Take SH1 132km southeast from Blenheim (or 183km north from Christchurch) and you’ll wind around the panoramic coast to Kaikoura, a pretty peninsula town backed by the snowcapped peaks of the Seaward Kaikoura Range. There are few places in the world with so much wildlife around: whales, dolphins, NZ fur seals, penguins, shearwaters, petrels and wandering albatross all stop by or make this area home.
Marine animals are abundant here due to ocean-current and continental-shelf conditions: the seabed gradually slopes away from the land before plunging to more than 800m where the southerly current hits the continental shelf. This creates an upwelling, bringing nutrients up from the ocean floor into the feeding zone.
Until the 1980s Kaikoura was a sleepy crayfishing town (‘Kai’ meaning food, ‘koura’ meaning crayfish) with grim prospects. These days it’s a tourist mecca, with quality accommodation and many other enticements including eye-popping wildlife tours.
Kaikoura destination guides
North Island Tracks Southbound
Explore New Zealand's heartland from the secluded beaches of the coast to the volcanic craters of the central plateau. Travel from Auckland in the north to Christchurch in the south on a unique travel adventure. And if it's adventure you're after, you've come to the right place.
Molesworth High Country Cycle
Enjoy wineries, whales and hot pools as well as a delightful stay on New Zealand's largest high country farm