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Every evening the tykes from the Oamaru little penguin colony surf in and wade ashore, heading to their nests in an old stone quarry near the waterfront. Stands are set up on either side of the waddle route. General admission will give you a good view of the action but the premium stand (adult/child $45/22.50), accessed by a boardwalk through the nesting area, will get you closer.
You’ll see the most penguins (up to 250) in November and December. From March to August there may be only 10 to 50 birds. They arrive in groups called rafts just before dark (around 5.30pm in midwinter and 9.30pm midsummer), and it takes about an hour for them all to come ashore; nightly viewing times are posted at the i-SITE. Use of cameras is prohibited and you're advised to dress warmly.
To understand the centre’s conservation work and its success in increasing the penguin population, take the daytime behind-the-scenes tour (adult/child self-guided $10/5 or guided $16/8); packages that combine night viewing and the daytime tour are also available.
Do not under any circumstances wander around the rocks beside the sea here at night looking for penguins. It’s damaging to their environment and spoils studies into the human effects on the birds.