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Whale watching in Kaikoura, photo (cropped) courtesy of

The full name for this unique place is Te Ahi Kaikōura a Tama ki te Rangi – the fires where Tama ki te Rangi ate crayfish. This spectacular stretch of coast is home to Ngāti Kurī, and their ties with the ocean, sea-life and whales in particular, run deep.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kaikoura just after midnight on 14th December 2016. Two people died in the quake, which caused damage, to roads, infrastructure and houses. There has been a great deal of repair work since then and the town is very much open for visitors again. The inland road is open, and is a scenic and memorable way of approaching Kaikoura. The highway south to Christchurch is usually open too - details of roading repairs and other updates can be found on the Kaikoura i-SITE facebook page.

Kaikoura has always been renowned for its marine wildlife. The surrounding seas are home to whales, dolphins, seals, an amazing array of fish and birdlife. Nutrient rich currents supply food to this fabulous marine ecosystem, made all the more special by the stunning backdrop of the Seaward Kaikoura ranges.

From whale-watching tours to swimming with dolphins, or seals, albatross watching, snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, and rides in glass-bottomed boats, the town once offered a marine-based activity for everyone, and hopefully will again soon.

For landlubbers there’s the local arts and crafts trail, the Maori Leap Caves, wine tasting, the District Museum, horse trekking or golf.

Check for updates on tracks and activities as some may be disrupted. The Kaikoura Peninsula walkway is a stunning route providing easy access for exploring the Peninsula and offers some of the best views of the coast, the mountains, and possibly wildlife, such as dolphins, seals, whales and birds. Information panels along the track give an insight into the history, geology, animals and plants of the area. The walk is ideal for families, with a 400m boardwalk beginning at the South Bay entrance providing accessibility to a broad range of users. The other main access is at the Point Kean car park. To fully explore and enjoy all that the walk has to offer, allow at least 3 hours to complete the whole track which extends to 11km. If you are short of time, there are several access points to the track which provide options for shorter walks.

Another very popular track is the Ohau Stream Walk , which starts 27km north of Kaikoura. From the carpark platform you can view the colony of NZ fur seals/kekeno. Across the road, a short walk takes you to a pretty waterfall, where, if you’re lucky, in winter months you can see seal pups playing in the pool. Remember not to approach seals, and to keep quiet, and watch the little darlings frolicing in the water.

What to do

  • Go whale watching
  • Hike the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Check out Fyffe House, built in the 1850s
  • Eat some fresh crayfish

More info

Where to stay

Find a property


Getting there

  • From Christchurch by road: 183km
  • From Hanmer Springs by road: 130km
  • From Nelson by road: 245km


Piwa perched