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Quintessential Kaikoura


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 Marine Wildlife Encounters

   Whale watching 
 The combination of the contours of the deep Hikurangi Trench rapidly ascending to the Kaikoura coastline, water temperature and ocean currents make the water nutrient rich. This encourages a food chain in which the whale is nowadays at the top – at least around these parts. Sixty foot long and weighing 50 tons, the Giant Sperm Whale is an all year round visitor to Kaikoura. Other whale species also pass through on their migratory routes.

With the whales often so close to shore, the chances of a close up view are pretty good. You can take a 4 hour cruise dedicated to whale watching in a purpose built launch from Kaikoura. You may also see dolphins, seals and giant albatross along the way.

   Dolphin interaction
 The acrobatic Dusky Dolphin and the smaller and rarer Hectors Dolphin inhabit the waters off Kaikoura. Daily boat trips to try to find and observe these animals also combine an optional “swim with the dolphins” experience.

   Birdwatching cruise
 Kaikoura is reputed to host the largest concentration and variety of seabirds on mainland New Zealand. You can take a cruise that focuses on encounters with the albatross and other sea birds.

You may see multiple species of albatross, shearwater and petrel as well as gannets, shags, gulls and maybe penguins along the way.

  Seal swims
A couple of operators offer the chance to swim with seals just off the rocks of the Peninsula.
   Kayaking amongst seals
 Kayaking with seals (and other forms of marine life) around the Peninsula is another option for those with appropriate water confidence. Kayaks may be hired by two or more people or guided trips (and instruction) are available.
  Snorkelling and diving
Interact with seals. Learn to catch a paua, crayfish or spear a butterfish – and you get to consume what you catch later.
   Seal and wildlife viewing
 Seals are reasonably plentiful around the peninsula. You’ll likely happen upon some if taking the Kaikoura Peninsula Walk. Otherwise follow The Esplanade round to the Fyffe Quay car park at the end of the road. There are often one or two not far from the car park. Don’t disturb them by getting too close – keep 20 metres away at least.
   Nature flights
Choose between fixed wing and helicopter flights for an aerial view of life around the 1,000 metre deep Kaikoura Canyon.




 Magic Hilltop Views

 Here are three options requiring varying degrees of stamina:
   - Drive or walk up to the viewing point above the town (in Scarborough Street)
   - Take the Kaikoura Peninsula Walk
    - Clamber up Mt Fyffe for an overall view from 1,600 metres (5,250 ft) (read more below)

 Take a Coastal Drive

Take your time to drive north and, especially, south and stop to photograph or explore coves, caves, road and rail tunnels, wildlife, surfers, snorkelers, fishermen. A pair of binoculars is useful to settle any debate about whether that’s a whale out there or a rock.
And don’t forget the road past the town that goes part way round the peninsula past historic Fyffe House. (The Esplanade – Avoca Street – Fyffe Quay)

 Local Arts & Crafts, Galleries and Museum

There is a thriving arts and crafts community in Kaikoura and there are several  galleries worth visiting as well as the small but interesting District Museum. The museum displays include Maori artifacts as well as whaling, fishing, farming, saw milling, social history, marine fossil, geology and  photographic archives.
An Art Trail brochure is available from the Information Centre.

 Eating Local Seafood (and tasting local wine)

  In Maori, kai means food and koura means crayfish (lobster). You’ll notice the odd caravan on the outskirts of town selling this local delicacy. Indulge. Enjoy. Other sumptuous Kaikoura seafoods to try include hapuka (grouper), blue cod, mussels, paua (abalone) and squid.
 And why not try a local wine to accompany that seafood. Two km south of Kaikoura is the Kaikoura Winery, one of the most scenic vineyards in New Zealand. Overlook the coastline on one side and the mountains on the other while enjoying a glass of wine, an underground cellar tour or a meal from the winery cafe.

