After returning to the East Coast, our journey north to Kaikoura was hit by several delays. The coastal highway that leads into the town was devastated by a 2016 earthquake, with large sections broken up or buried by landslides. Thanks to a mammoth rebuilding effort in the years since, the highway has now been reopened, but there is still much work to be done before it is complete.
As we arrived into the small town, we were immediately struck by the stunning mountain backdrop, with areas of snow still visible on the peaks despite it being the end of summer.
We walked along the beach before stopping for a delicious dinner of freshly caught blue cod and squid from Cod and Crayfish.
As we walked back to our campsite just outside of the town, we were treated to the most beautiful sunset either of us had ever seen, with the sky and water glowing in vivid shades of red and orange.
We spent the following morning relaxing in the town, enjoying some great coffee at Slam Club, before deciding to explore the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Point Keen is situated at the far end of the peninsula, and is home to a colony of New Zealand fur seals. We clambered across the rocky beach, where we found several seals lazing in the sunshine.
The town is renowned for its Seafood, and we decided to sample some more for our lunch, visiting the popular Kaikoura Seafood BBQ. The Maori meaning of Kaikoura is ‘to eat crayfish’ and we did exactly that, enjoying some delicious crayfish fritter sandwiches.
There is a wide range of wildlife tours to choose from in Kaikoura, including whale and dolphin watching. After considering the many options, we decided to book a sunset kayaking tour through Kaikoura Kayaks. We arrived at their small office in the town, before being taken to the launch site at the South Bay Reserve.
After a short safety briefing we were soon out on the water, where the conditions were almost perfect with no wind or waves to speak of. We paddled out into the bay, where we were quickly joined by several friendly seals swimming alongside the kayaks.
With our guide suddenly spotting a commotion out in the water, we quickly paddled over to investigate further. As we got closer, we saw a seal emerging from the water with an octopus in its mouth. We watched as it slammed its prey hard against the water, causing it to break into several pieces.
Our guide explained that seals do this to break their catch into edible sized pieces. It was fascinating to watch up close, but definitely not the most efficient way to eat, with a number of swooping seagulls enjoying a larger feed than the seal.
After continuing around the peninsula, we came to a rocky outcrop that was clearly a popular sunbathing spot for seals. We watched as the young males lazed around on the rocks, with only one inquisitive enough to look over at their audience.
We paddled back to the South Bay Reserve, arriving just as the sun dipped below the surrounding mountains. After returning to the town, we had yet more Fish and Chips from Coopers Catch, before walking back to our campsite.
This completed a great few days exploring Kaikoura. With its unrivalled array of wildlife, great seafood and stunning mountain backdrop, not to mention the amazing sunsets, we challenge anyone to find a better seaside town!