Guest Post by Emily from Em Dashed.
If you’ve heard of Kaikoura, New Zealand before, it probably had something to do with whales. This tiny coastal village on the South Island is home to only 2000 people, but its popular whale watching excursions attract thousands of visitors each year.
Of course, that means the town is often reduced to this one activity; and considering the stunning natural beauty, rich culture, and wealth of fun activities to be found there, that’s a bit of a shame.
Here are six things to keep you busy in Kaikoura besides whale watching!
Walk the peninsula
The peninsula walkway is arguably the area’s most popular land-based activity, and a great way to experience all that Kaikoura has to offer.
The trail winds along the cliff top, with the turquoise sea sparkling below and mountains reigning majestically above. Along the way, you’ll come across various birds, a variety of marine life, and colourful Maori sculptures, as well as signposts full of information on the area’s natural and human histories.
The walk can be completed in about three hours, or easily broken up into shorter pieces to accommodate your abilities or time constraints. If you’ve only got one day to see Kaikoura, this is how you should spend it.
Discover the seals at the Point Kean colony
Point Kean is actually part of the peninsula walkway but is well worth a mention on its own. It lies about an hour’s walk from Kaikoura’s town centre and is home to a colony of grumpy but lovable fur seals.
Be sure to stay a reasonable distance away at all times. These seals are not interested in becoming your new BFF or taking a close-up selfie with you. At best, they’ll just waddle away in a huff if you come to close; at worst, they’ll attack you. Be careful!
Parking is available at Point Kean for those who would rather drive.
Enjoy fantastic seafood
Kaikoura gets its name from the Maori words for “meal” and “crayfish.” Combine that with its coastal location, and you’ve probably already realised you can find amazing seafood here!
For delicious and fresh crayfish, head to Nin’s Bin, a “restaurant” that’s little more than a caravan and a picnic table beside the sea. Or book a fishing expedition and catch your own (can’t get much fresher than that).
Catch a flick at the Mayfair Theatre
Looking to see the latest big blockbuster? Do so with a bit of flair at Kaikoura’s Mayfair Theatre.
This isn’t just any old boring cinema. Originally built in 1934, the Mayfair’s “art deco” style has been carefully preserved throughout the years, and the building is instantly recognisable by its bright pink exterior.
Visit the Fyffe House
Midway between Kaikoura and Point Kean, you’ll come across a pretty pink cottage by the sea. This is the Fyffe House: Kaikoura’s oldest remaining building and all that remains of the whaling station built here in the 1840s. The Fyffe House gives us a unique insight into the daily life of early European settlers in the area.
Unfortunately, due to damage from last year’s earthquake, the house is currently closed to visitors. That said, the grounds are beautiful and the area is still worth a look, even if you can’t go inside.
Sift through trash and treasures at the recycling centre
Kaikoura is big on waste minimisation and has some rather ground-breaking recycling policies. Even so, I realise a visit to a recycling centre doesn’t sound particularly thrilling.
However, the real gem of the centre is its quirky secondhand shop, where you can find unravelled cassette tapes, ancient rotary phones, musty ball gowns, and more.
You never know what you’ll uncover in the piles of other people’s cast-offs. As they say: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure (especially if the “another man” is a frugal backpacker).
As you can see, no matter how you feel about whale watching, there’s something in Kaikoura for just about everyone.
About the author
Emily Melcher is an American blogger who has been living and travelling abroad for more than six years. After four years of backpacking through New Zealand and Australia, she moved to a small town in the Netherlands in 2014. She writes about her life in the Dutch countryside and other travels at her blog, Em Dashed.
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