 Beach Walking

There are plenty of long stretches of beach to stroll near Kaikoura – start right in town or perhaps further along behind New World. Marvel at the colours and roundness of the pebbles along the beach; maybe bump into a stray penguin or seal pup, a visiting pod of dolphins or orca; listen for the rumble of the next train to Christchurch or Picton; soak in the views of the mountains running down to the sea ...

More Kaikoura Activities



Maori Cultural Experience

 Maori have lived in the Kaikoura area for perhaps 800 - 900 years and have a rich culture to share. Half day tours will introduce you in a relaxed way to New Zealand's indigenous people's traditions, beliefs and connection with the natural environment.


Cave exploration - Maori Leap Cave

 A guided 30 minute tour (departing hourly) is available from The Caves Restaurant on SH1 just south of Kaikoura before the golf course. You'll see limestone features such as stalagtites and stalagmites and cave coral.



The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway (2 - 4 hours return)
       Not to be missed. From the town centre, the distinctively marked route follows the peninsula with a number of routing and scenic and wildlife viewing options - including cliff-side and shoreline (depending on the tide times). Starting and finishing at the car park at the end of Fyffe Quay road can save an hour or so.
Mt Fyffe ascent (5 - 8+  hours return)
       Walking from 200m to 1600m elevation you'll be rewarded (weather permitting) with stunning views down onto the Kaikoura Peninsula and as far as the North Island. Starting and finishing from the Mt Fyffe car park, this trek requires a good level of fitness but is a remarkable opportunity and challenge.
Other walks near Mt Fyffe
      Hinau Track (45 mins)
      Fyffe-Palmer Track (1.5 - 2 hours)
      Kowhai-Hapuku Circuit (2-3 days)
Puhi Peaks Nature Reserve
      A guided 2-3 day alpine experience through private high country land.
More serious climbing and tramping
      The mountains of the Inland Kaikoura Ranges reputedly offer some of the best climbing options outside Mt Cook and Mt Aspiring National Parks.
Mountains as high as the 2885m (9465ft) Tapuae-o-uenuku inland from Clarence can be attempted by those with the appropriate experience.
There are a number of hiking options up the Awatere Valley Road between Dashwood (just north of Seddon) and Molesworth Station. Refer DOC Molesworth Station Tramping Tracks for initial information.


Horse Trekking

 The North Canterbury and Marlborough regions offer some of the best horse riding opportunities.
Fyffe View Ranch may be the closest to Kaikoura at the base of nearby Mt Fyffe a short drive away.
An hour or two further afield there are farm and cross country riding operators who can also organise multi-day guided treks including:
North at Ward: Marlborough Horse Adventures
Inland at Mt Lyford:  Mt Lyford Treks
Inland at Hanmer Springs:
      Hanmer Horses
South at Hawarden:
      Alpine Horse Safaris
      Hurunui Horse Treks



 A number of launch operators offer fishing trips in the Kaikoura area. The fishing is generally very good (blue cod, perch, grouper) and the mountain scenery is a great bonus.
Sometimes you'll also get a whale siting.
Closer to shore you can dive or snorkel to catch your own crayfish, paua or small fin fish.



 The Kaikoura Golf Club welcomes visitors. It is a pleasant course suitable for all ability levels located on SH1 just south of town overlooking South Bay.


Sky Dive

If Mt Fyffe is not high enough for you, Skydive Kaikoura can offer a unique view of the Peninsula!


Farm Parks

 Visit or stay on a local working farm.



 Marlborough wines are becoming world renowned.


River Rafting

 The Clarence River 39km north of Kaikoura is a class 2 - 3 river and wilderness style rafting trips of up to 5 days are available.


Swim / Surf / Kayak / Waterski


The water may be cool, the beaches pebbley rather than sandy and the coastline a little exposed but water activities are very popular and enjoyable around Kaikoura. Care is needed to heed local conditions and obtain local knowledge before embarking on these activities.