There are very few cities in the world that can brag about as many rich natural resources as those offered via land and ocean in Kaikoura. The oceanside community is the most northern part of the Canterbury area on the east shore of the South Island. It is a perfect spot for curious vacationers.
Kaikoura is a two and a half hour drive from the island of Christchurch, an hour and a half away from Blenheim and just two hours by land from Picton – the portal to the North Island territory. The specialty dish here is anything with crayfish. You’ll find locals and travelers feasting on it in restaurants after touring around the city’s local shops, museums, and marine wildlife. Enjoy the beauty of seal colonies, whale watching, cute dolphins and mighty orcas along this city’s magnificent shoreline.
When To Go:
Kaikoura is blessed with four seasons, all with gentle temperatures. The northern area is generally hotter than the south, and the mountain ranges have a tendency to form rain clouds. The eastern regions tend to be more humid than the western drift.
The summer season lasts from December to March and this is the best time to experience water sports. Spring occurs from September until November and it is an ideal time for visiting the countryside to admire the blooms and wealth of fresh organic produce. Autumn, or harvest time, happens in April and May and has a tendency to be hotter than early spring. The winter season arrives every June and lasts until August, covering the once verdant mountains in snow and dotting them with ski adventures up to the highest mountain tops.
Kaikoura annually pulls in an enormous number of guests amid the peak travel months of January and February because of its comfortable weather, but you need to book in advance for accommodations to avoid being inconvenienced by the rise in lodging and flight prices. It can be visited any time of the year depending on your travel agenda.
If you need an adventurous and memorable vacation along the Canterbury Region of New Zealand, here are the most visited attractions and top
things to do
in the city of Kaikoura…
Ohau Waterfall Walk and Seal Pups
Just a few minutes’ drive from Kaikoura, after a walk in the forest, you will arrive at the
Ohau Waterfall Walk and Seal Pups
where you can see both puppies and adult seals playing and cuddling. It is definitely time well spent while touring Kaikoura. It is quite hard to find if you aren’t looking for it! The attraction is not just a waterfall, but also a place for the baby seals playing in the pond beneath. Remember your camera and take plenty of pictures as you keep your distance from these lovely creatures.
From the highway, going towards the Kaikoura you’ll find it on the right. After parking the car, you’ll walk (the signs say 10 minutes away, but it’s actually even less) until you get to a waterfall where the puppies are playing in the water. Take some time to stop and admire them! You will see how they gather in a small pool of water under a waterfall, where mother seals leave the babies to play and have their first experiences with water. It is an incredible sight that you will want to capture!
is an impressive hike located a few miles from the center of Kaikoura, where you can enjoy an excellent view over the Gulf and beyond. The 3 hours of walking will give you a chance to enjoy the breathtaking views along a well-marked path that is easy to travel on. You’ll feel safe because of the security personnel along the trail. For those who love nature and landscapes, it is definitely an enjoyable experience. Along the walk, there are spectacular views of the rocks, sea, and fields of corn from the opposite side (the contrasting colors are gorgeous!). You can also see the sea lion colony.
The route can be completed by following a path that goes from the parking lot, passes along the coast and then goes inland. You can also return by sea through the beach and rocks and then continue up to the seascape. A little tip: if you have strollers or if you are in a wheelchair, the route by sea (or beach) won’t be navigable. The coast view has lots of birds and seals, and if you’re in luck, a whale sighting or two may occur while on this lovely walkway.
Ohau Point Seal Colony
Ohau Point Seal Colony
you can walk among the seals as long as you keep some distance, they will react when bothered. If you can respect this, the colony is an excellent opportunity to see seals that are willing to be photographed and even pose willingly. The walk to the colony is enjoyable and well worth the time. There are seals everywhere and you will enjoy an hour or more admiring the idyllic view of the sea and the snowy mountains in winter. It is an extraordinary spectacle to be able to observe seals from so close in their natural habitat.
In New Zealand, there are many places where you can admire wild animals, especially seals, fur seals and sea lions. Often however, you have to walk a long distance. In this colony, everything is well accessible by car and/or on foot, and there are many seals that bask on the beach or on the rocks. A short walk from the center, you will arrive at Point Kean where you can find seals situated just a few meters away. Be careful not to get too close or disturb their nap, or else they can become very aggressive!
Kaikoura Visitor Centre
If you visit the
Kaikoura Visitor Centre
, you will be attended to by their friendly staff. If you want to buy Maori Arts, one of the staff will gladly give you the contact information with one of the few genuine Maori Artists (also tattoo artist) in Kaikoura. The visitor center also has many useful pamphlets on local attractions. These brochures are full of information about the surrounding areas, major attractions, shopping centers and dining areas. You can stop at the Visitor Centre to ask questions about the local sights of the region. The staff can also help you determine the best routes on the given maps and additional info on the large selection of brochures. For tourists, this is the first place to go to make sure you are prepared to enjoy your trip.
