Our Ultimate Kaikoura Travel Guide

Our Ultimate Kaikoura Travel Guide

Kaikoura, a coastal town on the South Island of New Zealand, is a haven for wildlife and sea-life enthusiasts—it’s common to spot fur seals lounging on rocks, dolphins leaping in the sea, and even majestic whales passing through. 

The town’s name actually translates to ‘meal of crayfish’ in Maori, reflecting its reputation for delicious seafood. So, it’s a great place to visit too if you’re doing culinary exploration in our country.

Anyway, whether you’re exploring the coast or cuisine, we’ve put together a guide with everything there is to do, places to eat and more so you can make the most of your time in this enchanting town.

Time Zone

New Zealand Standard Time (GMT +12) 

Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Kaikoura is during the summer and early autumn months, from December to April. The weather is typically warm, perfect for outdoor activities such as whale watching, swimming with dolphins, and taking beautiful coastal walks. 

Things to Know

Currency:  NZD (Check the current exchange rate)
Language: New Zealand English 
Calling Code: +64

How to Get Around 

Buses: InterCity and Atomic Buses offer bus services to Kaikoura from major cities in the South Island, including Christchurch, Picton, and Blenheim. 

Taxis: Taxis are a good option if you need a ride to or from the airport or if you’re looking for a private transfer. Go with Kaikoura Taxi Ltd for any taxi rides you’ll need in Kaikoura. 

Car Rentals: If you want more flexibility and explore the surrounding area, rent a car in Kaikoura. Going with Kaikoura Rentals is your best bet for securing a nice rental car.  

Biking: If you’re looking for a more active way to get around, rent a bike in Kaikoura. Coastal Sports is one bike rental company in town that we’ve gone with on our visits.

Where to Stay in Kaikoura

Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses

Address: State Highway 1, Kaikōura 7371, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 6559
Pricing: $$$
Book Now

Sleep high up in a tree house, surrounded by beautiful scenery and the sounds of nature at Hapuku Lodge & Tree Houses. Each tree house has views of the mountains and the sea. 

They’re also super-cosy with comfy beds and come with a fireplace to keep you warm at night. Of course, you also have the option of staying in a lodge room, which is just as comfortable. 

Glenburn Coastal Retreat 

Address: 413 Old Beach Rd, Hapuku 7371, New Zealand
Phone: +6433652222
Pricing: $$
Book Now

Glenburn Coastal Retreat is like a home away from home. Have fun exploring the beach nearby, or relax in your room. The retreat offers free WiFi, so you won’t miss any of your favourite shows during your stay here. 

They also serve a delicious breakfast every morning, so don’t miss out on it!

The Hamptons 

Address: 138 Esplanade, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 6056
Pricing: $
Book Now

The rooms at The Hamptons come with big beds perfect for a good night’s sleep after a day of exploring in town. They serve free breakfast every morning, best enjoyed while looking out at the beautiful sea. 

The best part? It’s just a short walk to the beach, where the kids can build sandcastles, look for seashells or even spot some playful seals. 

The Fairways Luxury Accommodation Kaikoura

Address: 1 Kersage Drive, Ocean Ridge, Kaikōura 7340, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 3055
Pricing: $$
Book Now

The Fairways is a dream come true for travellers. The rooms are modern and have everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay. 

Plus, the Fairways is close to Kaikoura Beach and Peninsula Walkway—the perfect places for an easy day of exploring.

Manakau Lodge 

Address: 198b Parsons Road, Kaikōura 7371, New Zealand
Phone: +64 21 433 590
Pricing: $$
Book Now

Manakau Lodge feels like a secret hideaway. Nestled among groves of Manuka trees and at the foot of the beautiful Kaikoura mountain ranges, it’s the perfect spot for nature lovers. 

You’ll wake up to spectacular views and a delicious breakfast in the morning. And when you’re ready to explore, downtown Kaikoura is just ten minutes away.

Kaikoura Boutique Hotel 

Address: 146 Esplanade, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 5748
Pricing: $
Book Now

Kaikoura Boutique Hotel is like a little slice of paradise. It sits right by the sea, so you can listen to the waves as you fall asleep. The rooms are bright and cheerful, and yes, they have free WiFi, so you can share your holiday snaps instantly.

Sudima Kaikoura

Address: 114 Esplanade, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 975 0920
Pricing: $
Book Now

Sudima Kaikoura is right on the shoreline, and every window has a view of the ocean or the mountains. The beds here make you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud. 

The hotel is just a short stroll from the town centre, making exploring the local shops and attractions easy. 

