The image of whales surfacing off the coast of Kaikoura is one of New Zealand’s most iconic sights. Situated in a remarkable natural setting alongside mountains that rise dramatically from the coast, Kaikoura is a hugely popular visitor destination.
There are plenty of ways to get out and explore the great outdoors, from wildlife encounters to hiking, surfing, horse trekking and 4WD adventures. Kaikoura also has a long history of Maori settlement – join a tour with a local Maori guide to learn about the region’s cultural history. The popularity of the town ensures it’s well served with accommodation, shops and restaurants.
Do & Discover
A chance to get up close with the magnificent marine life of the region is what draws many to Kaikoura, but there’s adventure and culture awaiting onshore, as well. To get out amongst the region’s abundant wildlife, try Albatross Encounter, Dolphin Encounter, whale watching with Kaikoura Helicopters, getting up close with some flippered friends with Seal Swim Kaikoura, or heading out with the award-winning Whale Watch® Kaikoura. Away from the animals you can head off-road with Glenstrae Farm 4 Wheeler Adventures, paddle with Kaikoura Kayaks, take a stroll with Kaikoura Wilderness Walks, or explore the culture and history of the region with Maori Tours Kaikoura.
Food & Drink
You owe it to yourself to try crayfish before leaving Kaikoura! Seafood fans will be right at home, but there are a range of other options as well. The Maori word ‘Kaikoura’ literally means ‘meal of crayfish’ and the famous delicacy can be sampled at a smart restaurant – or purchased from one of several seaside caravans and devoured beside the sea. For a caffeine fix, hit up Café Encounter on the Esplanade for a beachfront café serving local fare including fresh seafood. For something more substantial there are several good restaurants to choose from including gastro-pub The Whaler, seafood restaurant Green Dolphin Restaurant & Bar, Hislops Café, and The Pier Restaurant.
Set yourself up right next to the ocean or the golf course, or opt for a unique tree house stay with Kaikoura’s often surprising range of accommodation offerings. These include backpackers and holiday parks like Dusky Lodge and the Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Park, comfortable hosted accommodation including The Fairways at Ocean Ridge, Norfolk Pine Beachfront Motel, Waves on the Esplanade Luxury Apartments and the White Morph Motor Inn, or lodge accommodation at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses.
Kaikoura’s airstrip offers access to scenic flights and charters, with the nearest international airport in Christchurch. If you’re travelling on the road, Kaikoura is 2 hours, 45 minutes from Christchurch and 2 hours, 15 minutes from Picton. The 370-kilometre Alpine Pacific Triangle touring route links Kaikoura, Hanmer Springs and the Hurunui, with Hanmer Springs just over 2 hours from Christchurch, and Amberley (in the Hurunui) being 50 minutes from Christchurch. The region is well-served by coaches and shuttles, and Kaikoura is on the Coastal Pacific line between Picton and Christchurch. When you’re there, swing by the Kaikoura i-SITE at 29 West End.
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