While you’re here, you won’t want to miss –
In June and July each year, migratory whales head north from Antarctica to the tropics. On the way, they like to stop-off for a feed at a little region at the top of the east coast of the South Island called Kaikoura. In fact, the food here is so good, giant sperm whales stay all year round!
One of the best known things to do in Kaikoura is heading out on a whale encounter. There are a number of experienced tour operators with the technology to predict exactly where the whales are swimming and likely to surface. So if you’re eager to see whales – dolphins, seals & penguins, too – Kaikoura’s the place to be.
The reason Kaikoura is a popular stop-off for species such as humpbacks, blue whales and southern right whales, is its plankton rich waters.
It’s possible to see the whales just a short distance from shore via one of the whale watch cruises that track the whales and pinpoint the exact places they’ll surface using sonar readings.
You’ll also be told when the whales are about to dive so you can get your camera ready – it’s a thrilling experience especially just feet from the boat!
Whale-watching from the air can also be rewarding. From a height, you can better experience the whales’ sheer size, especially if it’s a calm day.
Other wildlife attractions in Kaikoura include seals, dolphins and little blue penguins. There are many relaxing self-guided walks among the things to do. Meander around the township where you can see seals sun-bathing on the tidal flats, dolphins frolicking and sea birds fishing. A popular stroll – for the abundance of wildlife and mountain views – is the 2-hour return cliff walk around the peninsula.
A guided walk through Puhi Peaks Nature Reserve is ideal if you want a more thorough exploration of the area’s abundant native wildlife and plants. The reserve is home to 1 of only 2 Hutton’s shearwater nesting colonies in the world. The reserve is privately owned but we can arrange a lodge stay and multi-day walks if you’d like to include this on your vacation.
Kaikoura Coast Eateries
Translated from Māori, Kaikoura means ‘to eat crayfish’ and there’s no better place to do just that. Choose from one of the many seafood restaurants in town for a fresh taste or try the local favorite, Nin’s Bin, a roadside food stand on the northern outskirts of Kaikoura. Sit at a nearby picnic table and savor fresh local crayfish steamed and accompanied by your choice of sauce or cooked in garlic butter.
One of the most highly acclaimed eateries on the Kaikoura Coast is The Store at Kekerengu, a 40 minute drive north of Kaikoura.
It boasts magnificent sea views and a menu offering all types of delicious seafood – crayfish, blue cod and whitebait fritters – as well as beef and lamb dishes.
Alpine Pacific Triangle
This 230 mile circular touring route starts and finishes in Kaikoura – and stretches as far down as the Waipara Valley in the Hurunui region.
To head south, one option is to take the coastal route passing by the small towns of Goose Bay, Hawkswood and Parnassus. On this route, you’ll reach Cheviot in under an hour, with time for a coffee and a meal, or you can explore nearby Gore Bay, a popular local vacation spot.
The other option is to head inland towards Mount Lyford Village, a popular recreational resort in winter and summer.
On the way, you’ll pass by Waikene Station, a working farm with well-marked trails for walking and mountain biking for guests at the lodge or campground. The inland route is the quickest way to get to Hanmer Springs known for its alpine setting with a relaxing – and therapeutic – thermal spa.
While whale watching is the best known thing to do in Kaikoura, the region offers much more if you spend some time exploring the area.