Kaikōura: Coastal wonderland

The coastal wonderland of Kaikōura is home to an array of marine mammals and birdlife, as well as mountains teeming with hiking trails, bike tracks, and spectacular vistas. It’s the ultimate destination for those who love the outdoors and wish to embrace their adventurous spirit.

While the allure of the region has spread offshore, with experiences such as Kaikōura Whale Watch, 4WD adventures, scenic flights, and albatross tours, this stunning spot offers a multitude of unique experiences year-round.

With well-deserved acclaim for being such a natural playground, visitors can swim with dolphins, go reef diving, paddle around the peninsula, and even take a stroll with a Llama, and the action continues around the clock, with awe-inspiring night skies (particularly during autumn and winter) yet another significant drawcard. So much so that Kaikōura Dark Sy Trust is on a mission to achieve International Dark Sky Sanctuary and Community Status for the district to protect and share these starry nights and nocturnal environments.

With such a wealth of attractions to choose from, we’ve compiled a list of 10 lesser-known delights well worth travelling south for.

eRide Kaikoura

Discover Kaikōura the eco-friendly way

Enjoy all the benefits of exploring a region by pedal power and the latest e-bike technology, alongside the fun of a fully guided tour of the Kaikōura Peninsula. Choose from The Sundowner (the ultimate peninsula sunset tour); Seals, Crays & Bays Tour (includes the seal colony, Fyffe House and the remnants of a whaling station); and Taste of Kaikōura (sample local cuisine and beverages as you tour through native forest and shoreline). If you prefer to set your own pace and itinerary, e-bike rentals are also available, either hourly or for a full day.  It’s the perfect eco-friendly way to discover the delights of the Kaikōura coastline.


Emporium Brewing

While craft beer is certainly a drawcard, this is not your average brewery. There’s also an on-site bar, with numerous beers and ciders on tap, as well as plenty of tasty treats on the menu. The 18-hole mini golf course is a major attraction for families, along with two Escape Rooms (perfect rainy-day entertainment). Keep an eye on the events page on the website for various themed events year-round.


Kaikōura Museum

Located in the landmark ‘craypot’ building in Kaikōura’s West End, this award-winning museum is modern and relaxed with a range of collections and exhibitions that showcase the region’s diverse and colourful history. Currently taking pride of place is Wharenga – First Wave, a long-term exhibition that opened earlier this year and celebrates the role of surfing in Kaikōura’s history. Thanks to the distinctive geography of its ocean bed, Kaikōura is one of the most consistent and enticing surf regions in New Zealand. Wharenga – First Wave is a fun, interactive, and multimedia exploration of the stories, culture, and geological forces connected with surfing in Kaikōura. Visually stunning, it’s a display likely to appeal to all ages.

Tiny town: Teviot Valley


EcoZip Kaikōura

Twin ziplines at EcoZip Kaikōura

Enjoy adrenaline-pumping action while soaring across a spectacular 3000 working hill farm (Rakanui Farm) on one of five ziplines. The newest addition to award-winning ecotourism adventure company, EcoZip Adventures treats visitors to a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of Kaikōura’s South Bay and the Seaward Kaikōura Range. Through all stages of the experience, visitors are accompanied by two expert local guides, who describe the history of the region, share stories of the local people, and explain how visitor participation in the EcoZip experience is helping to restore sections of Rakanui Station’s farmland back to native forest. The 3.5-hour adventure begins at the base of the Kahutara River before riding in ‘Moggy’, a custom-built Unimog 4X4, across Rakanui Station up the mountain range.


Fyffe House

Proof that history doesn’t have to be dull. Fyffe House was built on the back of whaling – the original single-storey cottage (which went on to become the wing of a larger home) – and astonishingly rests on piles made from the vertebrae of a mighty tohorā (southern right whale). Now almost 180 years old, Fyffe House stands as a testament to Kaikōura’s whaling industry and is cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Packed with historic pieces and heritage treasures, as well as meandering back in time, Fyffe House offers plenty to entertain youngsters also.


Cultural Artwork Trail

Spanning the beautiful Kaikōura coastline, cultural artwork can be found at more than 20 locations as you explore the area. For those taking in this experience by RV or car, there are safe stopping areas to pause and explore. As well as unique pieces of artwork, each piece comes with a brief history and its relation to the cultural significance of this area. Experience the work of master carvers, thought-provoking murals, and pieces crafted with love and care.

Meet Owen and Elaine and their Rockwood Caravan
Hapuku Kitchen cooking school

The Mayfair Theatre

This striking art deco building was lovingly repaired and reopened following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake and continues to take its place in the history of the coastal town. The extensive rebuild includes new facilities of two auditoriums, a gallery space, and a conferencing facility. The community-owned theatre not only screens the latest blockbusters and art movies but also hosts live music, theatre, art exhibitions, and community events. Check the online calendar to see what’s happening if you’re planning a visit to the area.


Harmon’s Motor Museum

A beguiling example of a family passion for cars, Harmon’s Motor Museum was established in 2017 and represents the passion and collection of father and son Geoff and Bernard Harmon. Their impressive classic car collection is now available to the public to view, offering a glimpse into an entirely different era and including the iconic Ford Zephyr along with themed spaces (1960’s beach house and camping scene of the time). Don’t leave without experiencing Bernie’s Diner, an ode to the Wurlitzer jukebox and offering an American-style diner experience, complete with retro-style furniture and music.


Fish and chips at the Kaikōura lookout

Eat, nibble, and graze

Kaikōura’s food scene is worthy of a visit alone, even without the numerous other attractions of the region. Treat your tastebuds to a variety of beautifully produced offerings from businesses such as Hapuku Kitchen, Hiku Restaurant, Kaikoura Seafood BBQ, Beach House Cafe, Simes Kitchen, and Slam Club, or explore and discover your own favourite.

Mt Fyffe Distillery

A boutique distillery set on the foothills of Mt Fyffe, this craft distillery uses botanics sourced from around its sheep farm and local area to create two distinct blends of small-batch artisan London dry gin: Woolshed Gin and Shearwater Gin. It’s a testament to the world of foraged botanics, flavour profiles, and the determination of one woman’s dream. It’s also the perfect memento to take home, infused with the charm and memorable flavours of Kaikōura.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Share on print

Related Posts