Kaikoura New Zealand - a true marine wonderland
The Seaward Kaikoura mountain range tumbles into the ocean here, and in winter the snow capped peaks provide what must surely be some of the best scenery anywhere on earth.
In 2023, Kaikoura was named by respected travel magazine Conde Nast as one of the "50 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the World", and when you visit you will understand why.
Why do we call Kaikoura a marine wonderland?
Well, Kaikoura sits on the South Island's east coast, at a point where deep ocean currents meet in the Kaikoura Canyon, causing an uplift of food and nutrients.
These nutrients support a huge range of marine life, making Kaikoura a year round paradise for not only our marine residents, but also for our lucky human visitors.
Whales, dolphins, seals and numerous varieties of sea birds frequent the area, and there's a range of local tours all designed to get you as close as possible with our intriguing marine friends.
The name Kaikoura translates to "eat crayfish", and we can highly recommend this local delicacy.
Local restaurants and take away shops sell crayfish, and around 20 minutes drive north of town, the iconic Nin's Bin is a must see. Nothing beats sitting next to the ocean with a meal of fresh crayfish.
Closer to town, the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ, on Fyffe Quay, offers some of the tastiest seafood treats imaginable. On our last visit we had the platter which included whitebait fitter, crayfish fritter, mussels, scallops (with the roe still on), salmon, local fish, rice and salad. We ordered a side of scallops and we had enough for three of us. All cooked on a large hotplate while you wait. Casual seating overlooking the bay tops off a unique dining experience. There's even another van (Charli's) onsite selling locally brewed beers and a selection of other drinks. A perfect way to fill your belly.
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* Getting to Kaikoura New Zealand
* Search for accommodation
* Car hire
* Things to see and do here
* Some favourite places to stay
* Maps for Kaikoura New Zealand
By air & car
Kaikoura is located on State Highway 1, around three hours drive North of Christchurch, the closest international airport on our South Island.
If you are heading from the north, it's around two and a half hours drive south of the ferry terminal at Picton.
The Interislander ferry travels from our capital Wellington, at the bottom of the North Island, across Cook Strait, to Picton, at the top of the South Island.
You can see the route on our map.
The Coastal Pacific train runs between Christchurch and Picton from September to May. Kaikoura sits at roughly the mid point on this service, which can be accessed from either the Picton or Christchurch end.
You can find more information on the Rail New Zealand website here.
InterCity provide regular services to Kaikoura, and have a great range of fare types.
You can check out their timetables and prices here.
Things to do in Kaikoura New Zealand
There's lots to see and do here, so if you have time, we recommend spending a few days here.
You can search a range of exciting Kaikoura tours here.
Here are a few of our favourites:
* head along The Esplanade, into Avoca Street, then on to Fyffe Quay, which takes you south to Kean Point. It's around five kilometres to the local New Zealand fur seal colony, and it's a fascinating spot, as the seals can often be found lazing around the fringes of the car park (see the picture below).
* around 20 minutes drive north of town on State Highway 1, the Ohau Point seal colony is right next to the road. There's a car park and some great vantage points to watch the seals on the rocks below.
* head up to the towns lookout for beautiful views of the coast and mountains. Access is via Scarborough Street.
* kayak with our resident dolphins. These energetic inquisitive marine friends will give you a once in a lifetime experience.
* explore the local arts and craft stores for a special memento.
* don't come to Kaikoura without having a Whale Watch Kaikoura tour. These are wonderful and the operators even offer a partial refund if you don't see a whale. Check out their tours here.
* catch your dinner on a local charter fishing adventure.
* Explore the stunning Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, which hugs the coast for almost 12 kilometres. It takes around 3 hours to walk the entire length, but you can do shorter sections as you like.
* take a walk along our waterfront. You won't believe the colour of the ocean here.
* have a round of golf at the local club, located on the southern entry to town.
* see some of our back country on a 4WD tour.
* try some of our local seafood at one of our great restaurants like the Pier Hotel, or at the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ (and great refreshments from Charli's).
* visit the Kaikoura Museum for a fascinating journey through the region's history. There's a range of excellent displays including one documenting the region's earthquake in 2016. The museum is located at 96 West End Kaikoura, in the very appropriately named "craypot" building.
