Whales, Crayfish, Beaches and More in Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura, New Zealand is a little beachside town located about a two hour drive north of Christchurch. Kaikoura used to be a sleepy crayfish fishing town, but its beauty of ocean and mountains couldn’t be kept a secret forever and the past couple of decades have seen its tourism increase at a rapid pace.
The shore of Kaikoura is known for the whales and dolphins that play in its water. I didn’t see any sea life during my time in Kaikoura (It was Christmas Day so perhaps all the Orcas were at the relatives house in Able Tasman), but it didn’t take away from the loveliness of the town.
Kaikoura’s buildings are unassuming – obviously catering to tourists yet not in a kitschy way. Though most businesses were closed while I was there due to the holiday, I could tell that there were some gems located amongst the town, such as this bar and restaurant:
That beach is the main draw of Kaikoura. After descending over the creek that runs parallel to the shoreline, a vast rocky carpet of white and gray hues spreads before you with the crashing waves behind it. The water has light teal and turquoise accents to it, especially when the sun is sparkling on it.
A dish to try in Kaikoura is the locally caught crayfish – which is the Kiwi’s term for the lobsters caught off their shores. These lobsters are smaller than Maine lobster and are more reminiscent of the spiny lobster caught off the shores of California. The Kiwis definitely know how to cook their lobster to bring out its sweet flavor. Tom and I got the Crayfish Mornay at Aromas restaurant (one of the few restaurants open on Christmas – and we were sure glad it was). The Crayfish Mornay was cooked to the restaurant’s “secret recipe” and came cut up into a creamy broth that taste like buttery Alfredo sauce. It was divine.
As the restaurant has an indoor/outdoor ambiance, signs were displayed warning diners not to leave food unattended. While sitting there we saw quite a few abandoned dinners attacked by seagulls.
Ah, yes, the seagulls. It’s impossible to leave Kaikoura without seeing – and hearing them.
Tom and I decided to call the seagulls of Kaikoura “Rooney birds” after our cat Rooney who goes through fits of urgent meowing at times for no seemingly apparent reason except to get us to pay attention to him. This seemed to be the seagull’s motto as well.
To the northwest of Kaikoura white-capped mountains jut up from the earth in the distance, a reminder that this land isn’t just about the beach.
If taking your chances of just seeing marine life from the shore sounds too risky for you, there are many whale watching tours offered out of Kaikoura, which can be done via boat or plane. We passed by Wings Over Whales, which looked quite nice and has a 95% success rate of seeing whales.
Whether you spend a couple hours or a couple days in Kaikoura, New Zealand, it’s definitely worth a stop during your time on New Zealand’s South Island – and if you’re lucky, you’ll see a whale or two (or more!).