Dolphins and whales and seals – oh my! Kaikoura, known as a marine mecca with a snow-capped mountain backdrop, has remained inaccessible to many since the November 2016 earthquake due to road closures caused by landslips.
Stray has been unable to travel through Kaikoura since the earthquake, but rest assured, as soon as State Highway 1 re-opens, we will be back! The good news for anyone dying to make their way to this marine life hotspot is that you can still visit!
Kaikoura’s coastal walks and aquatic adventures are welcoming visitors once again. Here’s how to get to Kaikoura, what to do once you get there, and where to stay if you’re thinking of sticking around a little longer.
With Intercity, you can book a return trip to Kaikoura from Christchurch. They operate four departures each week (Friday – Monday) to Kaikoura, departing at 7am from the Christchurch Bus Exchange on Lichfield Street. The trip takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes. You can opt for a day trip to Kaikoura, or stick around for a few days to see and do more. One-way tickets cost $20-$40.
Things to do in Kaikoura:
So now you’ve made it to Kaikoura, what are you going to do next? This relaxed seaside township has plenty to offer!
Firstly, it’s teeming with marine life so why not check out these great options:
- Whale Watch Kaikoura – An up close encounter with Sperm Whales is the main drawcard here, with a 95% success rate of seeing a whale. Even better, they offer an 80% refund if your tour does not see a whale. You can also expect to see Dusky Dolphins, fur seals and the Wandering Albatross. If you’re lucky you may also see Pilot or Humpback whales, or possibly even the iconic Orca.
- Dolphin Encounter – Pods of playful Dusky Dolphins reside in the area year round, meaning you can choose to view them from a boat or hop into the water with them for a swimming encounter. Note that to do a Dolphin Encounter, you will need to stay overnight in Kaikoura as midday trips may not return in time to catch the return bus to Christchurch. Be sure to bring warm clothing, your camera, swimsuit, bag and towel.
- Koura Bay Fishing Charters – stunning surrounds, fishing and a fresh seafood meal? Sounds like the perfect combo for a day in Kaikoura (literally translated means “to eat crayfish”). The crew of the Sophie-Rose will share with you their expert fishing tips and show you how to pull up a crayfish haul. Once you’ve returned to land, they’ll cook up your catch – the freshest meal you’ll ever have! It can be a little chilly out there so bring warm & windproof clothing, hat, sunscreen and a camera.
- Wings over Whales – why not see the whales and dolphins from a different perspective? Whale watching by aeroplane is the answer. The 30 minute flight will have you orbiting at a height of 150m – the perfect place to be to really appreciate the size and magnitude of the planet’s largest mammal.
If you prefer to stay on land to enjoy the town’s scenery, try the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. A beautiful walk around the headland, you’ll see a seal colony soaking up the sun. Head up the hill to a lookout point and follow the track to the Whalers Bay viewpoint. The walkway ranges in duration depending on which route you choose. Keep an eye out for sea birds and dolphins!
Where to stay:
Planning on staying the night? Talk to your Driver Guide who’ll be able to make a reservation for you at either the Albatross Inn or Dusky Lodge, both located conveniently close to the above activities. Prices range from $25 – $35 for a standard dorm rate.
There you have it, Kaikoura, its stunning scenery and unique wildlife are once again within reach. The work on the surrounding roads and infrastructure is ongoing and has been one of NZ’s most significant construction projects since the quake.
Stray plans to return to Kaikoura as an overnight stop to support the local community’s recovery as soon as the highway fully re-opens. There are reports this could happen as soon as December 2017, but check our website and follow our Facebook page for the latest updates.