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Kaikoura is an idyllic small seaside township on a rocky peninsula, with a superb beach and also a walkway encased with pairs of whale ribs, known as the ‘Garden of Memories’.

What makes it unique are the very deep waters that mix warm and cold ocean currents, forcing nutrients to the surface and attracting pods of up to 300 dolphin, sperm whales, fur seals and many marine species.

Wildlife spotting

Kaikoura, New ZealandThese great sea mammals are best seen on whale watching excursions, often the highlight of your trip to New Zealand, usually by boat but with a further option being to spot them from the air, on a ‘Wings over Whales’ light aircraft flight.

The ocean is also alive with seabirds including the black-browed mollymawk, Antarctic fulmer and the royal albatross.

Kaikoura's heritage and culture

On land, the region is also of significant historical note, as the area’s abundant food sources attracted Maori settlement and local Maori guides can bring the indigenous history to life.

The name Kaikoura comes from the Maori words for ‘eat’ and ‘crayfish’, and whilst in town you should definitely make sure to try this local delicacy. You can choose either to order it from one of the excellent local restaurants, or alternatively to drive just north of town to the tiny crayfish vans, where you can purchase your cray and eat it fresh by the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Whale watching

Sperm whale, KaikouraMost visitors are drawn to Kaikoura for its abundant marine life, and there are excellent opportunities to experience this both by air and by sea.

Specially designed modern catamarans with sophisticated on-board technology provide an exciting and informative three-hour trip, getting you close to the New Zealand fur seal, dusky dolphins and the giant sperm whale.

Alternatively, a scenic flight gives you an aerial perspective as well as incredible views of the surrounding landscape.

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who's been there

Audley Travel specialist Alex

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Kaikoura by contacting one of our New Zealand specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring Kaikoura

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Kaikoura, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Kaikoura

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Kaikoura

    Accommodation choices for Kaikoura

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Kaikoura. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • The Anchor Inn Motel, Kaikoura

      The Anchor Inn Motel

      Medium

      Enjoying a scenic position overlooking the ocean and situated close to all the facilities and activities in Kaikoura, Anchor Inn Motel is a comfortable and convenient base from which to explore the region's epic natural landscapes.

    • View from the veranda, The Lemon Tree, Kaikoura

      Lemon Tree Lodge

      Medium

      Lemon Tree Lodge offers bed and breakfast accommodation for couples and single travellers.

    • The Hamptons, Kaikoura

      The Hamptons

      First Class

      The Hamptons is a boutique B&B set in a peaceful location a few steps from the sweeping beach, but still just a few minutes' walk from the centre of Kaikoura.

    • Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura

      Hapuku Lodge

      Deluxe

      Situated between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Hapuku Lodge enjoys a beautiful location. Its accommodation consists of four guest rooms and stunning tree houses, which will take your breath away.

    Ideas for experiencing Kaikoura

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Kaikoura, and which use the best local guides.

    • Sperm whale, Kaikoura

      Whale Watching

      Kaikoura

      The local company we use who operate these boats which head out to see the whales as they come up for air, has been running trips for over 20 years and has won many awards in that time. The whole experience is not just exhilarating, but also highly educational and focused on the preservation of the marine environment.

    • Traditional Maori Hongi Greeting

      Maori Cultural Experience

      Kaikoura

      This memorable tour brings you close to the Maori community in Kaikoura in a way that is not possible elsewhere in New Zealand. You will spend the day with the family who introduce you to a culture which dates back over 800 years.

    • New Zealand fur seals, Kaikoura

      Swim with Seals in Kaikoura

      Kaikoura

      One of the best nature activites in New Zealand, swimming with wild New Zealand fur seals in Kaikoura is a truly unique experience.

    • A pair of Hector's dolphins

      Dolphin Swim

      Kaikoura

      This three hour excursion is perhaps the best way in the world to swim with dolphins. Kaikoura attracts dolphins all year round, hugely increasing the chances of being able to get in the water with these incredible creatures.