With the swelling Pacific Ocean on one side and the snowcapped Kaikoura Range on the other – Kaikoura is a quaint peninsula village that is a base for discovering some of New Zealand’s best wildlife. It is a remote coastal community midway between Christchurch and Blenheim famous for and even named after its crayfish – in Maori, ‘kai’ means food and ‘koura’ is crayfish.

The settlement itself is little more than its main street which is home to a cluster of artisan delis, craft stores, fish and chip shops, restaurants and cafes. Just off this main strip lies the rugged, seaweed-strewn coastline with crashing breaks that bring surfers from afar looking for the perfect wave.

Heading along this coast you can’t miss the local fur seal colony lazing on the rocks in the sun, playing in the water or raising endearing pups in the more secluded alcoves.

It is a spectacular environment and draws a regular stream of visitors for its marine mammal encounters from whale watching boat trips to swimming with dolphins and seals as well as those keen to spot the blue penguin or numerous varieties of albatross that pass here.

Swimming with dolphins in the wild was something I always dreamed of doing. There are few places in the world where you can experience swimming with one of the most intelligent animals on the planet; Kaikoura being one of these places. Whether you’re diving or snorkelling with these Dusky Dolphins, there’s nothing quite like the excitement of a pod of 50+ dolphins swimming up and close to you and making playful noises down your snorkel to encourage the dolphins to play with you. It’s an experience you really will remember for the rest of your life.

Ellie Khoury
Travel Designer

When to go

Whale watching is a year round activity in Kaikoura, with sperm whales permanently feeding off of the coast. Pods of orcas can be seen from October to March, while migrating humpback, pilot, blue and southern right whales pass through between June and August. Playful seal pups can be seen in Ohau Waterfall from May to October.