Kaikoura New Zealand, Small Town Huge Attractions

The coastal town of Kaikoura in the South Island of New Zealand is famous for whale watching and crayfish or lobster, as well as being rich in Maori history.

Kaikoura is a small, but far from sleepy coastal town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Situated on State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Christchurch, it is an ideal stopping place. The name Kaikoura means a meal of crayfish or lobster, this seafood being one of the major attractions of the area.


Settled on a thin rocky strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Southern Alps of New Zealand, Kaikoura provides an ideal sea environment for a wealth of marine mammal life. It was the first local authority and the second community in the world to become a Green Globe Certified community for their commitment to working towards sustainability and protecting their environment.


Maori History

In Maori mythology Kaikoura is said to be the seat in the canoe from which the demi-god, Maui, fished up his great fish, the North Island of New Zealand. Maori settlement in the area was strong over 900 years ago, with the remains of at least nine pa sites (fortified villages) still being in existence. Bones of the now extinct giant bird, the Moa, have been found in the area, establishing it as a previous moa hunting community. In 1770 Captain James Cook passed by without landing, and was approached by Maori warriors in four canoes.

Whales, Dolphins and Seals

Kaikoura has had a long European association with whales. It now lies within the southern hemisphere Whale Sanctuary area.

Kaikoura’s first whaling station was established in 1846 and whaling continued in the are until 1922. The remains of old whaling pots can be seen scattered around the coast. The first cottage built in Kaikoura, still in existence as a tourist attraction, is unique in that its supporting foundations are made of whalebone.

Now Kaikoura has a thriving whale watching tourist attraction. Not only do tourists get to see whales up close, but they can swim with dolphins and observe fur seals. Although there is no guarantee that people aboard the boats will see any particular sea mammal on their outing, there is such an abundance of creatures that tourists are never disappointed.


Crayfish or Lobster

Before the establishment of whale watching, the major attraction of the town was the availability of crayfish, or lobster. For lovers of this seafood, no trip from Blenheim to Christchurch was complete without stopping in the town or nearby settlements for a feed. It was the crayfish and abundant other seafood that attracted the earliest Maori settlements.

Kaikoura’s Growing Tourist Trade

For shorter stays in this coastal town, there is no shortage of attractions. Many ocean birds such as albatross, petrels and shearwaters can be seen from easily accessible sites. There are many walking tracks in the area, and at low tide exploring the rocky coastline can be fascinating.


As the town has grown it has attracted a number of arts and craft people who sell their creations from local galleries. Accommodation and eating places have sprouted up throughout the town to cope with the growing tourist trade.

Taking time out in Kaikoura can be an enriching experience.

Other articles about New Zealand:

History, Recreation And Relaxation On The Kapiti Coast Of New Zealand

Fascinating Facts About New Zealand



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Erik Van Tongerloo
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