A happy dog on a Lead the Way lead in Otago
Image: DOC | ©


How to keep wildlife and your dog safe while walking your dog on beaches in the Otago region.

On this page:

Where to look out for wildlife

Birds, seals, and other wildlife are common on Otago beaches. But there are four main species to look out for when dog walking.

New Zealand sea lion / pakake / whakahao

Two sea lions lay closeby to a sign warning of sea lions in the area. The sea lions are nearby some green bushes that contrast with the sandy beach.
Example of where sea lions may show up
Image: Jim Fyfe | DOC

New Zealand sea lions are one of the world’s rarest sea lion and are found only in New Zealand. Historically they were found around much of New Zealand but are now restricted to the subantarctic and southern New Zealand.

They like sandy beaches and dune environments. Uniquely in the sea lion world, they can also be found in coastal forest often catching people and their dogs off guard.

New Zealand sea lion more information.

Sea lion specific locations otago:

  • Tomohawk
  • Smaills Beach
  • Warrington
  • St Clair
  • St Kilda
  • Allans Beach
  • Aramoana
  • Kaka Point
  • Tautuku

Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho

A hoiho waddles along the rocky coastline.
Example of a hoiho on a rocky coastline
Image: Shellie Evans | ©

Hoiho can be found along the coast of the south-eastern South Island, including the rocky shore, sandy beaches and dunes. They usually nest in dense vegetation such as lupins, high grass, flax bush and coastal forest. Nests can be located several hundred meters inland.

Yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho more information.

Dogs are banned from most sensitive sites where hoiho breed – adhere to the signage and exclusion zones. However, hoiho can appear all along the Otago coastline so always keep your dog under effective control.

Take extra care during moulting times of hoiho February to May. This is when birds are replacing their feathers and cannot go to sea, making them very vulnerable to disturbance.

Little penguin/kororā

A few little penguin/korarā huddle together in a covered rocky outcrop.
Kororā often roost and nest in rocky areas
Image: Shellie Evans | ©

Kororā live and breed all around our coastlines, from Northland to Stewart Island/Rakiura and most places in-between. They’re vulnerable when moving between the sea and their nest at dusk, so be aware on your after-work adventures with your dog.

Photos of kororā and more information.

In the Otago region you may find these penguins on any Dunedin beaches. But you'll most likely find these penguins at:

  • Pūrākaunui
  • Long Beach
  • Brighton
  • Allans Beach
  • Across Oamaru
  • Tautuku

Fur seal/kekeno

A few little penguin/korarā huddle together in a covered rocky outcrop.
Example of fur seal/kekeno likely spot on the beach
Image: Ian Banatoski | ©

Fur seals breed and haul-out (rest) on rocky coastlines sometimes in large numbers. In winter you may see them as solo adventurers on the beach and on sides of a coastal track.

They blend into their surroundings. Your dog might smell one long before you know it’s there, so keep alert.

Photos of fur seals/kekeno and more information.

In winter especially, kekeno can be found opportunistically almost anywhere on Otago coastlines. Opportunistically means they can show up anywhere – stay vigilant. They range from rocky shores to beaches, sometimes even in someone’s backyard. These seals will rest anywhere they can.

But they’re found usually at these places:

  • Tomohawk
  • Smaills Beach
  • Warrington
  • St Clair
  • St Kilda
  • Allans Beach
  • Aramoana Recreation Reserve

Specific ways to keep wildlife safe

The key thing you can do is when you see wildlife ahead, put your lead on your dog. Then pass at least 20 meters away from the wildlife. This will help keep your dog and the wildlife safe.

More ways to keep wildlife safe when with your dog on beaches.

Get a Lead the Way lead

Lead the Way leads convey visually what temperament your dog has. By using these leads while out on walks, you're also advocating for the protection of our precious wildlife.

How to get a Lead the Way lead.

Dogs on conservation land

Different conservation areas have different rules. Some areas allow dogs, others require a permit, and some do not allow dogs at all.

Tracks, campsites, and hunting areas you can take your dog on conservation land.

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