Exploring Kaikōura

Image: Miles Holden, Tourism New Zealand

Exploring Kaikōura

The image of whales surfacing off the coast of Kaikōura is one of New Zealand’s most iconic sights. Situated in a remarkable natural setting alongside mountains that rise dramatically from the coast, Kaikōura 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. Kaikōura also has a long history of Māori settlement – join a tour with a local Māori 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 Kaikōura, but there’s adventure and culture awaiting onshore, as well. To get out among the region's abundant wildlife, try Dolphin Encounter, whale watching with Kaikōura Helicopters, getting up close with some flippered friends with Seal Swim Kaikōura, or heading out with the award-winning Whale Watch Kaikōura. Away from the animals, you can head off-road with Glenstrae Farm 4 Wheel Adventures, paddle with Kaikōura Kayaks, take a stroll with Kaikōura Wilderness Experience, or explore the culture and history of the region with Māori Tours Kaikōura.

Food & Drink

You owe it to yourself to try crayfish before leaving Kaikōura! Seafood fans will be right at home, but there are a range of other options as well. The Māori word ‘kaikōura’ 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, Hislops Wholefoods Café, and The Pier Restaurant.


Set yourself up right next to the ocean or the golf course, or opt for a unique treehouse stay with Kaikōura’s often-surprising range of accommodation offerings. These include backpackers and holiday parks like the Kaikōura Top 10 Holiday Park, comfortable hosted accommodation including The Fairways at Ocean Ridge, Waves on the Esplanade Luxury Apartments and the White Morph Motor Inn, or lodge accommodation at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses.

Local Knowledge

Kaikōura's airstrip offers access to scenic flights and charters, with the nearest international airport in Christchurch. If you're travelling on the road, Kaikōura is 2 hours, 45 minutes from Christchurch and 2 hours, 15 minutes from Picton. The 370-kilometre Alpine Pacific Triangle touring route links Kaikōura, 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 Kaikōura is on the Coastal Pacific line between Picton and Christchurch. When you're there, swing by the Kaikōura i-SITE at 29 West End.

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