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The Top 5 Ways to Enjoy the Kaikoura Region in New Zealand
Kaikoura is a small town located on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island and has become one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. It is known for its breathtaking scenery, which features an abundance of wildlife, as well as some amazing food options that showcase the region's fresh seafood. Hiking along rocky shores and swimming with wild dolphins are just two things you can do there! In this blog post, you can find a list of the best ways to enjoy Kaikoura so you can plan your next trip!
1. Swim with Wild Dolphins
The best activity in Kaikoura is swimming with wild dolphins. Kaikoura is home to dusky dolphins. They're small to medium-sized dolphins known for their dusky gray stripes and acrobatics. Unlike some cruel encounters where the dolphins are penned up, these are wild dolphins swimming free in the ocean. They don't have to play with you or even stay vaguely near you if they don't want to.
Swimming with wild dolphins is a unique experience you won't find anywhere else. In fact, it's only allowed in the South Island of New Zealand due to the plentiful populations of dolphins who actively enjoy participating with the humans - they even spin beneath you to try to get you to dance with them!
A dolphin swim is best done in Spring and Summer, when the temperatures are warmer. Don't be fooled - the ocean won't be warm! Especially if you do a 5 am dolphin swim, when the dolphins are most active. To swim with dolphins, book your tour early with Dolphin Encounters Kaikoura. It costs $180 NZD per adult. If you'd rather stay dry (and warm), you can do a dolphin watching tour from the boat instead, where you'll get to watch the dolphins race the boat and flip beside the bow.
2. Go Searching for Humpback Whales
One thing that makes New Zealand so great? The 95% odds to spot a giant sperm whale or humpback whale while on your trip if traveling through Kaikoura.
Kaikoura is considered one of the best places in the world to see whales. If you want up close and personal action, whale watching tours are perfect for those who love getting up close with these giants! You may even get splashed! There are three types of whales in Kaikoura: sperm whales, orcas, and humpback whales. Sperm whales are year-round inhabitants of the area. You can spot orcas from December to February. In June and July, you'll be able to see the massive humpback whales in the harbour.
3. Hike the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
New Zealand is home to many great hikes, but none have a view quite like the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. This easy to moderate trail traces the Kaikoura Peninsula, offering unique views of the Pacific Ocean and the harbour. Kaikoura has a unique landscape because it sits along the coast and is surrounded by steep cliffs.
The hike starts at a lookout with panoramic views of the peninsula, mountains, hills surrounding Kaikoura's harbor as well as the ocean beyond them. It takes about an hour to complete this trail on your own or you can join a guided tour for those who don't have transportation from the city center. You can add an extra two hours to your walk by trekking from the town to the peninsula. The hike is very open, with no tree coverage, so be sure to put on lots of sunscreen! Although it's a well-trodden trail, you'll need hiking shoes to maneuver along the rocky coast towards the end of the hike - especially if you want to get close to see the seal colony.
4. Dine on Crayfish
Kaikoura means "to eat crayfish" in Maori. So of course you have to try some of the local seafood while you're there! Budget travelers often go to the plentiful fish and chip shops throughout the town. But they're missing out on the cheap crayfish nearby. Instead of going to the town shops, go to Nins Bin. It's a small shop by the beach that specializes in fresh seafood. You can taste the crayfish for which the area got its name and even try the famous green-lipped mussels of New Zealand.
The best part? You'll get dinner with a view on the relaxing beach!
5. Watch Fur Seals Play
Kaikoura is home to multiple colonies of fur seals. These are brown fuzzy seals that are incredibly playful. You can find them around New Zealand, often in beautiful locations like Milford Sound. They seem just as attracted to tourist destinations as travelers are!
The best place to get up close and personal with the fur seals is on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Here, the colony basks just meters from humans who regularly hike past them. You'll spot many lounging in the sun, and even get to see a few playing in the water. They like to put on a show, often diving and splashing for their audience. These are wild animals, so take precautions when you visit. Don't get too close and remember to respect their territory. Fur seals are dangerous creatures, even if they look cuddly.
Kaikoura, New Zealand is a region that's known for its wildlife. The best things to do in Kaikoura are varied depending on the time of year you're visiting and what your interests might be. While there are plenty of options when it comes to Kaikoura's attractions, most people will want to try some local seafood while they're there or interact with the local landscape.
These are just the beginning of the things you can explore in Kaikoura. Most visitors never even see this beautiful spot on the South Island on their rush to Christchurch. But now you have a reason to visit and learn more! If you want to learn more about New Zealand, then check out Nina Out and About, a travel blog by Nina Clapperton where she shares local tips and her experience living in New Zealand as a Canadian. Also, check out the other top places to visit in New Zealand to ensure you get the most out of your trip.
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