10 Kaikoura Must-Dos
Where wildlife takes over!
Kaikoura is best described as “where wildlife takes over civilisation”. On the shore of the Pacific Ocean, the small town is a year-round destination featuring some of the most memorable experiences that New Zealand has to offer. If you are on a working holiday visa, Kaikoura would be a great place to settle for a little while. Lodged between high mountains and rich ocean life, no two days’ off would be the same. In fact, there’s so much to explore that we dedicated an entire guide to Kaikoura.
If you are only driving by, make sure to schedule enough time to embrace the area – two days should be a minimum. Take your pick of activities below to make this stopover the best one on the South Island’s east coast!
1. Go watch a seal colony take a nap
Seals are literally taking over Kaikoura! The best place to see seals is along the Kaikoura Penninsula Walkway with multiple viewpoints over seal colonies, as well as plenty of seals probably blocking the path too… Remember to give the seals plenty of space, as they do not like to be disturbed on land. Plus, if you’re into seals, take a look at 14 Best Places to See Seals in New Zealand.
2. Take a hike
Climbing Mt Fyffe takes a whole day but will treat you to the most stunning views of the area, from the mountain ranges to the ocean. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway loop is also a half day well spent passing in front of a couple of seal colonies. For more details on Kaikoura hikes, take a look at our guide.
3. Go catch dinner
The area thrives on sea life, from fish to crayfish, and the local diet reflects it well. However, there’s no need to spend big bucks on seafood. For about the same price than a crayfish in a restaurant you can hop on a fishing charter and go get some of your own fresh fish.
4. Swim with dolphins
Far from the sad experience of swimming with captive dolphins in a small aquarium tank, Kaikoura’s main attraction are wild and happy dolphins! The small dusky dolphins are playful and easy to approach, hop on a tour boat, pop on a snorkel, and jump in the water. For more places to swim with dolphins, see 5 Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand.
5. Mountain bike
If the 8-hour hike up to Mt Fyffe is too much for you, get on a bike to get it done in half the time. Be aware that both going up and down will require skills, so if you are unsure, opt for the hiking option instead.
6. admire the seabirds
Where sea life thrives so do sea birds! Kaikoura is no exception. Amongst many species, the huge royal albatross are everywhere on the shore for the pleasure of any wildlife fan. For a more close encounter, join an albatross boat tour.
7. Dive or snorkel
If you do have some extra time in Kaikoura, you’ll realise that the locals only stay on land to work, eat and drink. Any spare minute will be spent on or in the water, often involving snorkelling or scuba diving. You can even fish for paua to combine scuba diving and souvenir shopping. Consider these 11 Places to Scuba Dive in New Zealand too.
8. Treat yourself to a Whale watching experience
Rated as one of the best spots in the world to see giant sperm whales, Kaikoura will probably be the best chance in your life to see these giants of the sea. Sperm whales are seen all year long in Kaikoura with Whale Watch Kaikoura. Our advice: book early, especially in summer!
9. Take a scenic (& Wildlife) Flight
Not only is the coastline stunning from above, a scenic flight in Kaikoura often means getting a unique perspective of whales from above! Catch a flight from the Kaikoura Airport or join a helicopter tour. For more ways to experience wildlife in Kaikoura, see 5 Top Wildlife Activities in Kaikoura.
10. Watch a Kaikoura sunrise
Kaikoura is on the east coast of the South Island so gets some of the best sunrise views in the country. Head to the coast at dawn to watch some vibrant colours appear in the sky.
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