On the coast a few minutes outside Auckland, New Zealand, Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium is the pioneering aquarium that originated curved-glass viewing containers and conveyor belts that move you along. At this family-friendly stop, visitors can see tropical fish, sea turtles, sharks, and two species of penguins.
Kelly Tarlton’s (as the aquarium is commonly known in New Zealand) was founded by the renowned Kiwi archaeologist and diver of the same name. An enormous variety of marine life and birds live here, including stingrays, turtles, octopuses, venomous fish such as pufferfish and stonefish, and king and gentoo penguins. For an addition fee, visitors can snorkel with the fish, swim with sharks or stingrays, or ride the Antarctic Snowcat snowmobile to see the penguins. Kelly Tarlton’s also plays an important conservation role, as it has New Zealand’s only turtle-rescue center.
While the aquarium can be visited alone, many travelers like to combine a stop here with other attractions on the Auckland Explorer Bus, a hop-on hop-off service. It’s at Mission Bay, so can be combined with a relaxing time at the beach or at the restaurants in the seaside suburb.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Behind-the-scenes tours are available if you want to learn more about the wildlife kept at Kelly Tarlton’s.
- Special programs are often put on for kids during school holidays; check the Kelly Tarlton’s website for the latest information about what’s on during your visit.
- The aquarium is fully wheelchair accessible.
How to Get There
Kelly Tarlton’s is located at Mission Bay, about 4 miles (6.3 kilometers) from central Auckland. It’s easy to drive to if you have your own transport. Alternatively, the aquarium runs a free shuttle service from central Auckland (152 Quay Street) that departs on the half hour between 9:30am and 4:20pm.
When to Get There
Kelly Tarlton’s is open daily, with the exception of Christmas Day and Anzac Day (April 25). It’s a popular place to come with kids so can be busy with school groups during the week and with families during the weekends and school holidays. If the weather is fine, it’s a good idea to combine a visit to Kelly Tarlton’s with a stop at nearby Mission Bay Beach.
Visit the Auckland Zoo
Animals lovers might want to follow the aquarium with a stop at the Auckland Zoo, about a 20-minute drive away in Western Springs. The zoo is set in a large park, where animals live in environments that closely mimic their natural habitats. Highlights include cheetahs, African lions, red pandas, servals, and Tasmanian devils.