Discover What Lives Below in Kaikōura

visit kaikouraIf you want to glimpse a true giant of the deep, put Kaikōura on your to-do list. This small town on the east coast of the South Island is one of the few places in the world where sperm whales can be seen year-round and close to shore.

Why? Well, it’s all due to the Kaikōura Canyon, a submarine trench located just 800 metres off the coast. Home to a rich concentration of underwater life, the canyon’s deep trenches and swirling currents provide the sperm whales, as well as a whole host of other wildlife, with the marine equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sperm whales are one of the deepest diving whales, with the ability to descend hundreds of metres to find their food. Only male sperm whales visit Kaikōura – the females and young whales stick to warmer tropical waters.

During the winter months, humpback whales are also frequent visitors to Kaikōura, passing through on their way north to warmer waters. Other wildlife you might spot include dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Hector’s dolphin, orca, fur seals and a wide variety of sea birds.

Whale Watch Kaikoura offers daily boat tours (weather dependent), or you can view the ocean from above with a plane or helicopter tour.

And take your bikes along for your visit. Kaikōura offers several mountain biking opportunities, from the relaxed and cruisy Kowhai Trail to the steep and technical slopes of the Mt Fyffe Track (advanced riders only). You can pick up track maps from the Kaikōura i-Site.

Getting to Kaikōura

Kaikōura’s road access was disrupted by last November’s earthquake and repair work is still taking place. The current road situation looks like this:

SH1 South (Christchurch – Cheviot – Kaikōura) is open 7.00am to 6.00pm Friday – Monday, with scheduled closures on Tues/Wed/Thurs for repair work.
Inland Route 70 (Christchurch – Hanmer Springs – Kaikōura) is open 24/7.
SH1 North (Kaikōura – Picton) is closed until December 2017.

Kaikōura town is open for business as usual. For an up-to-date status of the roads, check out the New Zealand Transport Agency website.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Visit Kaikōura as part of our 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Top of the South Island. This Grade 2 ride starts in Christchurch and takes you over the Southern Alps to the West Coast, before heading to Nelson and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. There’s time for a visit to some of Marlborough’s top vineyards before you make your way to Kaikōura, where you can round off your tour with a whale watching expedition. Read all the details here.

Image: Andrea Schaffer


Small Town New Zealand: Kaikoura

visit kaikouraSitting in a beautiful bay and backed by the steeply rising slopes of the Seaward Kaikoura range, Kaikoura is best known for its astonishing array of marine life. But there’s plenty of other activities to keep you busy when you visit, too…

Go whale watching
Kaikoura’s coastal waters attract an abundance of marine life, including dusky dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Hector’s dolphin, orca, fur seals and the giant of the deep – the sperm whale. Numerous operators offer whale watching tours and dolphin swimming – if you’re visiting in the busy summer months you’ll probably have to book in advance.

Walk the Kaikoura Peninsula
This is a three-hour walk along the coastline, that can be broken up into shorter trips. The track crosses the peninsula’s clifftop, with excellent views of the Seaward Kaikoura Range, ocean and coastline. It returns to the township via South Bay and Toms Track. Watch for seals lounging about the track – they’re not overly fond of being disturbed and it’s recommended you keep your distance.

Climb or ride Mount Fyffe
Mount Fyffe and the Seaward Kaikoura Range dominate the Kaikoura skyline and offer plenty of adventure opportunities, from gentle strolls to more serious uphill hauls. It’s an 8-hour return trip to the top of Mount Fyffe by foot, or tackle the steep and challenging climb on your mountain bike. Make sure you check your brakes first! For a shorter stroll, try the Hinau Track – a 45-minute loop through a pretty forest. The Mount Fyffe carpark also gives access to the Kowhai River ride – an easy-going MTB track that offers a good mix of 4WD and purpose-built singletrack.

Sample a cray
When Tama ki Te Rangi first visited Kaikoura many hundreds of years ago (supposedly in pursuit of his runaway wives!) he was delighted to find an abundance of crayfish. He named the area “Te Ahi Kaikoura a Tama ki Te Rangi” – the fire that cooked the crayfish of Tama ki Te Rangi. Crayfish is still a local delicacy, alongside a whole host of other seafood.

Visit Kaikoura as part of our 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Top of the South Island. This is a Grade 2 ride that starts in Christchurch and takes you over the Southern Alps to the West Coast. After cycling the twists and turns of the coast road, you’ll head to Nelson and the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. There’s time for a visit to some of Marlborough’s top vineyards before you make your way to Kaikoura, where you can round off your tour with a whale watching expedition or a swim with dolphins. Read all the details here.

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. Happy Easter! Our opening hours this weekend are: Good Friday closed, Saturday open 10am-4pm, Easter Sunday closed, Easter Monday closed, Tuesday 29 March open as usual 9am-5pm.

Image: Andrea Schaffer