Nestled about halfway between Picton and Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island lies Kaikoura. The Kaikoura Coast encompasses the town of Kaikoura and the surrounding area and is a well-known area for lovers of the sea. From whale watching and dining on crayfish to frolicking with the dolphins and walking along the coast, the Kaikoura Coast is a world of wonders from both land and sea. If you will be travelling to the Kaikoura Coast here is a list of the ‘must-see’ and ‘must-do’ activities in the area:
Whale watching is a popular and exciting activity along the Kaikoura Coast, and you can choose to see the whales by boat or air.
The Kaikoura Coast is the whale watching capital of the country, and whale watching tours occur throughout the year. Each whale watching boating excursion is unique, and the giant sperm whale is a common sighting. With each tour, you may also come upon a pod of dolphins, a group of New Zealand fur seals or even an albatross, the large endangered bird that calls this area home. Depending on the season you visit, you may also catch a glimpse of humpback whales, blue whales, pilot whales or the southern right whale. You may also have the chance to see a majestic pod of orcas as they make their way to feeding grounds.
Seeing the whales and other marine life from the air is another way to whale watch, and flights are available throughout the year. When on a boat, you may only see the tails and breaching, but from the air, when conditions are right, you can often see the full body of the whales, and sometimes even large pods of 100s of marine animals all at the same time.
Swimming or watching the local dolphins is an experience that you cannot miss when visiting Kaikoura. The dusky dolphin is the most common dolphin species in the area, and they are well-known for being the most acrobatic of the dolphin species. Pods of dusky dolphins can range from the 100s to even 1000 or more, and are generally found throughout the year.
These dolphins are friendly and love swimming with people, but if you don’t want to dive into a pod of dusky dolphins, you can watch from the comfort of the deck of a boat. If you do choose to get into the water, the tour operator will provide you with a snorkel, wetsuit, fins and mask.
Swimming with the Seals
Most people have heard of swimming with dolphins, sharks or rays, but have you ever thought about swimming with seals? It is a possibility here on the Kaikoura Peninsula. Swimming with wild fur seals was recently chosen as one of the top 10 ‘Best Marine Encounters’ in the world by Lonely Planet, and there is no experience necessary.
With this encounter, you will enter the beautiful waters off of the coast with a wet suit, and you will be a part of a small group of swimmers who can have a once in a lifetime experience.
There are also various other seal encounters available including walks and treks that will get you up close and personal with these gorgeous animals.
Bird Watching Tours
Many people think of the Kaikoura area for the animals in the water, but it is as equally known for those that fly overhead. In fact, there is no greater variety of species of seabirds within this small of an area on the entire coastline of New Zealand.
There are many species of seabirds that call this area home, including up to 12 species of the endangered albatross. You will also encounter prions, petrels, shearwaters and more, just by moving a bit away from the shore. The opportunity for photos on these tours is fantastic, and it will be an experience that you will not soon forget.
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is well known for it’s stunning views and access to marine wildlife. This walkway is managed by the Department of Conservation and is a total of 11.7 kilometres. It takes approximately three hours to walk the length of the walkway, but for those who are seeking out a shorter track, the walkway is split into different sections, each with different points of interest.
Along the way, you will see seabirds and seals, explore historic whaling sites, and come across eye-catching cliff top views of the mountains and sea. This walkway is perfect for families and is a wonderful way to come face-to-face with some of the wildlife of this area of New Zealand.
Fyffe House is the oldest surviving building in Kaikoura, and it is built on a pile of whale bones and native wood and is insulated with straw and mud. The house is set in one of the most beautiful locations on the Kaikoura Peninsula and is a link to the area’s whaling and fishing heritage.
The house and surrounding land pay homage to the Maori history, too, and you will see carvings that are hundreds of years old. You can tour the house and get an idea of how difficult life was for the Maori and Europeans who lived in this area, and will learn more about life on the sea by viewing and hearing the diorama and tales available on the house tour. This is a beautiful location for photos, and will give you an excellent insight into the history of Kaikoura.
Maori Tours and Traditions
New Zealand would not be the place it is today without the influence of the Maori people, and tours are available in Kaikoura to learn about their culture and traditions. These tours will give you an insight into the history and culture of the Maori, and you will get an unusual family perspective. The tours last for a half day, and you will learn about the culture of the Maori through stories, weaving and a bushwalk.
You will be part of the family from the start of the tour, and you will be welcomed with open arms. You will also learn things such as a traditional Maori greeting, how to create objects with plants such as the harakeke, and much more.
Lavendyl Lavender Farm
The scent of lavender is one that many people love, and the Lavendyl Lavender Farm in Kaikoura offers tours for those who want to learn more. The farm grows more than 50 different types of lavender on the five-acre farm, and in addition to seeing and taking in the intoxicating scent of lavender, you will also see a number of other native flowers and plants.
While at the farm, you will have the chance to see the lavender distillation process for lavender and rosemary essential oil, and you can purchase lavender products directly from the on-site store. There is a tearoom on the farm, and you can take some time to explore the garden, and whilst there, take some quiet time and reflection for meditating in a circle of live thyme. There are picnic areas, gardens, scenic views and more to round out your day at the farm.
Fishing in Kaikoura
The Kaikoura Peninsula has a rich history of fishing, and anglers flock to this area from around New Zealand for both deep sea and inshore experiences. There is also freshwater fishing available with the most popular catches being salmon and trout.
There are several fishing operators in Kaikoura that offers fishing excursions, and some of the fish you may reel in include grouper, sea perch, blue cod and more. You may also find that the operator will have cray pots available, or help you pull in New Zealand rock lobster. Most of these operators will also cut and clean the fish for you to take home, and all fishing skill levels are welcome.
The Kaikoura Peninsula is filled with experiences that you won’t find elsewhere in New Zealand. From taking the time to swim with seals and watching whales to walking along the coast for a glimpse at rare seabirds, this area is one that is truly a nature-lover’s paradise. There is plenty of accommodation available here, it is easily-accessible to Christchurch and Picton, and a ‘must-stop’ when travelling the South Island.