I finally visited Kaikoura earlier this year. It’s a tiny town in the south island of New Zealand that bulges with tourists over summer, and becomes empty during winter.
The number of dolphins swimming around were unbelievable. Far better than I could have imagined! The reason why there are so many dolphins and whales in the area is because the nearby Hikurangi Trench spews out sea life from currents which feeds the whales and dolphin.
We went out on a boat towards the trench and managed to see Pilot whales and Dusky dolphins. In the water we were told to make noises into our snorkels to attract the dolphins and swim in circles or dive down to keep them curious. This was great entertainment for the people on board! I was eagerly spinning and bopping away. Huge numbers of dolphins were swimming under me and a baby dolphin managed to misjudge the distance and swam into my thigh. Overall such a thrill and I was buzzing for the rest of the day. It’s best to go on an early tour while they are still active. I’ve never seen so many.
The company I went with was Dolphin Encounter. A very organised tour which I’d suggest pre-booking!
This is another top activity to do in Kaikoura. I didn’t try, as people had suggested swimming with dolphins instead. You can learn more here.
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway starts on Point Kean and heads up the hill for fantastic views along the coast. You can do a loop walk or keep going for 2 days! The loop takes you along the top and then back along the beach. We saw plenty of birds and sealions.
If you drive up the coast, you’ll come across Ohau Point Lookout – a great spot for seeing sealions! There were pups frolicking in pools, carefully watched by the adults. They were having a blast in a tidal pool. I happily watched them for a long, long time. At certain times of the year, you can walk to a waterfall and watch the pups play in the pool.
This is a hike along the river that takes you to a spectacular rock formation. Expect to get your boots wet! There is no way to avoid it… my nimble friend jumped from rock to rock and still managed to slip in multiple times. Take your swimwear on hot days as there are plenty of great spots to cool off.
Kaikoura is a fantastic place to relax and spend time in nature. I suggest exploring the unknown roads and see where they take you. We found a fantastic waterfall and pool that I’ll never find again. Noone else around the whole time.
Learn about my other favourite South Island destinations.
Have you been to Kaikoura before? Any recommendations? Has anyone been on a whale tour? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.