Where to Eat in Kaikoura


Address: 114 Esplanade, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 975 0920
Pricing: $

Hiku offers contemporary cuisine that your tastebuds will surely remember. Their parmesan pappardelle is a stand-out dish, as well as their cloudy bay clam linguine. 

They also have eggplant parmigiana, burgers, and more for those who want something other than seafood. But save room for dessert—their sliced pear cake with dulce de leche is divine.

The Top Shop

Address: 240 Beach Road, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +6433195071
Pricing: $

This is a classic spot for some good old Kiwi-style fish and chips. It’s a favourite among locals and visitors alike. 

The fish is fresh, the batter is light and crispy, and the chips are golden and perfectly seasoned. It’s a simple dish, but when done right—as it’s at the Top Shop—it’s pure comfort food.

Slam Club

Address: 10 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 22 512 0442
Pricing: $$

The stars of Slam Club’s menu are undeniably their gourmet toasted sandwiches. 

If you’re a meat lover, have a sandwich with any of their slow-cooked or hot-smoked wild game meats. The flavours are rich and hearty and will leave you wanting more.

For those who prefer vegetarian options, fear not! Their vegetarian toasted sandwiches are equally delicious, packed with fresh veggies and bursting with flavour.

Strawberry Tree Kaikoura

Address: 21 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 6451
Pricing: $$

The Strawberry Tree Kaikoura has a quirky Irish theme and a menu celebrating fresh local seafood. Their star dish—crayfish. 

But they don’t stop at seafood. They have pretty solid burgers and even a kids’ meal.


Address: 40 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 6999
Pricing: $$

The star of Zephyr’s menu is undoubtedly their fresh local seafood. Their mussels, seafood chowder, and salmon gravlax are all good choices. 

However, if you’re not a fan of seafood, try their confit duck or ribeye. Both dishes are flavourful. 

Karaka Lobster

Address: Okiwi Bay 2825, State Highway 1, Kaikōura 7371, New Zealand
Phone: +64 210 587 211
Pricing: $$

If you’re a fan of crustaceans, the star of the show here is, of course, their namesake dish—the lobster. For those who prefer something a bit more traditional, their Fish ‘n Chips are a must-try. 

While the seafood is the main event, don’t overlook their other offerings. Their whitebait sandwiches are a light yet satisfying option, perfect for a quick bite or a smaller appetite.

Nins Bin

Address: Jul-20 NZ, State Highway 1, 6, Kaikōura 7400, New Zealand
Phone: +64 20 486 3474
Pricing: $$

This iconic seafood shack is a must-visit for any food lover exploring the coastline. It’s all about the crayfish here. 

They serve it with garlic butter, adding richness to the sweet, succulent meat. But their mussels are also worth a mention—plump, juicy, and full of flavour.

Kaikoura Seafood BBQ

Address: 55 Fyffe Quay, Kaikōura Peninsula, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 274 3491
Pricing: $$

The must-try here is undoubtedly their crayfish fritters, or if you want to be surprised, go with their catch of the day. 

If you’re really hungry or sharing with friends, don’t miss their seafood platter. It offers a selection of the day’s freshest catch, including mussels, scallops, and fish, all perfectly cooked on the barbecue.

What to Do in Kaikoura

Take a whale watching scenic flight  

Address: Kaikoura Airport, 617 State Highway 1, Peketa, Kaikōura 7374, New Zealand
Phone: +6433196580

Soar high above the crystal-clear waters, and look down on the majestic sperm whales as they frolic in their natural habitat. The flight takes off from Kaikoura Airport and offers panoramic views of the stunning coastline. 

You’ll see the whales in all their glory from your window seat, along with various other marine life. Try to listen to the flight crew—they share interesting facts about the whales.

Go to Ohau Point and see some fur seals 

Address: Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway, Kaikōura Peninsula, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand

Stand on a viewing platform, with the wild ocean waves crashing below, and observe dozens of fur seals lazily lounging on the rocks. 

Although these seals are wild, they are so comfortable with humans that you can observe them from a safe distance without disturbing their natural behaviour. So, if you can get close enough, their playful antics and curious glances make for incredibly cute videos.

See the entire town at Kaikoura Lookout 

Address: 274 Scarborough Street, South Bay, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand

At Kaikoura Lookout,  the entire town of Kaikoura is spread out below you. As far as the eye can see, charming houses, the sparkling ocean, and the majestic mountains are all in one panoramic sweep. It’s like looking at a beautiful painting come to life!

Grab a friend and go sunset kayaking 

Address: 19 Killarney Street, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64800452456

There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset over the mountains while at sea.

If you join a kayaking tour, your journey will start with a quick safety briefing and some basic kayaking instructions. So, don’t worry if you’ve never done it before—the guides are super patient, and they’ll make sure you’re comfortable before setting off.

