Whale watchers off the Kaikoura Coast were treated to a stunning display as a juvenile humpback whale breached repeatedly alongside their craft.

Images have been posted online of the barnacle-encrusted 10m mammal capturing the awe-inspiring moments it rears its giant body skyward out of the sea before crashing back under the water.

Photo / Tehlia Richardson
Photo / Tehlia Richardson
Photo / Tehlia Richardson
Photo / Tehlia Richardson

In one shot the juvenile humpback is shown seemingly standing upright with half its body out of the water, both long fins in a streamlined position.

Whale Watch Kaikoura marketing manager Lisa Bond said the breathtaking encounter was a rare treat for tourists and crew alike.

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"Everyone was buzzing, even the crew.

"Everyone was getting their camera out," Bond said.

The close-up encounter came as a complete surprise with the whale breaching alongside the boat at least 20 times.

It was taken on Saturday before conditions in the area deteriorated.

Photo / Tehlia Richardson
Photo / Tehlia Richardson
Photo / Tehlia Richardson
Photo / Tehlia Richardson

Bond said humpback whales normally appeared in the area between May and September as they migrated north to warmer tropical waters. However, a couple of younger humpbacks had been spotted in the region in the past month well ahead of timetable.