Kia Ora is the most commonly used greeting in the Maori language, and it’s a phrase you will hear often throughout New Zealand. After spending ten months in the North Island, and learning a little more about the Maori history in Rotorua, it was time to say Hei Kona (See you later) and return to the beautiful south I fell in love with. Driving from Picton down south towards Christchurch before eventually setting up shop in Queenstown, I made a pit stop in Kaikoura, known for its wildlife and its crayfish. With its mountainous backdrop still hoarding the remnants of Winter snow on its peaks, it was the first signal that told me I was back in the South Island.
Things to do in Kaikoura
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One of the best things to do in Kaikoura is swimming or kayaking with the seals. The coastal drive to Kaikoura is an adventure in itself. The calm teal waters are mesmerising, both for their colour and their stillness, nearly as fascinating as the hundreds of seals you’ll see resting along the rocks. The seals you will see are known as fur seals, and have been protected in New Zealand since the mid-sixties after the fur hat industry threatened their future. Now, the population is between 50-60 thousand and is increasing by around 2% every year.
There are a few roadside parking areas where you can stop and have a closer look along the way. But if want a more personal encounter, kayaking is a great opportunity to see them swimming surprisingly gracefully in the water. Every kayaking trip is different. Our instructor commented that he hadn’t seen a seal as playful as the one we saw in quite a while so sometimes it’s a case of luck rather than guarantee. It’s amazing to see their alarmingly sharp teeth, which will definitely ensure you keep your distance on land. Unfortunately, the only picture I could capture was this handstand.
People go crazy for crayfish round these parts, and if you want to have a taste, the famous Nin’s Bin is hailed as one of the absolute must do’s of Kaikoura. The cute unassuming caravan has been serving crayfish since the seventies, and the son of the man who started it still works there, and will happily tell you about the history of the place. Crayfish is not cheap and will set you back around $60, but if you’re a seafood fan, it will prove worth every cent. Caught fresh that morning, and cooked simply in garlic butter, it is best enjoyed outside, watching the seals from less than 50 metres away. This definitely should be in your list of things to do in Kaikoura.
Swim with Dolphins
We were guaranteed to see a lot of seals on our kayaking trip, but what we didn’t expect was a school of dolphins splashing all around us. One of the things to do in Kaikoura is swimming with the gregarious creatures or opt for a dolphin watching cruise, depending on your own preference. We opted for a kayaking tour, and paddled furiously when we saw splashing in the distance. If you have a camera, dry bags are supplied so I would definitely recommend taking it with you. As an amateur, I managed to get this shot, so I imagine it would be a dream opportunity for a more experienced photographer.
When the dolpins became bored of us, we made our way through a few choppy waves. Kayaking is quite a gentle activity so it was great to amplify the adrenalin somewhat.
If you’re looking for somewhere to chill with a pint in the evening, Grober Garage is a lively spot with ever-welcome $6 house drinks all day everyday. If your looking for somewhere to stay there is an excellent range of accommodation in Kaikoura, with over 60 hotels in the area to choose from.
Do you have anything to add to our list of things to do in Kaikoura? Leave a comment below!