Exploring the Kaikoura Coast

On a Sunday morning late in August, I’m driving along the Kaikoura Coast, transfixed by the sight of a soft mist hanging over an ocean that’s as flat and shiny as a fifty cent coin. It’s an otherworldly atmosphere that makes it easy to imagine behemoth whales surfacing offshore and seals and dolphins cavorting in the kelp forests.

Here in Kaikoura, the remarkable landscape of snow-capped mountains soaring above a rugged coastline is mirrored by an equally remarkable seascape of stupendously deep underwater trenches. The trenches, together with a mix of warm ocean currents from the north and cool currents from the south, result in a remarkable abundance of sea life, from microscopic phytoplankton all the way up the food chain to crayfish, seals, dolphins, sharks and Sperm Whales.

Once, while exploring the Kaikoura countryside by quad bike with Glenstrae Farm 4 Wheeler Adventures, a group of us stood on the cliff tops above the ocean and watched dozens of Dusky Dolphins leaping from the water, and on any day of the year you can pull your car over at a waterfront rest area and see Fur Seals lounging on the rocks just metres away. Join a whale-watching cruise to get close to the region’s largest inhabitants or go sea kayaking to explore the coast from the watery side. Kaikoura is a wildlife paradise and an absolute must-see for visitors seeking a real New Zealand eco-experience.

– Michelle Berridge