Once you’re on the water, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife. It’s not uncommon to see seals, dolphins, and even penguins!

Take selfies at Lavendyl Farm 

Address: 268 Postmans Road, Kaikoura Flat, Kaikōura 7371, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 5473

A little piece of purple paradise is tucked away in Kaikoura—the Lavendyl Lavender Farm.

Walk through rows of lush lavender plants, their calming scent wafting through the air. The rich purple blooms create a stunning backdrop just begging to be captured in a selfie!

Hike up Mount Fyffe 


The hike up Mount Fyffe is an adventure that’s sure to leave you breathless—both from the climb and the stunning views!

The hike can be challenging, especially towards the top, but trust us, the panoramic views from the summit are worth every step. 

On a clear day, you can see all the way to the ocean and across the plains to the distant mountains. 

Go swimming with dolphins 

Address: 96 Esplanade, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +6433196777

Suit up, dive in, and let the dolphins of Kaikoura show you the time of your life. Slip into the cool ocean waters and surround yourself with playful dolphins. 

While swimming with dolphins is a unique way to connect with nature, you’ll be in their world, so play by their rules. Remember to respect their space and let them approach you.

Check out Kaikoura Museum 

Address: 96 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +6433197440

This award-winning museum is a treasure trove of fascinating history and culture. From the rich Maori heritage to the whaling days, early European settlers, and recent earthquakes, there’s so much to discover about Kaikoura’s past.

The exhibits are interactive and engaging, perfect for both kids and adults. You can touch, play, and even smell your way through the museum, making learning fun and exciting.

Spend the day with llamas with Kaikoura Llama trekking 

Address: 8 Kowhai Ford Road, Kaikoura Flat, Kaikōura 7371, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 5033

Spending the day with the adorable llamas at Kaikoura Llama Trekking is an absolute must-do. Stroll along Kaikoura Bay with a friendly llama by your side. 

The half-day trek is a popular choice. The trek isn’t too strenuous, making it suitable for kids and adults. And yes, there will be plenty of opportunities for llama selfies!

Where to Shop in Kaikoura

Kaikoura Fine Foods

Address: 3/8 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand

Kaikoura Fine Foods is like a treasure chest filled with gourmet goodies! From handcrafted cheeses to locally sourced produce, there’s something to tickle everyone’s taste buds.

Each item on the shelves tells a story of local artisans’ hard work and passion. It’s a great way to support the local community and get a true taste of Aotearoa.

Husk Home

Address: 27 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 3206

Walking into Husk Home is like stepping into a beautifully curated wonderland. From stylish homeware and unique gifts to adorable baby items, there’s something eye-catching at every turn.

What makes this place truly special are the ceramics. They have an exquisite range from some of the best New Zealand makers.

Kaikoura Surf Company 

Address: 8 Beach Road, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand

This iconic surf store is a paradise for anyone who loves the ocean waves! Upon stepping into this store, you’re immediately embraced by the laid-back surf culture. 

From cool surf apparel to essential surfing gear, they have everything you need for a day at the beach.

Addy & Lou Kaikoura

Address: 44 West End, Kaikōura 7300, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 319 5530

Addy & Lou has an array of stunning furniture, homewares, and luxurious linens. It’s like stepping into a home design magazine, but everything is available to take home!

They also have a unique selection of jewellery and accessories. 

What to Expect from Kaikoura Weather

Spring (September to November): Spring in Kaikoura is relatively mild, with temperatures ranging from 12-17°C. It’s a time of rejuvenation, with occasional showers and blossoming flora.

Summer (December to February): Summers are warm and generally dry, with average highs around 20-25°C. It’s the perfect season for outdoor activities like whale watching and exploring the beautiful coastline.

Fall/Autumn (March to May): During fall, the weather cools down slightly, with temperatures ranging between 15-20°C. The days are typically clear and crisp, making it a great time for hiking and wildlife viewing.

Winter (June to August): Winter brings cooler temperatures, averaging 10-15°C during the day. Rainfall is more frequent during this season, so bring your raincoats!

Apps to Download for a Trip to Kaikoura

Google Translate: Word translation with offline capabilities
iOs | Android

Google Maps: Navigation GPS app with offline capabilities
iOs | Android

MetService: An app that provides accurate and up-to-date weather forecasts
iOs | Android

CamperMate: If you’re planning a camper van trip, this app provides information on camping sites, facilities, and nearby attractions 
iOs | Android

Whale Watch Kaikoura: An app with detailed information about the whales, dolphins, seals, and birds seen off Kaikoura’s coastline