The Best Family Activities in Kaikoura (for Babies, Toddlers, Kids, Teens and Beyond)
Beautiful coastal and mountain scenery combined with wildlife experiences is what you can expect from a family trip to Kaikoura. Kaikoura is one of the best places on the South Island to encounter whales, seals, dolphins and some of the world’s largest seabirds. Treat yourself and your family to seeing some amazing creatures that we share this world with, as well as enjoy a couple of light-hearted activities, from sheep shearing to Kaikoura-themed mini-golf. Check out some of our top recommendations for things to do in Kaikoura with kids!
While you’re here, plan your whole trip with accommodation and dining recommendations included in The Guide to Kaikoura for Families.
1. Kayak with Cute Fur Seals in Their Natural Environment
If we haven’t already made it clear, it’s all about the wildlife in Kaikoura! One of the most interactive and family-friendly wildlife encounters is kayaking with seals. Both Seal Kayak Kaikoura and Kaikoura Kayaks (more info on Viator and Klook) offer kayaking tours for ages 3 years and up. These three-hour trips incorporate fun and easy kayaking for beginners while getting up close to seal colonies and potentially dolphins, penguins and more. We recommend a morning trip when the sea tends to be at its calmest. See similar experiences like this in the 5 Top Wildlife Activities in Kaikoura.
Location: Seal Kayak Kaikoura – 18 Beach Road. Kaikoura Kayaks – 19 Killarney Street.
2. Ride the Coastal Pacific Train
Riding the train is a fun experience for most kids! Meanwhile, Mum and Dad can enjoy watching the stunning coastal scenery go by and relax with a hot coffee or New Zealand wine from the onboard licensed cafe. The Coastal Pacific train runs between Christchurch and Picton, stopping by Kaikoura along the way. Onboard, see dramatic windblown seascapes on one side and towering bush-clad mountains on the other through the train’s panoramic windows or the open-air viewing carriage. Note that this is a seasonal train that runs from spring through to autumn. Learn more about taking the train in New Zealand with our guide to the Train Network in New Zealand.
Location: Kaikoura Railway Station, Whaleway Station Road, Kaikoura.
3. Visit the Kaikoura Museum
An educational activity that you can also rely on if the weather isn’t playing ball, the Kaikoura Museum offers family-friendly fun in Kaikoura town. Learn about the natural history, Maori legends and Kaikoura’s fishing, whaling and earthquake history in this informative museum. There are interactive activities to keep the little ones interested too, such as a treasure hunt, jigsaw puzzles, drawing competitions, museum quizzes and much more. Find the museum located opposite the i-SITE. Family passes are also available at the museum which is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily. For more affordable experiences like this, take a look at the 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Kaikoura.
Location: 96 West End, Kaikoura.
4. Go On a Whale Watching Tour
Of course, whale watching is one of the most popular activities in Kaikoura. It also just happens to be a suitable thing to do in Kaikoura with kids! Join Whale Watch Kaikoura for their 3-4-hour boat tour taking you out to spot diving sperm whales all year round. Along the way, the tour will take the time to watch dolphins and large pelagic birds if the opportunity arises. Get more information about Whale Watch Kaikoura on Viator and Klook.
Location: Whaleway Station Road, Kaikoura.
5. Watch a Sheep Shearing Show
Learn more about New Zealand’s most iconic farm animal: the sheep! At Point Sheep Shearing, meet the farm’s Drysdale Ram who will eat out of the palm of your hand and watch an impressive sheep shearing demonstration where the farmer will go into detail about the techniques and tools used. Between August and January, kids also get the opportunity to hold and feed one of the adorable pet lambs. This is another fantastic activity to do on a rainy day!
Location: 85 Fyffe Quay, Kaikoura.
6. Look Out for Seals on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
If you’re not too keen to get into the water or are travelling on a budget, you can still view wildlife from the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. While the entire walkway is around 11 km (7 mi) long, it’s not only an easy grade and suitable for all ages but there are opportunities to make the walk shorter. Encounter seals at the Point Kean car park where they are known to even take up some of the parking spaces here! Walk a little further, and you’ll get to various lookouts over seal colonies. Find out more about this walk, including other family-friendly walks, in the 5 Best Walks in Kaikoura.
Location: Point Kean car park, 4.4 km (2.7 mi) from Kaikoura (it is possible to walk to the start of the walk along the walkways lining the coast south of the town. Allow 50 minutes. At the end of the walk at South Bay, you can walk back to the town following the marked posts. Allow a further 1 hour).
7. Play Mini-Golf or Do an Escape Room at The Emporium
For some healthy competition, and so Mum and Dad can also try out the craft beer from the on-site brewery, head to The Emporium for their 18-hole mini-golf course and/or their escape rooms. The former is a cheap activity that’s a good way to spend 30 minutes to an hour, putting your way through Kaikoura-themed holes. See if you can get your ball past the whale fluke or around the stranded cattle from the Kaikoura earthquakes!
Location: 57a Beach Road, Kaikoura.
8. Trek with Llamas
Experience Kaikoura’s walks with a difference! Join Kaikoura Llama Trekking for either a half-day experience guiding your woolly llama along the Kaikoura coast to a seal colony or a shorter tour along the beautiful Kowhai River. Either way, you’ll have plenty of fun photo opportunities with the kids, as well as get to learn a lot about the local history and the 2016 earthquake, as well as some fun facts about llamas.
Location: Half-day tour meeting point is at West End in Kaikoura town centre and the shorter tours meet at 12 Kowhai Ford Road.
9. Relax at Gooch’s Beach
What kid doesn’t love the beach? While Kaikoura’s beaches aren’t exactly sandy oases – more pebbles, rock pools and driftwood to explore – they still make an idyllic place to relax after a day on the road, seal kayaking, whale watching or whatever. Gooch’s Beach along The Esplanade is a worthy choice for families thanks to its fantastic children’s playground. Bring along some fresh Kaikoura fish and chips from Coopers Catch or Cods & Crayfish on your way there.
Location: The Esplanade, Kaikoura.
10. Check Out Classic Cars and Dine at an American Diner
Step into another era – in another country, nonetheless – at the American-style Bernie’s Diner and Harmons Classic Car Museum. Fun for all of the family, admire the sleek rides of this ever-increasing classic car and motor memorabilia collection and enhance the experience by dining in one of the colourful booths of this American diner with family-friendly meals to match the setting.
Location: 57a Beach Road, Kaikoura.
More About Kaikoura with Kids
That’s it for our list of the best things to do in Kaikoura with kids! For more activities that don’t necessarily fall into the “family-friendly” category but may well still be appropriate for your tribe, take a look at the following:
- 20 Best Things to Do in Kaikoura
- 15 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Kaikoura
- 7 Luxury Experiences in Kaikoura
Finally, discover even more family trip tips in The Travel Guide to New Zealand for Families, as well as more inspiration for your road trip in the South Island Family Itinerary: Two Weeks and South Island Family Itinerary: One Week.