Ultimate New Zealand Experiences: Kaikoura

Kaikōura, on the South Island's east coast is
one of the few places in the world where Giant Sperm Whales
can be seen year-round, and close to shore.


Kaikōura itself is just a small seaside town (originally a Maori settlement) that has flourished through the visitors that flock here for spectacular marine mammal encounters - especially whale watching, and swimming with dolphins.

The extraordinary concentration of marine life found here is all thanks to the Kaikōura Canyon, a massive submarine trench that's described as one of the world's great undersea wonders. Being a huge two kilometres deep and 60 kilometres long, the Kaikōura Canyon creates a rare system of ocean currents that sustain an incredibly rich food chain - from the tiniest plankton, right up to the gentle giants of the sea.

Whale Watching

Getting up-close to these giants of the sea is an unforgettable experience. Aboard your modern whale-watching boat, you can hear the hauntingly beautiful whale song transmitted from deep underwater as they make their way to the surface from as far as a kilometre down.


We work with Whale Watching Kaikoura

See the power of a mighty whale's blowhole, and even witness them breach - whales can be quite acrobatic, breaching high out of the water, sometimes even twirling, and slapping the water as they come back down. It's an absolute thrill to see, and to hear - the sound of their mammoth flukes slapping the water can be heard up to a kilometre away! The commentary on board is also very good - there is an award-winning animation playing on board, and your tour guides will leave you with a whole new wide-eyed appreciation for these magnificent creatures.

As well as the Giant Sperm Whale, Humpback Whales are often sighted here, too, along with migrating Pilot Whales, Blue Whales and Southern Right Whales.

Swimming with Dolphins

Pods of wild Dusky Dolphins inhabit the waters off the Kaikōura coast all year round, and your chances of encountering them are virtually guaranteed. Don your provided wetsuit, snorkel and flippers and share the water with these playful, curious creatures. Your guide will show you how to encourage the dolphins to interact with you, and it's not uncommon to be swimming amongst pods of literally hundreds of them!  It's a real bucket-list experience! You may also see the world's smallest and rarest dolphin - the native New Zealand Hector's dolphin.

Images courtesy of our partners at Dolphin Encounter

...And With Seals

We love booking our clients with Seal Swim Kaikōura - named by Lonely Planet as one of the Global Top 10 Best Marine Encounters. This family-run business has been taking people snorkelling with New Zealand Fur Seals for three decades - there's no better crew to do this with. Groups are small, you spend around an hour in the water (with warm wetsuits) which is fabulous, and you get a nice hot shower after your swim.

new-zealand-fur-seal swimming-with-seals

Images courtesy of Seal Swim Kaikoura

And More...

It's not just whales and dolphins you'll see here in Kaikōura - there are throngs of fat New Zealand seals basking on the rocks along the coast, and ocean-roaming seabirds (like the amazing Albatross) to spot, too. In fact, 75% of the world's species of seabirds can be seen in this one little corner of the world. Deep water fish also follow the canyon's ocean currents, making Kaikōura a phenomenal destination for fishing!

Crayfish Central

This picturesque place is so abundant with crayfish that the town was named after Kaikōura was actually named after the crayfish (in Maori, kai means food, and kōura means crayfish). Crayfish are a delicacy, and there is no better place in the world to discover their delectable taste.


Nin's Bin is our absolute favourite place to get fresh crayfish. It's a roadside retro caravan, just 20 minutes out of Kaikōura town (but 100% worth the short, scenic drive). While Nin's Bin is iconic to Kiwis, it's often missed by the average tourist... we love introducing you to these lesser-known-but-fabulous spots! Here, crayfish are plucked straight from the sea and prepared for you to enjoy - talk about fresh. The views - of snow capped mountains and turquoise ocean - are the perfect accompaniment to your lunch, too!


Another great spot for Fish & Chips (the classic national food of New Zealand!) is Coopers Catch, right on the Kaikōura waterfront. Get some caught-that-morning snapper, or some fresh battered New Zealand scallops. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

To experience the beauty and wonder of Kaikōura,
contact our small, specialist team of New Zealand travel planners today!


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Tags: Bucket List New Zealand, Kaikoura, New Zealand Destinations, New Zealand Dolphins, New Zealand For Families, New Zealand Whales, South Island