Havey's Australia & New Zealand Adventure Part 27 - Kaikoura, New Zealand

Nicky Havey @nickyhavey
· January 2020 · 7 min read · New Zealand · #hiking

Back On The Travel Blogs

I know travel fans, I know... it's been a long time since I last wrote a proper travel blog and I apologise for that. However, after getting involved with @steemitworldmap's latest contest, I want to make time to relive the Australia and New Zealand adventure with you guys, particularly with my "Travel Diaries EP" providing audio memoirs as well.

Anyway, in my previous travel entry, we had a brief walking tour around Christchurch after a long drive up the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We will revisit this city in a couple of blogs time to explore more of it. However, as the adventure tour I was on was coming to a close, there was just one more place for us to explore - Kaikoura.

Kaikoura, South Island 

Getting There

Well, there's kinda only one way to get to Kaikoura from Christchurch (unless you fancied a mad detour) and that's heading north on Highway 1 for about 2 and a half hours. For the most part, the drive isn't THAT inspiring, you don't really see the coast as much as you might think with the way the highway looks close to the sea on the map below, especially when you compare with some of the amazing drives we have been on already - Highway 6 I'm looking at you!

Screenshot taken from Google Maps
Screenshot taken from Google Maps

However, the more exciting part of the drive is when you start getting close to Kaikoura itself. Well, I say exciting, you really are right up close and personal with the coastline. It's basically sheer rock face on the left and a concrete barrier at sea level to your right but some pretty cool views. If you're lucky, you might see a seal but don't take your eyes off the road! There's plenty of opportunity for wildlife spotting in Kaikoura when you get there!

Great views as you drive around the coastline towards Kaikoura
Great views as you drive around the coastline towards Kaikoura

The Town

The tour we were on describes Kaikoura as one of the South Islands "Best Kept Secrets" and with it's rugged coastline, wildlife spotting and hiking trails, you can see why! The population is close to 4,000 permanent residents and the town itself is located between a rocky coastline and lush farmland, which creates a "melting pot" for a complex marine ecosystem ideal for wildlife lovers to get up close and personal with [Source].

Maori History

As always with New Zealand town names, there is a wonderful cultural meaning behind the name of the town. In Maori legend, tribe leader Tama ki Te Rangi came to the area tired, hungry and weary after being involved in many battles. However, when he arrived, there was an abundance of crayfish that provided him with the food he needed to survive and so, he named the area "Te Ahi Kaikoura a Tama ki Te Rangi" which translates as "the fire that cooked the crayfish of Tama ki Te Rangi". Where Kai means "food" and Koura means "crayfish" [Source].

Wildlife Spotting & Tours

The main attraction in terms of wildlife are the fur seals, dolphins and whale watching, which happens all year round, particularly with Sperm Whales that dive down deeply to catch their food before moving to the warmer waters of the north. Apparently, these sea creatures normally dive down to 1km, with some being able to hold their breath for up to 2 hours and go even further at 3km depth, which is insane!

Seal spotting in Kaikoura
Seal spotting in Kaikoura

There are many activities to choose from in Kaikoura, as there are with many of New Zealand's towns, but some of the tours that were recommended as part of our adventure tour include; swimming with dolphins for about 30 minutes which costs $180 NZD, you can just watch them instead if you didn't want to dive in for $95 NZD; whale watching for $150 NZD although you will get a partial refund if you don't see any whales; and scenic flights which offer a great perspective on the town below and potentially spotting whales from above!

A whale getting ready for a deep dive (one of the others on the tour sent me their video)
A whale getting ready for a deep dive (one of the others on the tour sent me their video)

Hiking Trails

But, because I love hiking and it's free (I was looking at my budget and it was "squeaky bum time") I decided to go on a hike around Kaikoura with Dries. There are a few trails to choose from ranging from 30 minutes to 8 hours. As much as I'd have loved to have done the 8 hours one, we didn't have time for that so the next best option was somewhere in the middle on a trail called Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. You can get a full map from the Kaikoura iSite when you're there but here's the remnants of the map I used on the day.

Map of the hiking trails around Kaikoura - we did the purple dotted line
Map of the hiking trails around Kaikoura - we did the purple dotted line

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

Starting from the iSite, head east along the Esplanade and stick to the road that hugs the coastline all the way up to the car park at the end of Fyfee Quay called Point Kean Lookout. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour. That's the easy bit but there's no harm in looking back behind you across the bay with views of the mountain range at Seaward Valley.

Views of the Seaward Valley Mountain range from Point Kean Viewpoint
Views of the Seaward Valley Mountain range from Point Kean Viewpoint

Now is the time where we need to do a little "climbing". Not literally, just a few steps to get up to the top of the hill but I assure you, it is worth it as you get to look down on the cove around the corner. Once you have caught your breath, you will continue through some of the farmland and meet some new friends in the process before getting towards Point Kean seal colony. If you are going to head down to the cove, just don't get in between the seals and the sea hey!

Take a moment to catch your breath at the top of the hill and take in the views...
Take a moment to catch your breath at the top of the hill and take in the views...

You'll meet a few new friends along the way...
You'll meet a few new friends along the way...

Down there is Point Kean seal colony!
Down there is Point Kean seal colony!

There are many viewpoints where you can enjoy the coastline and see if you can spot any other wildlife as you make your way down towards South Bay and start facing the mountain ranges again.

Looking towards South Bay...
Looking towards South Bay...

...before heading back down this path looking towards the mountains
...before heading back down this path looking towards the mountains

After South Bay, there's a path called "Tom's Track" which will take you back over the narrow stretch of land to Kaikoura again. You'll walk through a forest for a little bit which is an unexpected bonus as part of this hike, along with another steep ascent that may catch you out! However, it's short lived and before you know it, you'll be back to the town where you can pick up some souvenirs for your troubles.

Walking over the farmland to South Bay...
Walking over the farmland to South Bay...

Great scenes at a viewing platform just before South Bay...
Great scenes at a viewing platform just before South Bay...

Entering the forest at Tom's Track...
Entering the forest at Tom's Track...

The view at the top of Tom's track isn't too bad!
The view at the top of Tom's track isn't too bad!

Then a few minutes later you're back in town...
Then a few minutes later you're back in town...

...and can get some energy back with some pie!
...and can get some energy back with some pie!

Accommodation

We had one night in Kaikoura and it was at a hostel called "Dusky Lodge" which is about a 5-10 minute walk away from the main hub of the town's high street. According to their website, if you're up for sharing a dorm with a few others, prices will range from $30-36 NZD but if you wanted your own, it will of course be a bit more at about $100 NZD for a double ensuite. Although it was a hostel and we were in a 6 bed dorm, it still had a "homely" feel to it so would recommend it if you were looking for a hostel.

Places To Eat

Seeing as we only ate out at one place here, I only have one place to tell you about... but it was one of the best curries I had when I was in New Zealand! About a 2 minute walk from Dusky Lodge is Kaikoura Indian Restaurant with a selection of main meals that range between $17-$20 NZD. And, after a long hike during the day, it's a perfect way to end it all off!

If you really wanted to enjoy some Top Shop ice cream, just pop in to the "Night n Day" service station on the way back to the hostel, ask for a cup of ice cream and you'll get a lot more than you bargained for for only $3. Beautiful!

So there you have it folks, my last day with the adventure tour group as we have our final party in Wellington before I begin my own 2.5 week excursion which I call "NH Adventures" haha!

Hope you enjoyed this one, take it easy and see you next time!

Nicky


Topics: HIKINGNEWZEALANDKAIKOURAWILDLIFEOUTDOORBUDGETTRAVEL

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