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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook


BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Canterbury > Kaikoura


Kaikoura is an ordinary town in an extraordinary setting. The centre is stretched out along a bay and against a backdrop of majestic snow-capped mountains. Besides a good museum and the opportunity to see remains of ancient Maori settlements, there is not a lot in Kaikoura to keep you on land. Most of its attractions are in the water. The ocean here is famous for its rich marine life, making this a popular place to whale watch or swim with fur seals and dusky dolphins. If you don’t have the chance to swim with the seals, you can see them from the Omau Lookout, 20km north of town.

Practical information

Kaikoura i-SITE Visitor Centre

West End, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5641
Website www.kaikoura.co.nz
Open 9am-5pm daily

Global Gossip

19 West End, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 7970
Website www.globalgossip.com
Open 8.30am-11.30pm daily

Coming & going


There are regular bus services from Kaikoura to Blenheim, Christchurch, Nelson and Picton.
Northbound InterCity Coachlines (tel (03) 365 1113) stop outside Sleepy Whale Backpackers (86 West End, Kaikoura) and southbound buses stop opposite the Craypot Café (77 West End, Kaikoura). Atomic Shuttles (tel (03) 349 0697), Nakedbus.com and Southern Link K Bus (tel (03) 358 8355 or 0508 458 835) buses leave from the i-SITE Visitor Centre on West End.


TranzScenic’s TranzCoastal train stops in Kaikoura en route between Picton and Christchurch. Kaikoura’s train station is located behind Beach Road.

Hostel accommodation

Adelphi Lodge

26 West End, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5141

Albatross Backpackers Inn

1 Torquay Street, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 6090 or 0800 222 247

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Cray Cottage

190 Esplanade, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5152

Dolphin Lodge

15 Deal Street, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5842

Dusky Lodge

67 Beach Road, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5959

The Lazy Shag

37 Beach Road, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 6662

Maui YHA

270 Esplanade, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5931

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Sleepy Whale

86 West End, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 7014

Sunrise Lodge

74 Beach Road, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 7444

Top Spot Backpackers

22 Deal Street, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 5540

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Eating & drinking

Kaikoura has a few good choices for eating and drinking on a budget. Most of the restaurants on West End in the town centre have high prices, but locals and backpackers head to the Sonic (West End, Kaikoura) for dinner and drinks anyway because it has a great atmosphere. Pot Belly Café (38 West End, Kaikoura) is a great choice for lunch and they have the best cheap pies in town. Head north on Beach Road for fast food restaurants and cheaper prices.

The New World supermarket (124 Beach Road, Kaikoura) is a five-minute drive north from the town centre.

Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

Kaikoura District Museum

This small regional museum has a wide selection of exhibits including dinosaur bones, Māori artefacts and thousands of photos.

14 Ludstone Road, Kaikoura
Tel (03) 319 7440
Admission $3
Open Mon-Fri 10am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 2pm-4pm



Albatross Encounter Tours (tel (03) 319 6777 or 0800 733 635) run cruises for bird watchers who want to see ocean-going birds such as mollymawks, petrels and the mighty albatross. You often also see dolphins, seals and whales on these cruises. Albatross cruises cost $80 and you often need to book a few days in advance to ensure space on the boat.


One of Kaikoura’s big attractions is the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Dolphin Encounter (tel (03) 319 6777 or 0800 733 365) run three-hour trips out to swim with the dusky dolphins. You also have the chance to see hectors dolphins, fur seals, orca and pilot whales. It costs $130 to swim with the dolphins or you can come along and watch for $70.

There are restrictions on the number of people allowed to swim with the dolphins and it is often necessary to book well in advance if you are visiting in the peak season (Nov-Apr).


The Kaikoura Coast Track bills itself as one of New Zealand’s finest private walks.

The three-day walk climbs from sea level to 600m, but it is a relatively easy walk. Like the Queen Charlotte Track, hikers have the luxury of having their bags transported between overnight stops so you can walk with just a daypack.

The track is limited to just 10 walkers and eight mountain bikers each day. The track is open Oct-Apr and it costs $185 to walk ($95 for cyclists), which includes accommodation and backpack transport.


Fyffe View Ranch Horse Trekking (tel (03) 319 5069) offer one-hour horse rides for $45 and more challenging two-hour rides for $70.


Kaikoura offers excellent sea kayaking that gives you the opportunity to get close to the region’s spectacular marine life. Sea Kayak Kaikoura (tel (03) 319 5641 or 0800 4 KAIKOURA (0800 452 456)) offers both guided kayak tours and kayak rental. Half-day guided kayak tours cost $80 and give you the opportunity to see fur seals at close range. You can also rent kayaks for $65 for a half-day or $80 for a full day if you prefer the freedom of exploring at your own pace.


In summer (Nov-Apr) Dive Kaikoura (tel (03) 319 6622) and Seal Swim Kaikoura (tel (03) 319 6182) run trips that allow you to swim with fur seals. The Seal Swim Kaikoura trip ($70-80) is a shore-based activity where you snorkel out to the seals from Jimmy Armers Beach, while Dive Kaikoura’s trip involves taking a boat out to the seals.


Whale watching is big business in Kaikoura and you have the option of either taking a whale watching cruise or spotting them from a plane or helicopter.

Sperm and humpback whales can be seen Jun-Jul, but orcas are more prevalent during summer.

Whale watching cruises

Whale Watch Kaikoura (tel (03) 319 6767) has been running whale-watching tours for the past 18 years. The whale watching cruises give you around 2½ hours on the water and you also have the opportunity of seeing dolphins, seals and albatross. Cruises cost $140 and they offer an 80% refund if you don’t spot a whale.

Whale watching flights

Scenic flights allow you to see whales and other marine life from the air. Wings over Whales (tel (03) 319 6580 or 0800 2CMOBY (0800 226 629)) operate flights in fixed-wing aircraft departing from Kaikoura Airport, 8km south of the town centre. Wings over Whales’ flights cost $145.

Kaikoura Helicopters (tel (03) 319 6609) run helicopter flights from a helipad about a five-minute walk from the town centre. Kaikoura Helicopters’ flights cost $195-350 depending on the length of the flight and the number of other passengers.

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