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 45 miles away
- Blenheim 63 miles away
- Picton 79 miles away
- Nelson 81 miles away
- Marlborough Sounds 90 miles away
- Christchurch 95 miles away
- Wellington 96 miles away
- Akaroa & Banks Peninsula 104 miles away
- Abel Tasman National Park 109 miles away
- Arthur's Pass National Park 114 miles away
- Kahurangi National Park 118 miles away
- Punakaiki 122 miles away
- Martinborough 124 miles away
- The Kapiti Coast 126 miles away
- Wairarapa & surrounds 129 miles away
- Greytown 130 miles away
- Collingwood & Farewell Spit 130 miles away
- Hokitika 140 miles away
- Whanganui National Park 186 miles away
- Lake Tekapo 196 miles away
- Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers 200 miles away
- Mount Cook National Park 203 miles away
- Twizel 222 miles away
- Taranaki & New Plymouth 233 miles away
- Tongariro National Park 240 miles away
- Hastings 253 miles away
- Haast & Lake Moeraki 255 miles away
- Hawke's Bay 261 miles away
- Napier 263 miles away
- Lake Wanaka 278 miles away
- The Otago Peninsula 283 miles away
- Lake Taupo 286 miles away
- Dunedin 288 miles away
- Waitomo 296 miles away
- Arrowtown 300 miles 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.