Dolphins, day trips and dazzling scenery on New Zealand’s South Island
New Zealand is one of those wonderful countries that will make you dizzy with excitement. There are countless things to do here – especially on the larger South Island – so choosing what to see can be tricky. One thing is for sure: the coastal town of Kaikōura should be top of your list.
From whale watching tours and dolphin encounters to mind-blowing mountain hikes, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best things to do while visiting this incredible place.
1. Watch whales breach off the North Canterbury coast
Kaikōura is one of the best places in New Zealand to glimpse whales in the wild. Visit between May and October for the best chance of seeing all kinds of different species. From orcas and humpbacks to majestic – and enormous – blue whales, this really is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Klook yourself a whale watching tour and speed out into the bay with your camera at the ready. Keep watch for tell-tale spurts of a blowhole and if you’re lucky you might even catch a sperm whale slapping its tail on the water.
2. Dive in for a dolphin encounter
Swimming with dolphins is a common bucket list goal and Kaikōura is a great place to tick it off. Playful pods of these charming creatures populate the waters around this part of New Zealand and it seems they’re as eager to mingle with us as we are with them!
A Kaikōura Dolphin Encounter is truly as thrilling as it sounds. You’ll enjoy a 3.5-hour cruise with an English-speaking guide and go out to spots where dolphins are often sighted. Once you’ve located a pod of these majestic mammals, there’ll be chance to dive in for a swim. Listen out for a series of whistles and clicks – this is them saying hello!
3. Feast on ‘fush and chups’ by the beach
New Zealanders – or Kiwis, as they’re otherwise known – love their fish and chips (or ‘fush and chups’, if you’re going for an authentic Kiwi accent). It’s a rite of passage to enjoy a portion of steaming hot chips and freshly battered fish when visiting the country, preferably while gazing out over the glittering ocean.
Kaikōura is said to be one of the best places in New Zealand to enjoy this indulgent treat. There are several fish and chip shops along the seafront, with blue cod an especially lip-smacking local favourite. We love Cods & Crayfish on Beach Road for its delectable fish and chips plus a mouthwatering selection of locally caught crayfish. Take your tasty meal onto the beach and feast while watching the waves.
4. Spot sealife from the sky with a scenic coastal flight
With rugged mountainous landscapes and an ocean filled with sea life, Kaikōura is a prime place to take a scenic flight. Jet off in a light aircraft with an English-speaking guide, learning all about the local area as you soar through the sky.
Book through Klook to secure an unforgettable 30-minute experience in the air. In addition to seeing incredible scenery during your flight, you might even glimpse pods of dolphins or the dusky shadow of a submerged whale.
5. Catch your own dinner with a South Bay fishing trip
Feeling adventurous? How about a spot of sea fishing? The waters around Kaikōura’s South Bay are teeming with all manner of marine life, including dolphins, whales, seals, seabirds and more.
If you’ve always fancied yourself as a fisherman (or woman) then now is your chance to try out the sport for yourself. Klook a Kaikōura Fishing Experience and you’ll be taken out around the dreamy Kaikōura coastline to see what you can catch. If you’re lucky, it’ll be lobster for dinner!
6. Sip sensational Sauvignon on a Marlborough wine region tour
The Marlborough region of New Zealand is renowned for its exquisite wines – and, happily, this grape-laden wonderland is just over two hours from Kaikōura by road. If you’ve a taste for Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll be especially keen to visit the vineyards here as this is the wine that first put Marlborough on the wine-producing map.
With Klook, you can save money by bagging a combo ticket that covers both whale watching in Kaikōura and a tour of Marlborough’s best wineries. Spend the extra cash on a souvenir bottle or two of the good stuff!
7. Awaken your inner birdwatcher with an albatross encounter
It’s no secret that New Zealand is a haven for wildlife. The country also boasts some of the world’s most dazzlingly beautiful birds, including the gigantic albatross. Whether winged creatures are your thing or not, you can’t fail to be impressed by the wingspan of this airborne beauty – an average of 3 metres!
A Kaikōura Albatross Encounter takes you out in a sailboat with an experienced guide to glimpse these stunning birds in flight. This 3.5-hour tour gets you up close and personal with the southern royal albatross, so be sure to have your camera at the ready!
8. Catch a soul-stirring sunrise from Kaikōura Beach
Hugging New Zealand’s east coast, Kaikōura is ripe for ravishing sunrise views. In fact, the town is famous for being one of the best places on the South Island to welcome in the day. Rise early and head to the soft sands of Kaikōura Beach. From here, you’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of the blazing sun drifting up into a rose-pink sky.
If you’re anything like us, you’ll want to share such a special moment with loved ones. Klook a 4G sim card before arriving in Kaikōura so you can email some snapshots back home to your nearest and dearest.
9. Hike Mt Fyffe for Instagram-winning snapshots
Another place you’ll want to visit for Instagram-worthy pics is Kaikōura’s magnificent Mt Fyffe. You’ll need to set aside a whole day for this one, but trust us – it’s worth it. Scraping the sky at 1602 metres tall, Mt Fyffe will test your calf muscles with mountainous trails, rewarding you with awe-inspiring views over the Kaikōura plains and peninsula.
Lace up your hiking boots and be sure to take a pack filled with snacks and water to keep you going throughout the day. By the time the sun sets, your Instagram will be brimming with eye-popping snapshots.
10. Learn about local culture at Kaikōura Museum
One of the best ways to discover more about Kaikōura is by visiting the town’s museum. Located within a quirky building – designed to look like a crayfishing pot – this comprehensive museum is filled with fascinating exhibits that offer insight into Kaikōura’s culture and history.
Open daily, tickets cost just a few dollars and are well worth the investment. Learn about the indigenous Maori people who historically populated this coastal region, and come to understand more about the unique flora and fauna that can be found here.
Keen to kickstart your cool Kaikōura adventure?
Check out Klook’s dedicated New Zealand page to see what else you might discover – from watching wildlife to tucking into local cuisine, there are countless things to do across both of the main islands.