The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the upper South Island in November 2016 dramatically impacted Kaikōura turning a thriving seaside town built on tourism into an isolated community starved of connection and business.  For locals who call this place home, it was a harrowing night that will never be forgotten.  At the time, journalists, researchers, photographers and explorers cautiously hurried to the scene to not only document the damage but also the new wonders which had been created by mother-nature.   Some of these incredible sights still exist today and now the dust has settled, an entirely new landscape has emerged creating a new New Zealand to be explored in Kaikōura and the surrounding areas. 

Hāpuku Alpine Lake

North of Kaikōura, in the upper reaches of the Hāpuku River, a new alpine lake glistens with turquoise blue waters formed after the quake.  The new feature to the region has no official name but is known to locals as ‘Quake Lake’ or ‘Hāpuku Lake’.  Since the earthquake, it’s grown to be approximately 400-metres long, 100-metres wide and 35m at its deepest point and is a sight to behold.  Unsurprisingly, it has become a popular off the beaten track tourist destination and for some, even a wedding venue!


“The lake was formed when a 150-metre landslide plunged into the Hāpuku River”

- Marlborough Express


So how can you make a side trip while in Kaikōura to this spectacle?  Southern Helicopters offer an aftershock adventure which will land you by the newly created lake as well as the chance to see majestic views of Kaikōura’s coastline, mountain ranges and diverse wildlife from above.  For the safety conscious among you, the lake is continuously monitored should the naturally made dams that have formed these lakes burst.  You can add this to your things to do in Kaikōura list along with some other great activities cited in our ‘Tick Kaikōura off your must-do list’ blog.


Papatea Fault, Waipapa Bay 

This extraordinary image of the Papatea fault at Waipapa Bay was captured by acclaimed New Zealand photographer Rob Suisted for New Zealand Geographic.  Of all the 80kms of South Island coastline which was thrust up by the quake, Waipapa Bay was one of the biggest.  A solid rock wall of around 5 metres in height, shot out of the earth at 3 kilometres per second.   On the night of the quake, the deafening noise of the water rushing off the ledge overpowered that of the earthquake and was describe by locals as ‘horrendous’.   


“80kms of coastline was lifted clear out of the water.”

- New Zealand Geographic


The raised seabed was a unique sight for scientists and now, Waipapa Bay, north of Kaikōura, can also be a unique sight for all.  The Coastal Pacific train meanders past Waipapa Bay on its journey giving passengers a glimpse of this changed landscape with the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean stretching beyond.

Dinosaur Eggs at Gooch's Beach

No, these are not dinosaur eggs.  But these other-worldly shaped boulders on Gooch's Beach are another of the natural phenomenon revealed by the Kaikōura earthquake.   These spherical rocks appeared nine or so months after the earthquake, some “as big as beach balls” and part of the uplifted seabed at Gooch’s Beach.  It’s believed the boulders are concretions, a compact mass of mineral matter that’s embedded in a host rock and of a different composition creating these rounded wonders.   


“Parts of Kaikoura look like an alien landscape.”



Another added bonus to Gooch’s beach is the new family-friendly surf break.  Prior to the quake,  the beach was only suitable for surfing once or twice a year but now a ‘sandy, mellow break’ rolls in all year round which is perfect for beginner surfers and kids lessons.  Board Silly offers surf lessons for the whole family so if you’re taking a day trip to Kaikōura on the Coastal Pacific train, this could be a great spot if you’ve always wanted to learn to surf.  Find out more about things to do in Kaikōura with your family on our blog.   

Gooch's beach can be found off the main Kaikōura esplanade so an easy stroll to get to from the main township. 

Limestone Rocks, Okiwi Bay

The Reef Uplift Research Consortium went to investigate the swathes of land that were pushed from underwater and driven to be sparsely exposed above the surface after the quake. Despite best efforts, sea life suffered as many of the New Zealand jewels of the Pacific Ocean, paua and crayfish, were left uncovered.  At first, the uplifted seabed was best viewed from afar due to the slippery nature of the rock algae and deep channels in between.   Over time, the algae dried up and the rapid erosion or surface rock has left arid bays with scenery a likened to something you may see on mars.


“It’s incredible how high the seabed has risen”

- The Press, 2016


The best views of the changed coastal bays can be seen from the Coastal Pacific train as it sweeps around secluded bays and across isolated beaches on its stretch of the journey between Okarahia Viaduct and Clarence. 

Hope Spring

Whalers Bay is now home to Hope Spring, where natural gases fizz and bubble to the surface. The marvel has appeared due to new fissures and fractures in seabed rocks created by the earthquake, freeing water and gas from underneath.  The spring, which bubbles like a glass of champagne, is not far from shore but best viewed from the water.

Kaikōura Kayaks were the first to discover this little beauty after the quake. They run regular tours to see the springs and also enjoy the aquatic wonderland of Kaikōura with the chance to see seals and dolphins on the paddle – a really great activity to do if you’re making a day trip here.

Discover a new New Zealand on the Coastal Pacific train

After 2 years and incredible engineering efforts, the Coastal Pacific train has re-opened, giving you the world’s first window seat to some of the amazing new things to be discovered along the east coast of the South Island.   The journey starts from either Christchurch, Blenheim or Picton giving you an unfiltered view through large panoramic windows of this new New Zealand.