The reliable staff at the Visitor Center can book various boat trips, as well as plenty of other help for all kinds of travelers. If you ask someone at the center about the best site to see the fur seals, they will describe it in detail and also give some tips on what else to look for along the route from Kaikoura to Christchurch. All of their services are done with a smile and at no cost. If you don’t know what to do in Kaikoura, visit here first for all the necessary tourist information.
is the ideal place to visit if you want to go back to Kaikoura’s colonial times. The exhibition is instructive and contained in a well-preserved building where every guest receives a warm welcome from the staff. Do not miss the magnificent view from the hill. It is also nice to attend an outdoor concert on the lawn outside the house.
There is not really much to see, but you’ll pay NZ $10 per adult admission. The house gives a realistic view of how life must have been as whalers from almost 200 years ago. A portion of the entrance fee goes to the preservation of this important heritage site.
Kaikoura Marine Aquarium
Kaikoura Marine Aquarium
is a small aquarium located on the newest pier in the city and is a small gem to discover. In this aquarium, you can find many of the organisms living in the ocean around Kaikoura, including octopus, stonefish, sea urchins, sea horses, sharks, lobsters, starfish and many more marine life species.
There is also a considerable space reserved for animals that inhabit the canyon. You will find it near an area dedicated to the giant squid caught recently. Finally, there is an area where you can touch the marine animals’ located in two individual tanks. This aquarium was built and run by volunteers and works in collaboration with local fishermen. It is a highly recommended site to visit, and it is also a place where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the bay.
provides an excellent opportunity to interact with a pack of playful dolphins in Kaikoura. Everything is organized for the amusement of those who want to swim and play alongside the dolphins. If you can’t swim, you can enjoy watching from the boat. You will be able to see how the dolphins change direction at the last minute and whirl around, an exciting and unforgettable thing to see. You will encounter a group of about 20 dolphins, some swimming in front of or next to the ship, others at a distance, jumping and whirling on a whim.
You must time your visit to this part of the city carefully. In fact, it is said that it is rare to encounter groups of dolphins that are so playful, but you can always head out to the ocean with this company and try. It is a priceless experience to see 100 dolphins swimming with you, where everywhere you turn around, they are so close that you could touch them, and see them perform their antics and a thousand stunts. Even if you don’t get to see that many, a trip here is absolutely worth the effort and the expense. In fact, it is the highlight of every trip to Kaikoura.
tour is one of the most exciting things to do in Kaikoura. The whale watching adventure begins at the center at 7:00 am for a small briefing on the various security measures. You will then depart by bus towards the port. On board, there is a presentation regarding the boat and what to do in case of sea sickness. If you know that you have motion issues with the boat, it is advisable to take something before you leave so you won’t spoil the adventure. The owners will make it clear that these are wild animals and that it will require much maneuvering of the boat to see them. They will also remind passengers that the whales, which typically do not like to go near the boats, may not even be seen.
The boat often remains stationary for long stretches at the mercy of the rocking waves of the sea (if you don’t have an iron stomach, this attraction is not advisable). In short, it is an incredible experience, even with the high probability of seasickness and chance of no whale sightings. But according to the operators, you may see as many as three whales as well as a dozen dolphins along the way. If you are in Kaikoura, do not miss this exceptional opportunity to view these magnificent animals!
Seal Swim Kaikoura
Seal Swim Kaikoura,
you will receive a warm welcome and plenty of coaching from their trained professional divers. They will also lend you all the necessary equipment. You’ll be brought into the middle of a group of seals almost immediately, and you will find that these seals are incredibly playful and curious about humans. They do not have much to fear since their agility in water is far superior to humans. Swimming with seals is one of the highlights of any traveler’s trip to Kaikoura. Even if you arrive late in the morning, it is still sometimes possible to organize an afternoon trip. The assistant will help you get set up while explaining the sea lions’ behavior and taking you to the wharf where you can join your guide.
Once on board, you will cross the full colony and chose a stationary place to position the boat. The dive begins and you can come very close seals that do not seem to be bothered by your presence. You will see the seals underwater enjoying a quiet swim before finding their rock along the shoreline to rest on. The little game of continuous approach repeats two or three times before your guide will join the dive and accompany you into the middle of a colony of more than 100 seals. This is where the magic happens. The face to face meeting with these creatures is an incredible and unforgettable experience. If you are visiting this beautiful city, you must not miss this experience.
is an excellent activity for observing sea lions from a different point of view. Don’t miss the chance to participate in the final round of the day where you can discover the peninsula while watching the early sunset. You can book this adventure in advance through their site. For an early single kayak rental for 8 hours it is only $80 per person. The group kayak tour lasts for three hours, is designed for two people and costs $90 per person.
Here are some important facts about the tour. You must ride in their van, which will take you to the sea. Listen well during this time, because there is half an hour to explain how to use the boat and follow the safety measures. After that, you are sent off in a kayak to explore the sea and sit along the coast while watching the fur seals from afar. This trip is absolutely fascinating and a must do, it is very entertaining and advisable for those who have not experienced kayak adventures before. They feature well-trained guides, nice tours, and friendly seals that get close to the kayaks.
For a rewarding adventure in the oceans around New Zealand, try all of the marine life adventures offered along the coast. It is an ideal excursion that you can enjoy with the rest of your family and something you will treasure for many days. The city never runs out of challenging things to do whether by land or water. A visit to Kaikoura is ideal for people who love outdoor sports and outgoing people who have a “never say die” personality.