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.
These 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.
Most 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.
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
- Hanmer Springs 72 kilometers away
- Blenheim 101 kilometers away
- Picton 127 kilometers away
- Nelson 131 kilometers away
- Marlborough Sounds 144 kilometers away
- Christchurch 152 kilometers away
- Wellington 154 kilometers away
- Akaroa & Banks Peninsula 167 kilometers away
- Abel Tasman National Park 175 kilometers away
- Arthur's Pass National Park 184 kilometers away
- Kahurangi National Park 190 kilometers away
- Punakaiki 196 kilometers away
- Martinborough 199 kilometers away
- The Kapiti Coast 202 kilometers away
- Wairarapa & surrounds 207 kilometers away
- Greytown 209 kilometers away
- Collingwood & Farewell Spit 209 kilometers away
- Hokitika 226 kilometers away
- Whanganui National Park 298 kilometers away
- Lake Tekapo 315 kilometers away
- Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers 321 kilometers away
- Mount Cook National Park 327 kilometers away
- Twizel 356 kilometers away
- Taranaki & New Plymouth 374 kilometers away
- Tongariro National Park 387 kilometers away
- Hastings 407 kilometers away
- Haast & Lake Moeraki 411 kilometers away
- Hawke's Bay 420 kilometers away
- Napier 423 kilometers away
- Lake Wanaka 447 kilometers away
- The Otago Peninsula 455 kilometers away
- Lake Taupo 461 kilometers away
- Dunedin 463 kilometers away
- Waitomo 476 kilometers away
- Arrowtown 482 kilometers away
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.
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.