On the New Zealand’s South Island, a short drive from Dunedin, Penguin Place is a conservation reserve for the endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin. It’s entirely funded through guided tours, so your visit will directly contribute to the birds’ preservation. In addition to bird sightings, the reserve offers beautiful views of Otago Harbour.
Started in 1985, Penguin Place was the first place in the world to fund conservation entirely through tourism. It aims to protect and grow the population of Yellow-Eyed Penguins, and numbers of these birds varies from year to year. Trees and plants are planted every year throughout the reserve to provide shelter for the penguins. The center also scientifically studies the penguins, so provides valuable research that can be used to protect them further.
Most people visit Penguin Place from nearby Dunedin, either on its own or as part of a wildlife-themed day tour of the Otago Peninsula, the rugged, nature-rich outcrop of land that spreads out from the city.
Things to Know Before You Go
- You are allowed to take photos at Penguin Place, but don’t use a flash as it can scare the birds.
- The reserve tour is only suitable for travelers with good mobility, as it covers more than 0.5 miles (1 kilometer) and includes quite a lot of steps.
- The wildlife seen on guided tours can vary day to day, so you could be in for a surprise!
- Penguin Place has its own lodge with budget accommodation (closed from May to August.)
How to Get There
To reach Penguin Place by car, drive half an hour on the single road from Dunedin to the Otago Peninsula. Bus 18 makes the trip from central Dunedin in over an hour. Tours begin on Harrington Point Road (the main road along the peninsula), from which participants are transported to the preserve.
When to Get There
Ninety-minute tours operate regularly in the summer months (October to March), once in the morning and once in the early evening; in the winter they run in the mid-afternoon. Summer is a more comfortable time to visit, as the Otago Peninsula can get very windy and cold in winter. What you see on the tour depends on the behavior of the birds and the weather conditions on the day, so every day can be different.
Visit the Royal Albatross Colony
The Otago Peninsula is rich in wildlife. Bird lovers can combine a visit to Penguin Place and the Royal Albatross Centre at Taiaroa Head, farther along the peninsula. It’s the only place in the world where the enormous birds breed and nest on a mainland, and renowned conservationists consider it one of the finest examples of ecotourism.