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8 things which make our experience unique

Our family business has been operating for 17 years now and we would like to share with you some things we feel makes us unique...


  • We are a local family owned & operated business - managed with love!

Waghorn family

Hugh, Amelia, Julia, Alice, George, Pip Waghorn, and Marie 

Akaroa Dolphins was founded in 2004 by Hugh and Pip Waghorn, with daughter Julia and son George joining the family business in 2015. The Waghorns are 5th & 6th generation Banks Peninsula locals. Pip, Julia, and George have family ties to the first French settlers to Akaroa. 


Alongside the family members, we have a passionate team who are committed to giving you a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

To learn more about our team CLICK HERE!


  • We offer complimentary drinks and home-baking

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 Enjoy our treats while taking in the scenery.

When you first step on board our luxurious catamaran, you will be offered a complimentary drink. Choose between local award-winning wine 'Astrolabe', beer, juice or water. We also have the option of hot drinks.

Near the end of the cruise one of our delightful onboard crew will offer you one of our famous home-baked treats.


To learn more about our famous cookie recipe CLICK HERE!


  • We offer a 98% dolphin sighting guarantee to see the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins

Hector's dolphins

A pod of Hector's dolphins.

The Hector's dolphins are only found around the inshore waters of the South Island of New Zealand, with Akaroa harbour and Banks Peninsula hosting the highest population in one location. Over the past 12 months, we have had a 98% success rate with dolphin sighting. If you are among the rare few who do not see the dolphins you may cruise with us for free another day of your choice.

On our cruise, you will also get a running commentary from our first-class skippers. They will share their knowledge about the fascinating history of Akaroa, the spectacular scenery filled with coastal sea caves and volcanic formations and they will also tell you all about the amazing wildlife including New Zealand fur seals, White-flippered penguins, and seabirds.


To learn more about the Hector’s dolphin and other local wildlife CLICK HERE!

  • Our famous dolphin spotting dogs

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Buster - Miniature Schnauzer 
Albie - English Springer Spaniel
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Jet - Kelpie
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Moana - Kelpie

“We have very highly-skilled dolphin spotting dogs. The dogs have their own roster, so everybody knows who is on which day. It is pretty amazing in a business to have a roster for dogs”, Pip Waghorn. 


An integral part of our team at Akaroa Dolphins is our expert dolphin spotting dogs. They are equipped with dog life vests and keen ears (it is by hearing we believe they can “spot” the dolphins from a distance. We have 4 dogs; Albie and Buster are our main dogs, Moana is in training and Jet who is semi-retired, available if needed.


To learn more about our dolphin spotting dogs read here CLICK HERE!


You can follow our dogs on Tiktok or Instagram



  • We have the most stable and luxurious boat on the harbour

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Our NEW purpose-built dolphin watching catamaran

Our luxurious catamaran has a low-lying profile which means that you enjoy a closer encounter and more intimate experience when viewing the dolphins.


Stability is a major part of an enjoyable cruise. We decided to use a semi-displacement hull rather than a planning or displacement hull, using this to create the perfect ride. At speed it cuts through the water, rising higher out of the sea and skimming across the waves. There is also a lot of buoyancy under the boat to stop the rock and roll motion.


Passengers may enjoy our cruise from our open planned lounge and comfortable seats offering a panoramic view, or enjoy the comfort of the inside, and upstairs in the VIP flybridge with the captain. There is also an on-board toilet. 

If you are worried about seasickness for you or your family, rest assured that our boat is stable enough to help reduce the chances of feeling queasy. On days with sea swells, we recommend Sea-Legs to manage nausea, which you can get at our local pharmacy.


To learn more about our NEW purpose-built catamaran CLICK HERE!


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A low-lying boat for closer dolphin encounters 


  • We cater for small groups, meaning more enjoyment!


Our guests on our catamarans 'Akaroa Dolphin'  and 'Into the Blue' enjoying dolphins watching.

We only accommodate a small number of passengers, so our guests have more room to move around in. This gives you a more intimate and personal cruise experience without overcrowding, and without missing dolphin sightings due to a shortage of viewing space.


For more photos, please visit our GALLERY!


  • We are Department Of Conservation Approved

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The Department of Conservation logo on the side of our catamaran.

We are a permitted operator meaning that we are allowed to take guests out to view the Hector’s dolphins and other marine mammals (It is illegal to do this without a permit). Our permit allows us to do 4 cruises in a day. Akaroa Dolphins also pay a fee to support the Department of Conservation (DOC) in New Zealand. This means that a percentage of each passenger’s fare goes towards education and scientific research of the Hector’s dolphins. 


Read more about our DOC approval and collaboration below:






Written by Chalita Aommy Klumjui & Emma Perrin

Photos by Chalita Aommy Klumjui 


 To learn more you can book on our cruise by CLICKING HERE!

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