Yellow-Eyed Penguins at Katiki Point

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Katiki Point is the southernmost tip of the Moeraki Peninsula in Otago. In 1878 they built Katiki Point Lighthouse there to make the area a safer place for ships to pass. The lighthouse isn’t the reason we visited Katiki Point though. It’s the wildlife! Katiki Point is the place to be to see one of the world’s rarest penguin species, the yellow-eyed penguin, up close. There are little blue penguins and New Zealand fur seals as well.

In this blog post we’ll tell you all you need to know to visit the yellow-eyed penguins at Katiki Point.

What to see at Katiki Point

The top attraction at  Katiki Point are the yellow-eyed penguins. This rare kind of penguin is native to New Zealand and also known as hoiho or YEP. We saw five yellow-eyed penguins during our visit. We were kind of late, after 17:00, and the penguins seemed to be heading home at the time. We did get a good look at them from pretty close, before they left the cliffs and the beach below. They’re so cute, waddling around and kissing each other (or is it fighting?).

The Penguin Reserve is open from 7:30 until 18:00, but for a better chance to see the penguins, best visit before 9:00 or after 15:00. You’re on top of some high cliffs at the tip of the Moeraki Peninsula, so it’s closed when it’s dark for your own safety. At certain points there’s some fencing to protect the penguins, but not everywhere, so watch your step!

Are they kissing or fighting?Are they kissing or fighting?
New Zealand fur sealNew Zealand fur seal
Watch your step, lots of seals around!Watch your step, lots of seals around!

When you arrive at the cliffs, you’ll see the yellow-eyed penguins on your left, either on the other side of the fence or down below at the beach. On your right, there’s a drop right into the ocean. If you look closely, you can probably spot some New Zealand fur seals (or kekeno) playing in the water. That was one of those moments I wish we had binoculars. If you head further to the tip of the cliffs, you won’t need binoculars to get a good look at the fur seals though. They’re right at your feet! Don’t come too close, you wouldn’t want to make those big guys angry.

Then there’s Katiki Point Lighthouse which we don’t actually remember seeing. We were completely focused on the wildlife. We did read on the website of the Department of Conservation that the lighthouse keeper’s house is now used as a private rehabilitation centre for sick and injured penguins and other birds.

How to get to Katiki Point

The road to get to Katiki Point, Lighthouse Road, is unsealed. It’s about 3 to 4 km long, so keep that in mind when planning your visit. We did see a big camper or two parked on the car park at Katiki Point, so it’s possible, although probably rocky and slow. We drove a Spaceships campervan, basically a big car, so had no issues getting there. Entrance is free, but there is a donation box to help fund the care for sick and injured penguins.

Keep your eye out for seals playing in the water belowKeep your eye out for seals playing in the water below
Penguins making their way to the beachPenguins making their way to the beach

From the car park it’s quite a walk to get to the cliffs, plan for that too. At a certain point on the path there’s a junction. You can choose to go straight to what’s marked on the map as “Penguin Lookout” or go right to the tip of the cliffs. We didn’t have a choice though, as the path heading straight was closed for some reason. There were quite some people, but it wasn’t too crowded. Bring your camera, binoculars (if you have them), and dress warm, because there’s a cold wind up there on the cliffs.

Watching the rare yellow-eyed penguins waddle around and do their thing in the wild was definitely the highlight of our short stay in Moeraki. Everyone knows about the Moeraki Boulders, but those are quite boring compared to the wildlife at Katiki Point. Don’t pass up this great opportunity to get close to wild penguins and fur seals!


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Yellow-Eyed Penguins at Katiki PointYellow-Eyed Penguins at Katiki Point