Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura is a dream for those into marine life and adventure. There are tons of options for whale watching, swimming with sea lions, scuba diving and snorkeling and the list goes on and on. It is a sleepy little town built along the rocky coastline of the northeastern edge of the south island. Although it attracts a good number of tourists it is a 2-2.5 hour winding drive from the closest airport and major city at Christchurch so it doesn’t always seem to make everyones list.
We stayed at the Bella Vista Motel which was a nice budget option. We were literally there for 12 hours so we had pretty low standards. Being that our schedule was tight we drove from Christchurch arriving late at night then left the following afternoon after our activities were done. Check out more details on my New Zealand Itinerary.
Whale Watch Kaikoura
The main reason to travel to Kaikoura is for the marine life and more specifically the whale watching. Normally whale watching is incredibly successful at this location and the website for Whale Watch Kaikoura boasts a 95% success rate. They also offer an 80% refund if you do not see a whale. Book your tour in advance, which is what I will nearly always advice. Our trip began at 6:45am. Upon check-in we were told there was a “sea sick watch” in affect meaning the waters were going to be rough. After a safety video you will take a short bus ride to the boat. They mean business when leaving the dock going full speed ahead! We were inside the boat but hitting the waves hard. They were not lying about the rough waters!
At the first stop we walked outside to the lower decks and saw several huge albatross flying around. Meanwhile the crew uses a device to listen for whale vocalizations under the water. We stopped at a total of 4 locations over 2 hours and saw absolutely nothing! It was so disappointing. BUT I would still recommend that other people do this tour. The company was great, we did get our refund and the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. As with any wildlife it is always the luck of the draw and we just had bad luck. Hopefully you won’t, if you go and see whales show me your photos so I can be jealous!
Interested in learning more about New Zealand? Check out my other New Zealand Travel Tips & Tricks
Kaikoura Peninsula Walk
A short 10-minute drive through town to reach the end of the road brings you right to the ocean. You can take a walk along the rocky coast or hike along the cliffs to get sweeping ocean views. There are tons of seashells near the water so keep an eye out if thats your thing. Don’t miss the large sea lions sunning themselves near the parking lots.
On the way back into town we stopped at a tiny shack on the side of the road selling fresh seafood. We got an order of mussels and oysters to share. It was cheap and delicious. My general rule of thumb when traveling is the more rundown the place the better the food. Street food, food trucks and questionable shacks are my all time favorite.