it will be the highlight of your New Zealand adventure!

Dunedin's little Blue Penguins

Blue Penguins Pukekura


In Dunedin, Summer temperatures range from 11-20 degrees Celsius, and in Winter, from 4-13 degrees. Expect it to be windy & partly cloudy year-round. Rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year and the rain is more drizzly rather than falling heavily when it does occur.

Good to know:

Blue Penguins Pukekura is located on the Otago Peninsula only 30km or 40 minutes’ drive from Dunedin. Dunedin is the wildlife capital of New Zealand and is a must visit for wildlife lovers of all ages. This university city of Scottish heritage is also New Zealand’s oldest city. Expect a unique combination of cultural riches, fine architecture, and the world-famous wildlife reserves on the Otago Peninsula. There is so much to see and do you could easily base yourself in the region for 2-3 days. Explore the heritage buildings, the rare wildlife, and the spectacular landscapes. Drive up the Otago Peninsula where the views are endless and admire the rugged beaches. Look out for the fur seals and sea lions just lazing around and enjoying their natural habitat. Nearby the Blue Penguins Pukekura and nestled at the foot of Taiaroa Head is the Royal Albatross Centre, the only place in the world on the mainland where you can view Northern Royal Albatross in their natural habitat. Dunedin’s heritage extends to Larnach Castle, a real castle, positioned high on the hills of the Otago Peninsula. Catch a train from the incredible Dunedin Railway Station – enjoy the 4 hour return Seasider trip, which journeys along the harbour’s edge, across beautiful farmland and then around the cliffs of Blueskin Bay. Check the timetable as currently only running once/month during winter.

Dunedin Railway Station. Photo Credit: DunedinNZ

And finally:

AET Travel (formerly Australia Expat Travel) specialises in exceptional holidays to Australia and New Zealand. We make it simple with our local knowledge, seamless logistics and trusted advice since 2004. Expect a bespoke itinerary curated with the big picture and the small details. Contact us

Taieri Gorge Railway. Photo Credit: DunedinNZ

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