Kaikoura is a small town just north of Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island. It is BEAU-TI-FUL. Towering mountains rise over the tiny town, tumbling down into the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean; the Kaikoura Peninsula juts out into the sea, a virtual playground for wildlife such as seals, sea birds, and other coastal animals; just offshore, a deep ocean trench supports the up upswell of abundant sea life, providing ample food for the resident sperm whales, massive pods of dusky dolphin, and other seasonal visitors. Kaikoura is a natural wonder, not only for the amazing landscape, but also because of the remarkable amount of local wildlife that surrounds it. It is well worth at least a day- or two...
Kaikoura is located 180km north of Christchurch, and is easily accessed by bus. Many hop-on/hop-off tours stop in Kaikoura, and there are also shuttles that run out of Christchurch. It is also accessible by train from Christchurch to the south and Picton to the north.
Things to do in Kaikoura
- Get up close and personal with Moby Dick- Kaikoura may be the best spot in the world for sperm whale watching. The local whale-watching companies have their routines so polished that they even have the local sperm whales named, and know when and where they will surface after their dives. A bonus of the whale watching tours is just being out on the water, surrounded by the beauty that is Kaikoura.
- Swim with Flipper- Another unique activity to Kaikoura is the opportunity to swim with wild dolphin. Dusky dolphin congregate into massive ‘super pods’ just off the coast at Kaikoura- pods of dolphin sometimes numbering into the thousands. There is a licensed operator that runs trips out into the bay, allowing passengers to get into the water right in the middle of these swarms of dolphin. It is one of the most amazing experiences one can have in all of New Zealand, if not the world. Yes, you have to get up EARLY, but it is well worth the lost sleep...
- Visit the seal colony- Better at low tide (Easier to navigate over the rocks), the local seal colony is home to a number of Southern Fur Seals, usually lolling in the shallows or sunning themselves on the rocks. Don’t get too close- they may seem fat and slow, but they can get a move on when they want to.
- Hit the trails- there are countless trails that wind up into the hills surrounding Kaikoura, each providing a unique yet equally breath taking view of the town and its surrounds. Ask your accommodation for recommendations and a map.
- Explore the underwater world- Kaikoura is a great place to go scuba diving, for obvious reasons. With so much local wildlife, the shores are teeming with great dive sites and unique experiences. Try diving with the seals- amazing...
- If you get seasick, be sure to take your dramamine BEFORE going on any of the local activities that involve a boat- and most do.
- Underwater cameras are a good idea for many of the activities- swimming with the dolphin, diving with the seals, etc. Some once-in-a-lifetime photos, for sure.
- If you like to fish, Kaikoira is a great place to throw a line in. Check with a local shop about regulations.
- Make sure to bring your suncream on any activities out on the water- if you’re out in the open, the sun can get pretty intense.