Kaikoura is one of New Zealand's premier coastal tourist destinations. It is a stunning resort town located on the northeast coast of the majestic South Island. Here the mountains flow straight into the sea and the waters are filled with abundant wildlife. It is a key destination in any well-thought-out South Island trip. Kaikoura is also the best location in New Zealand for seafood and for chartered fishing trips. The waters off the coast here are particularly rich and so it is these riches that bring the fish and whales in abundance together and make the sea here teem with life.


About Kaikoura

  • Population: 2,400 (Resident Population, More Temporary Tourists)
  • Naming: In The Native Maori Language "Kai" = food, and "koura" = crayfish (aka Lobster), Thus "Meal of Crayfish"

The abundance of sea life at Kaikoura is the result of the Hikurangi Trench that brings up the riches of the depths to support marine life. Kaikoura is known in New Zealand for its abundant wildlife, the rugged and jagged mountains seemingly flowing into the sea. It is also known as the best place in New Zealand for whale watching. Pictures of whales and watching in New Zealand were likely taken here.

Related: Hobbiton Is On New Zealand's North Island, And This Is Everything You Need To Know Before You Go

Like Queenstown to the south, Kaikoura is in an eye-watering setting with the Seaward Kaikoura mountain ranges forming the backdrop to the town. There are many hiking and 4WDing tracks around here. For those looking for a stunning hike consider the Mt. Fyffe track this track gives magnificent panromantic views of the Kaikoura Peninsula and out to sea.

  • Note On Local Lingo: In New Zealand "Trails" Are Called "Tracks" And "Hiking" Is Called "Tramping"
  • Note For Ordering: When Ordering A Seafood Dinner, Remember A "Crayfish" In New Zealand Is Generally Called  A "Lobster" In America

Species Of Whale And Marine Life In Kaikoura

The main species of whale seen in Kaikoura is the sperm whale (they are resident year-round). But there are many other kinds of whales that frequent these waters including the Southern Right, Fin, Sei, Blue, Southern Bottlenose, Byrdes, Pilot, and Humpback Whales.

  • Modes Of Whale Watching: By Boat, Plane, Helicopter

But Kaikoura is much more than just whales, there are dolphins (including Common Bottlenose dolphins, Risso's, Hectors, Southern Right, and Dusky Dolphins), seabirds (including albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters), killer whales (or orcas - technically also dolphins), and droves of lazy fur seals lining the rocky coastline. Some of the tour companies here even provide swimming with the dolphin's tours - this offers a whole new experience.

Other Activities In Kaikoura

  • Swim With The Dolphins
  • Chartered Fishing Trips
  • Hiking And Camping
  • Surfing
  • Spotting Fur Seals Along The Coastline
  • Scenic Flights Around The Coastline And Mountain Ranges
  • Wine Tasting To The South And North (1 Hour + Drive)

Related: Why The Bay Of Islands In New Zealand Is Worth Visiting And What To Do When You Get There

Whale Watching Tours

Kaikoura Whale Watching is a must-do activity that enables people to get up close and personal with these majestic marine mammals as they feast and gorge themselves in the rich waters at Kaikoura. There are a number of tours offered by the local companies Kaikoura Whale Watching and Whale Watch. Here are some examples of the tours offered by Kaikoura Whale Watching.

Boat Whale Watching Tour

  • Tour Type: Marine Tour By Boat
  • Tour Times: 7.15 am, 10.00 am, and 12.45 pm
  • Days: Everyday Except Xmas
  • Whales Seen: The Giant Sperm Whales (Plus Fur Seals, Dusky Dolphins, Wandering Albatross, Humpback Whales, Pilot Whales, Southern Right Whales, Blue Whales, Killer Whales, Hector Dolphins Can All Be Spotted In The Right Season, With The Right Luck)
  • Cost: $145.00 New Zealand Dollars Per Adult ($102.00 USD)
  • Duration: 2.5 Hours
  • Refund: 80% If No Whales Are Seen

Plane Whale Watching Tour

  • Tour Type: Air Tour By Plane
  • Tour Times: Contact Kaikoura Whale Watching For This Information
  • Whales Seen: Sperm Whales (Plus Possibly The Other Whales Listed Above)
  • Bonus: If The Weather Condition Is Good, Then Scenic Flight Over The Mountains
  • Duration: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: $180.00 NZD ($130.00 USD)

Helicopter Whale Watching Tour

  • Tour Type: Air Tour By Helicopter
  • Tour Times: Contact Kaikoura Whale Watching For This Information
  • Whales Seen: Sperm Whales And Possibly Many Of The Others Listed Above (On Can See The Full Length Of The Whale From Above)
  • Duration: 30 Minutes
  • Cost: $325.00 NZD ($230.00 USD)
  • Duration: 40 Minutes
  • Cost: $395.00 NZD ($280.00 USD)
  • Note: Other Helicopter Tours Available, And Pricing Varies By Occupancy Of The Helicopter

Whale watching is one of the most famous activities in New Zealand. New Zealand is a stunning country to explore the rich marine life of the Southern Pacific Ocean. Continue the tour around the coastlines and one is likely to see New Zealand's different species of penguins.

Next: 10 Etiquette Tips To Know Before Traveling To New Zealand