Here's some highly recommended places to stay in Kaikoura New Zealand
We know from experience that there are some great places to stay in Kaikoura, and our preference is always somewhere with a great view. If you come here you will see what we mean.
So down below, we've included some favorites of ours, together with some others that consistently rate very highly with our customers.
The best advice we can give is to take some time to read reviews, set yourself a budget, and then narrow your choice down to two or three.
To help you, we've selected a couple of budget, mid range, and premium choices.
And we've also added a search box, and map so that you can search through the full range of accommodation in Kaikoura at your leisure.
Best Mid Range accommodation in Kaikoura New Zealand
The Anchor Inn Beachfront Motel - 208 The Esplanade Kaikoura
We've stayed at the Anchor Inn Beachfront Motel multiple times over the years.
What a location. Opposite the beach. Amazing views, and wonderful hosts (Lyn and Paul). And it's a flat 20 minute walk to the shops, bars and restaurants in the town centre, or a 10 minute walk around the bay to the Pier Hotel.
In 2023 they were awarded the prestigious TripAdvisor Traveler's Choice Best of the Best award. This places the Anchor Inn Beachfront Motel among the top 1% of all listings on TripAdvisor.
You can read reviews and check prices for the Anchor Inn Beachfront Motel Kaikoura here.
But for the best price, call Lyn and Paul directly on +64 3 319 5426 & mention the code word "SHOWCASE" when you call.
Waves Luxury Apartments - 78 The Esplanade Kaikoura
Like the Anchor Inn, Waves Luxury Apartments are located on the Esplanade, a short walk from the town centre.
These are a great option if you are staying a few days or longer as they are fully self contained with kitchen and washing machine.
Directly opposite the beach, the decks are a perfect spot to relax with a meal or a drink and watch the ever changing ocean opposite.
Check them out here.
Best Luxury accommodation in Kaikoura New Zealand
Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses - 1 Station Road Hapuku
What an idyllic setting.
Nestled in stunning countryside just north of Kaikoura, Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses are a unique, high end experience.
You can choose from a lodge room, a treehouse, or a suite in Olive House.
The Treehouses are elevated around ten metres above the ground in the canopy of the trees..
Wherever you look are beautiful views of the surrounding farmland, mountains and coast.
Your accommodation includes a fire, a soaking bath, free wifi, and a balcony to take in those views.
The lodge features a pool and an onsite restaurant offering fine dining using our best local produce.
The Lodge can arrange local activities for you and will even prepare a picnic basket for you.
Hapuku Lodge is a very special place.
Learn more about Hapuku Lodge and Treehouses here.
The White Morph - 92-94 The Esplanade Kaikoura
Once again, located opposite the beach on the Esplanade.
The White Morph have a range of room types (we recommend a Premium room with a balcony to take in the views), and is in the perfect spot, opposite the beach and a short flat walk to town.
You can read why its so popular with guests here.
The Hamptons - 138 The Esplanade Kaikoura
This is a beautiful B & B, opposite the beach, and about 15 minutes walk to town.
Wonderful hosts, wonderful views, wonderful location. How wonderful is that!
At the time of writing, breakfast was included in the tariff.
The picture below says it all.
Read those awesome reviews and check prices for The Hamptons Kaikoura here.
Best value for money
Kaikoura Top 10 Holiday Park - 34 Beach Road Kaikoura
Located on the northern side of town, the Top 10 Holiday Park has a range of accommodation types including powered and un-powered camping sites, cabins, units and apartments.
The park is pet friendly (conditions apply) and has a great range of facilities such as a kids playground, pool, spa, jumping pillow, BBQ area, games room, library, bike hire, pedal go cart hire, and lots more.
A wonderful family holiday spot.
Read more about the Top 10 Holiday Park Kaikoura here.
Search and show results on map of Kaikoura
Need to hire a car or camper van while you're in Kaikoura?
There's lots to see and do here, so if you need a car or camper van to get around the region, we have a huge range at market leading rates.
To check rates and search for your vehicle click here.
Maps - Kaikoura and State Highways
The local tourism authority, Destination Kaikoura, have published a pdf map showing local points of interest in Kaikoura New Zealand.
You can download it by clicking here.
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