Kaikoura is on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, 180km north of Christchurch. It is a rugged area with mountains, a narrow coastal strip and a peninsula dominating the landscape. The sea is rich in minerals, plankton and marine life, making it an attractive location for historical Maori settlement starting about 800 years ago. The name Kaikoura comes from the Maori language (‘kai’ – food/meal, ‘koura’ – crayfish). European settlement began in 1842 when a whaling station was established (marine mammals are now fully protected in New Zealand).
Kaikoura is now a popular tourist destination for whale watching, deep sea fishing, viewing birdlife, dolphins and colonies of fur seals. However a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in November 2016, affecting the Kaikoura region, caused a halt to tourist activites. A million cubic metres of rock that fell onto the coastal road and rail transport corridor had to be removed. Visitor activity is currently affected by the lack of international tourists in New Zealand due the global pandemic.
In March 2021 we spent a weekend in Kaikoura. One of our activities was to explore the coastal section of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Our 8.5km (return) out-and-back walk took around 2.5 hours and included frequent stops to view the scenic landscape from clifftop viewpoints, and to read information boards along the way. It also included a side trip down to the shoreline to see seals at Whalers Bay.
At the exit to South Bay there is a Maori sculpture depicting the mythical figure of Maui in his canoe, fishing up Te Ika-a-Maui (New Zealand’s North Island) from the sea.