Curio Bay New Zealand – Yellow Eyed Penguins

Yellow eye penguin Curio Bay

Day Trip To Curio Bay

Back in 2008 when we were travelling through New Zealand, over what i can only imagine was a few beers and and a game of beer pong. In a hostel was said to be on New Zealand steepest Road (thats another story). A fellow traveler brought to my attention a little find of there’s they had recently been on called Curio Bay and the adjoining Porpoise Bay. Curio bay was known for the very rare yellow eyed penguin colony.

Intrigued we set of the next day from Dunedin to the far south of the south island in search of these rare penguins.

Location Of Curio Bay

2 hr 30 minutes drive from the South Islands second largest city Dunedin. A city known for its beautiful wildlife and rugged coastline

1 hr 10 mins drive from the small city of Invercargill. A city which is one of the southernly cities in the world.

As you can see below the bustling Town center of Curio Bay one street and surrounding woodland. Peace and quiet and a real sense of being in the wild.

Curio Bay center

Yellow Eye Penguins History

These penguins also known as Hoiho the moari term for yellow eyed penguin. Meaning “noise shouter” referring to there calls. This colony of penguins are endangered with around 6000 and 1700 breading pairs. They are largely found on the southern shores of the south island of New Zealand and very popular in Curio Bay.

Our Trip To Curio Bay

So where was I ?

Porpoise Bay

We got up at sunrise and headed down early. We had booked in at the hostel on the adjoining Porpoise Bay. The hostel was also a surf school (cant seem to find on maps assuming not there anymore). As the penguins only came in at night we arranged some surf lessons to keep us occupied during the day.

Curio Bay Dolphins

Surfing here was great fun and little did we know here on Porpoise Bay was another rare bread the hector dolphins. A dolphin known for only swimming in shallow shores and was delighted to catch this shot below with the dolphins playing in the surf and riding the waves.

They were not one bit afraid of us, when we were out they would swim up close and follow you through the waves.

These special Curio Bay dolphins were another rare endangered breed we were delighted to see these here in this relatively untouched area of beauty and in the own habitat.

Yellow Eyed Penguin Spotting

We settled back in after after our fun in the surf and were told to head down to the Curio Bay side as the penguins would come in an hour or so before sunset.

We got a place perched up on the rocks and waited patiently for any sign of these rare penguins.

It wasn’t long before we caught a glimpse, waddling along and hopping up the rocks. It was a slow process for these poor penguins going through this every night. A waddle a jump a waddle a jump almost like myself at 4am on a sunday morning.

The Penguins

I remember the distinct yellow colouring on them that stood out most. They seemed to keep there distance from any of us and of course we stood well back and respected there area and land.

We spent a good hour or so watching them come in, there would of been 100s waddling in for the night. We just sat back and soaked it all up and watched these beautiful creatures in the wild. Just doing what they do every day.

Below is a great photo of these beautiful penguins. Unfortunately we couldn’t get to close up and back in 2008 the camera wasn’t great. We did however get permission to use this.

Courtesy of Caitlins photography

Accommodation Tip

A stay at the Curio Bay Salthouse is a must with it’s self catering apartments, studios and sea views make it a restful and relaxing stay.

With its great hosts helping you on your way to a great stay with there fantastic local knowledge a real sense of this little community is felt here.

The apartments are clean, modern and well maintained, what more could you ask for.

Final Thought

My main tips are simple bring a camera, relax, enjoy the beauty of these species and dont forget to respect there space and land.

Ahhhhh memory lane i do really need to get back to these shores one day.

Apologies for the lack of quality photos this was some while ago.

Fancy learning a bit more about us check out our About page

As always thanks for stopping by

Richard & Michelle

By chalkandcheesetravels

We are adventure seekers who love to explore the world. So one day, we decided to write about it here is our story so far


  1. Penguins are my favorite animal, and it’s awesome you got to see them up close and personal. They look adorable, and I hope to visit New Zealand someday not only for them, but also the stunning landscapes I’ve heard of!

    1. You can’t beat the penguins there adorable I had a lot more photos but can’t find them anywhere.
      We only did the South Island 2008 and so beautiful the landscape changes so often and so much to see its an adventure paradise

  2. Charley – Hi! My name is Charley and welcome to my little travel blog! After visitng South Africa in 2016, I caught the travel bug and have since been to 20 countries, ranging from New Zealand to Ukraine! Undaunted Adventure is a travel blog full of tips, tricks and my favourite memories. Hopefully they'll give you some inspiration to travel and to give you some hints of where to go! Roam Free - Travel Undaunted.
    Charley says:

    I love penguins – I’d love to see these up close one day! New Zealand is such a beautiful country – thanks for sharing!

    1. Well worth the trip hope you get there 👍

  3. Nice short article! Those yellow eyed penguins look super cool. It’s crazy how hotels seem to come and go and you only find out when you do research for a blogpost, isn’t it?

    1. Thanks We normally go bigger but was 13 years ago didn’t to give to much info in case of changes.
      The penguins are beautiful any penguin is really it was a untouched place back then we were encouraged to stay back. Was great to see

    1. Everyone loves penguins, definitely add this to a travel itinerary

  4. Penguins are adorable and these yellow eyed penguins are no exception. I now need to return to New Zealand to see them!

    1. Definitely do, that whole coastline at the South end is beautiful also

  5. Curio Bay (and its surrounding areas) is a nice place to visit indeed! When we’ve been there we saw only couple of penguins and from afar, but still it was so exciting to see these little cute creatures in the wild.

    1. Beautiful isn’t it. We were there 12 years ago and there was a lot. I wonder if they are rarer nowadays

  6. wattwherehow – Bernie and Jess Watt are travel bloggers from Australia, living in NYC. Award winning copywriter by day (Bernie) and legal professional (Jess), casual photographers and hobbyist Vloggers in the making, our blog blends travel experiences from around the world with tips for those coming to NYC to live or vacation.
    wattwherehow says:

    Penguins are the best – so cute.

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience with the yellow eyed penguins! This is an activity I’m adding to my bucket list New Zealand itinerary. Penguins and dolphins – sounds like a perfect day!

    1. A fantastic place and well worth adding to the itinerary

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