The Complete Travel Guide to Kaikoura, New Zealand
Nestled between the Seaward Kaikoura Mountain Ranges and a deep underwater canyon in the Pacific Ocean, Kaikoura harbours some of the best wildlife experiences in the country. The Kaikoura Canyon, just off-shore and accessible through boat and plane tours, attracts some of the world’s most majestic marine wildlife, from sperm whales to wandering albatross. New Zealand fur seals, large pods of dusky dolphins and little blue penguins also make up the wildlife scene here in Kaikoura’s waters and shores. There’s an experience to see all of these magnificent creatures that will suit most types of travellers. We’ll guide you through the highlights, as well as other things to do and places to stay in this complete travel guide to Kaikoura!
Fast Facts About Kaikoura
Location: East coast of the South Island in the Canterbury region, north of Christchurch
Climate: Daily average temperature – 12.7°C/54.86°F, yearly average rainfall – 881mm/34.7″
Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Time Zone: NZST / GMT+12/+13
How to get to Kaikoura: Kaikoura’s closest international airport is Christchurch Airport. Find out more about flights to New Zealand in A Beginner’s Guide to Getting to New Zealand. Kaikoura is also accessible by road, where it’s possible to rent a car from Christchurch. Kaikoura is also accessible by bus, see Bus Networks in New Zealand, and by train from Christchurch or Picton.
Kaikoura for Budget Travellers
Kaikoura might be famous for its “pricey” activities, like whale watching, swimming with dolphins, quad biking and much more. However, it’s easy to stick to your budget thanks to the free things to do, as well as a few cheap activities to fill up the rest of your time. What’s more, Kaikoura might be a small town, but it has a fantastic selection of budget accommodation, so you can concentrate your budget more on experiences. Find out more in our Kaikoura – Guide for Backpackers and The Guide to Kaikoura on a Budget.
Things to Do in Kaikoura on a Budget
- Watch the seals at the Point Kean car park
- See Kaikoura’s oldest surviving building
- Walk the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
- Visit the Kaikoura Museum
- Get a photo on Kaikoura Beach
For more ideas and information on the budget activities, check out 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Kaikoura.
Where to Stay in Kaikoura on a Budget
From holiday parks to motels to backpacker hostels, there’s a range of budget accommodation in Kaikoura to suit all traveller types. Check out some of our top recommendations in 10 Best Budget Accommodation in Kaikoura and 5 Best Backpacker Hostels in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura for Luxury Travellers
Kaikoura is a small down-to-earth town with big adventures. While you won’t find an array of luxury hotels or fine dining here, you will, however, find a small selection of premium activities. Think: soaring over whales in a plane or helicopter, playing golf at one of the most scenic courses in the country, hiking a multi-day trail exclusively for up to 10 people at a time, and more! Learn more about how to make your stay a luxury stay in Kaikoura with The Luxury Guide to Kaikoura.
Luxury Activities in Kaikoura
- Fly over the whales and dolphins on a scenic plane or helicopter flight
- Land in the majestic Kaikoura Mountains via a helicopter tour
- Sample fresh crayfish at one of the restaurants
- Walk the private Kaikoura Coast Track
- Play golf on the Kaikoura Golf Course
Where to Stay in Kaikoura
While Kaikoura might not be home to five-star hotels, it does have a collection of boutique lodges, apartments and one international hotel that offers something special for the luxury travellers. Find out more about these places to stay in 8 Best Luxury Accommodation in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura for Families
If you’re touring New Zealand with kids, then a stop by Kaikoura is a no-brainer. The coastal town boasts some of the most awe-inspiring wildlife encounters that travellers of all ages are bound to appreciate. There’s also room to spend some downtime as a family, playing mini-golf or checking out the local museum. Either way, you can be rest assured that you’ll have comfortable accommodation to come back to in Kaikoura, with plenty of family accommodation available – just make sure you book in advance if you are travelling in summer! For more advice, see The Guide to Kaikoura for Families.
Things to Do in Kaikoura with Kids
- Swim with cute fur seals in their element
- Enjoy a scenic journey on the Coastal Pacific train
- Go on a whale-watching cruise
- Watch a sheep shearing show and hold a lamb
- Challenge everyone to a game of mini-golf at The Emporium
For more information, see our 7 Things to Do in Kaikoura with Kids!
Where to Stay in Kaikoura
Family rooms aren’t too hard to come by in the town of Kaikoura. Motels and holiday parks make your most abundant option, while luxury apartments provide all the comforts of home and more. Check them out in 10 Best Family Accommodation in Kaikoura.
Kaikoura for Couples
Kaikoura certainly strikes the balance of adventuring together and relaxing together. Head out on the water in a double kayak to see seals close-up and work as a team to explore the rugged coastline, watch the majestic giant albatrosses that are known to mate for life, and walk hand-in-hand through along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Explore more ideas, as well as places to eat and places to stay, in The Honeymoon Guide to Kaikoura.
Things to Do in Kaikoura for Couples
- Make your heart melt feeding the lambs at The Point B&B
- Learn a new skill with surf lessons
- Test your relationship in a double kayak
- Team up to solve an escape room
- Watch one of the world’s most romantic birds on an albatross cruise
For more details on each activity, as well as ideas for a few others, see our 10 Romantic Activities in Kaikoura for Couples.
Where to Stay in Kaikoura
While Kaikoura offers a varied array of accommodation, from hostels to hotels, we find that the most romantic accommodation option is the boutique lodges, with almost all rooms being exclusively for couples. Find out more in 8 Best Romantic Accommodation in Kaikoura.