Things to do in Kaikōura

As an all-season destination Kaikōura has something for everyone, here are some of our top picks.

There is more to this seaside town than the marine life but no trip to Kaikōura would be complete without seeing some of these majestic animals!

Whale watching in Kaikōura is one of the most popular activities and it’s easy to see why. Due to the deep ocean canyon, there is an incredibly rich marine food chain in Kaikōura’s ocean. Sperm whales are top of this food chain but other regular visitors are; humpback whales, southern right whales, the acrobatic dusky dolphins, albatross and pandas of the sea - the orca. Even blue whales are sighted off the Kaikōura coast throughout the year! As the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, this is a very special sight to see.

Take the popular 2.5 hour boat tour with Whale Watch Kaikōura , or take to the air for a really unique perspective.

Dive into Kaikōura’s rich history

The recently opened Kaikōura museum is a great place to learn more about Kaikōura’s history. The Museum opened only 9 days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit on November 14th 2016. Exhibitions include natural history, Maori, whaling, surfing and mementos from Kaikoura's past. The Museum is open daily from 10am - 5pm and can be found opposite the i-SITE

Go back in time at Fyffe House

For all you history buffs, take a trip to Fyffe House. Kaikōura’s oldest surviving building and whaling station, established in 1842. Fyffe house shows family life during Kaikōura’s early days and is a testament to how resourceful and resilient the townsfolk are. From audio stories to artifacts and whalebone foundations, this is a fascinating place for a stroll.

Get snap happy with the seals

You’re bound to see the Seals of Kaikōura lying on rocks all over the coast; they’re likely to fill up your camera space very quickly! Despite concerns for the seals after the 2016 earthquake, the population is ever growing. Whilst some have found new spots to call home, the best place for viewing is at Point Kean, just south of the township.

If you want to take it up a notch, you can take the plunge with these incredible sea dogs. Snorkelling with seals is an incomparable experience and a reminder of the brilliance of our natural environment. This is a true NZ must do!

Wander the coastline

What about an activity that is light on the purse strings? Take a walk along the Kaikōura Peninsula. The Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway is a community project, shared among some local businesses. The Walkway is an easily accessible loop, with spectacular views in all directions. The whole walk should take you about 3 hours (11.7kms), with enough time to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Join the Coastal Pacific Train - A Great Journey of New Zealand

The Coastal Pacific train between Christchurch and Picton shows the best of the East Coast. Sit back and relax along 98km of stunning coastline and see sights only captured by train.

The magic combination of coastal and alpine views makes stopping in Kaikōura a must-do on your Coastal Pacific journey. 

Eating out in Kaikoura

Kaikōura may be small but it is not lacking in gastronomic pleasures.

Seafood lovers rejoice; this is the place to taste the best of the ocean's larder. Crayfish is a local speciality – enjoy it roadside, at the iconic beachside caravan Nin’s Bin, or in one of the township's popular restaurants such as The Pier Hotel. Just be sure to include an award-winning local wine alongside your seafood spread.

If you’re craving something deep fried and covered in batter, try dining Kiwi-style with piping hot fish and chips by the sea. Coopers Catch has an array of options from blue cod to monster burgers. We recommend washing it all down with a nice cold bottle of L&P!

For those of you with a sweet tooth look no further than Poppy's Handmade Ice Cream Parlour & Café along Kaikōura’s main strip. Famous for their handmade gluten-free ice cream, there’s a flavour to suit tourists and locals alike. Choose from Kiwi classics to Sambuca, Bailey’s, Saffron and Peanut Butter!

Where to Stay in Kaikōura

Accommodation in Kaikoura ranges from unique luxury to backpacker basic.

A short walk from Kaikoura station and you will find accommodation to suit any holiday style. From campgrounds and backpackers, lodges, motels, apartments and more you will easily find the perfect place to stay.

If you have transport and are willing to venture out of the township you have the choice of some idyllic rural retreats such as Hapuku Lodge and PurePods. Set in the mountains these luxurious escapes will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired.

Kaikōura Transport Links

When it comes to getting around, most places in Kaikoura can be reached by foot.

To get from the train to your hotel or accommodation, it is worth asking your hotelier for their recommendation (often they'll offer to pick you up!).

Taxi and shuttle services in Kaikoura

For many years, Kaikoura Shuttles have been the go to option for taxi services and transfers. If you need collecting or dropping at the station, then we recommend pre-booking. They have cars, people carriers and mini-buses available, and can easily cope with groups and families.

Kaikoura Shuttles also offer daily tours of the lavender farm, Fyffe House, Point Keen seals and peninsula walks.

Car hire in Kaikoura

To have the freedom of a vehicle and explore further afield think about hiring a rental car - just ensure you plan your journey in advance.

Kaikoura Railway Station

The station, also home to Whale Watch Kaikoura, is your stop on The Coastal Pacific train journey. The Coastal Pacific train runs between Christchurch and Picton – gateway to the South.

When at the station, have a look at the sculpture by internationally known artist Ben Foster.  KiwiRail commissioned this piece to recognise the immense impact of the Kaikoura Earthquake on the railway line. Mr Foster says the piece is designed to remind those viewing it that change is a constant, and to communicate the power of nature.

Kaikoura Airport

Scenic flights and charters are available here. For domestic and international services see Christchurch International airport.