Being in the right place at the right time paid off for Whangarei Heads resident Andrea Robinson and her friends who came across a southern right whale basking in shallow waters at Smugglers Cove.
The whale, which was in the cove for several hours on Saturday, had been spotted in Auckland's Mechanics Bay a couple of days earlier.
Ms Robinson said it was an amazing experience for her and two friends to get so close to the creature.
"We were doing the walk along Busby Head and coming down the hill into Smugglers about 9.30am and thought at first it was a rock, but then saw it move and realised it was a whale."
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The whale appeared to be resting in the shallow waters, not far from shore.
"We had a cup of tea from the Thermos and sat on the rocks and watched it for about an hour-and-a half. It was amazing.
"It slowly moved up the beach and then we left, but others reported it still there at 5pm. I'd seen a whale before while out on the water, but never a southern right whale."
She was lucky to have her camera with her to capture photographs.
"I'd seen a seal while walking at McKenzie Bay a little while before and thought I'd take the camera just in case I saw another one."
Whangarei whale expert and orca scientist Ingrid Visser heard about the whale in Smugglers Bay after the event but caught up with the whale near Sandy Bay yesterday. The whale looked healthy and was enjoying a bathe in shallow waters, she said.