How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Kaikoura
The coastal town of Kaikoura might be small but its waters are home to some of the world’s largest marine mammals, largest seabirds and largest pods of dolphins. Needless to say, your visit here is mostly going to revolve around the unique wildlife experiences, but how can you amplify the experience from what the average tourist sees? How can you make your stay extra special, with premium accommodation and experiences? We’ll guide you through the highlights with this complete luxury travel guide to Kaikoura!
The Top Luxury Tours in Kaikoura
- Fly over the whales on a scenic plane flight with Wings Over Whales or Air Kaikoura…
- … or on a helicopter flight with South Pacific Helicopters or Kaikoura Helicopters
- Land in the Kaikoura Mountains via a helicopter tour
- Indulge in fresh crayfish at one of the restaurants
- Walk the Kaikoura Coast Track
- Sample Kaikoura’s own gin, beer or sparkling wine
- Play golf on the scenic Kaikoura Golf Club
- Indulge in a spa treatment and enjoy fine dining at Hapuku Lodge + Treehouses.
For more information on each experience, see our 7 Luxury Experiences in Kaikoura.
Unique Luxury Experiences in Kaikoura
Treat yourself to some of Kaikoura’s most premium experiences. Here are some activities to inspire you for your stay in the wildlife capital of the South Island.
Whale Watching Flights
Whale watching is a must-do in this area of New Zealand which is one of the rare places in the world where you can enjoy commercial whale watching all year round. While whale watching cruises are available, a more intimate experience is seeing the whales from the sky. Join a whale-watching flight with Wings Over Whales (more info on Viator and Klook) or Air Kaikoura to soar over whales as they come up for air before they take their impressive dive launching their giant fluke out of the water. All of the flights mentioned above will also take the time to watch dolphins from the sky if the opportunity arises.
Coastal and Mountain Flights
Watching the whales is not the only attraction a scenic flight can offer. South Pacific Helicopters also offer an extended flight experience taking up to a maximum of five people over the dramatic mountains, beaches and coastline with a touchdown at the summit of Mt Fyffe. Of course, dolphin and seal viewings across the ocean are also included in this tour.
Alternatively, join Kaikoura Helicopters for a 90-minute experience climbing 8,000 ft into the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges to bask in the mountain and sea views. Make the experience extra special with a private helicopter picnic thrown in the mix.
Want to play golf on arguably the most scenic course in the country? Spend some time at the Kaikoura Golf Club! Nestled between the Kaikoura mountain ranges and the sparkling ocean, it’s hard to not be distracted on this 18-hole course. The course with a mix of tree-lined fairways and open spaces provides something for all levels of golfers. Club and trundler hire is available, as well as the clubhouse serving food and drinks. Get inspired for more golfing with our 21 Best Golf Courses in New Zealand.
Kaikoura Coast Track
While hiking is a major part of a New Zealand holiday, you’ll struggle to find anywhere as uncrowded as the Kaikoura Coast Track. This private walking track takes two days to complete, allowing hikers to discover dramatic rugged coastline, tussock-covered coastal cliffs and lush farmland. Tramp through bush-clad gullies to emerge to views of the Kaikoura mountains. The exclusive experience only allows 10 people on the track at one time. Plus, luxury services like luggage transport, food and catering, and warm clean hiker’s cottages are available. For alternative walks in the area, see the 5 Best Walks in Kaikoura.
Fine Dining in Kaikoura
Kaikoura is a small down-to-earth town, which is all part of the charm here. While you won’t exactly find the widest range of lavish fine dining options here, you can still experience some of the freshest seafood, which is the town’s namesake with “Kai” meaning food and “koura” meaning crayfish.
Seafood Experiences in Kaikoura
Be sure to try Kaikoura’s speciality, crayfish, at one of the many local seafood stops on the outskirts of Kaikoura like Nin’s Bin (State Highway 1), a fresh crayfish food truck located 20 minutes north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1 or the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ (55 Fyffe Quay).
Fine Dining Restaurants in Kaikoura
Delight in a three-course lunch or dinner with a seasonal menu with ingredients sourced from the very own garden of Hapuku Lodge + Treehouses (State Highway 1), as well as local gardeners, farms and fisherfolk, no doubt deepening your appreciation for New Zealand cuisine. Reservations are essential.
In the heart of Kaikoura, Zephyr (40 West End) is a good go-to for high-quality fare with everything, from the pate to the ravioli, made in-house. The menu is based on French cuisine, with a high focus on meats but vegetarian options are still available.
Quaint Cafes for Breakfast and Lunch
For lunch, try Sime’s Kitchen (33 Beach Road) for their fresh carefully-sourced organic cafe meals in a casual setting. Alternatively, check out Hiku, the cafe/restaurant of the Sudima Kaikoura (114 Esplanade) boasting delightfully local meals like crayfish omelette to all your international crowd-pleasers. And if you can’t get enough of Kaikoura’s cafe scene, be sure to discover Flo & Co (13a West End); a modern yet homely setting for all of New Zealand’s usual breakfast, brunch and lunch favourites, from “eggs bene” to “whitebait sammie”.
All-Weather Luxury Experiences in Kaikoura
As with anywhere in New Zealand, the weather is ever changeable. If your whale flight or cruise is cancelled, then you always have the backup of these indulgent activities.
Kaikoura Beverage Tastings
Delite the palate with tastings of Kaikoura’s range of homegrown beverages. Esses Kaikoura specialises solely in Méthode Traditionnelle, with the aim to grow the perfect sparkling. Taste it for yourself at their tasting room which is open by appointment.
Gin lovers should certainly not miss the small-batch boutique distillery of Mt. Fyffe Distillery, set on the scenic foothills of its namesake. Try their two distinct blends of artisan London dry gin; Woolshed Gin and Shearwater Gin, as well as experience a tour of the off-the-beaten-track distillery which is open by appointment.
Finally, sample a range of craft beers at Emporium Brewing close to town along with a lunch menu, escape rooms and mini-golf – something to do in Kaikoura with the family.
If you’re not already staying at one of Kaikoura’s (and New Zealand’s) most unique accommodations, then at least pop in for one of its indulgent spa treatments and/or fine dining experiences. Situated at the Hapuku Lodge + Treehouses, the Kawakawa Studio Spa boasts a tempting array of spa packages to restore and indulge, as well as to enhance the romance with couples’ massages. Reservations are essential. Learn more about the lodge at the 15 Best Luxury Accommodations in Kaikoura.
More About Luxury in Kaikoura
That’s it for the luxury travel guide to Kaikoura. For more upscale experiences, as well as details about Kaikoura that don’t necessarily fall in the “luxury” category, take a look at the following guides:
- 20 Best Things to Do in Kaikoura
- The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Kaikoura
- The Complete Travel Guide to Kaikoura
Find even more tips to make your luxury getaway exceptional in The Luxury Travel Guide to New Zealand.