Kaikoura on New Zealand’s South Island is a beautiful haven for wild seals and their pups. In a two days I saw seals all over the car park, pathways, rocks, streams, sea and foreshore – hundreds of them. Not only is Kaikoura a seal haven, but it is also a stunning location. The sea and rocky shores are set against a backdrop of spectacular greenery and snow capped mountains and the area is great for photographing scenery and marine wildlife. Although Kaikoura is a small town, it is laden with a rare beauty and will simply take your breath away.
The seal pup above was on the rocks near the water’s edge near Point Kean carpark. I stood there for a good twenty minutes watching him clean himself. Not far away was one of the biggest seals I’ve ever seen (below) – a total whopper with his head stretched up toward the sky and eyes closed.
Seeing seals on the pathway and in the car park was a wonderful surprise, and they didn’t seem remotely concerned about me. In fact, it was obvious that it was their territory and I was just a mere visitor.
It is hard to get enough of the spectacular dreamy landscape, which is like something out of a fantasy movie. I’ve never seen anywhere quite like it. I felt very privileged to be there. The first day the weather was great, but the second day was very rainy on and off. Nevertheless, I bounded out of bed early with a rain jacket and gortex runners, and set off in search of more seals and awesome landscape views. I found both in abundance.
Leaving Kaikoura was challenging. It is a sleepy town in the evening with not a lot to do, but the day time sights are special and Kaikoura was one of the highlights of my visit to the South Island. It really is unique, so beautiful and unlike anywhere else I have seen.
Kaikoura – Things to Do – 2 Day Itinerary
Two days and one night in Kaikoura allows you a chance to experience a slice of its natural beauty and have incredibly memorable seal encounters. But be prepared to get up early to make the most of it.
- Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: You can do the whole walkway which is around 11km and takes about three hours or more, crossing the cliff top. Alternatively you can do a part of the walkway. Choose which part you want and do a return trip. Take a backpack, drinks, picnic lunch, camera, binoculars, hat and sunglasses and make a day of it. If you like to stop and take pictures and explore, allow closer to 5 hours. Note: Point Kean is included in this walk.
- Seal Colony at Point Kean: You can access the seal colony at Point Kean car park. If you only want a short walk with great views and seals, then start at Point Kean car park where there are often seals lying around. Explore the rocky shore of the seal colony area when the tide is out for seals and their pups. You can then walk up the hill for spectacular views over the ocean and ancient rock bed at Point Kean viewing platform.
- Dinner: Eat fishN chips along the Kaikoura coastline – there are picnic tables and dreamy views. Get takeaway from Coopers Catch.
- Kaikoura Seal Colony at Half Moon Bay: It is just a short drive from the town of Kaikoura to Half Moon Bay seal colony. We just pulled over at a number of pull outs and found seals lazing over the rocks on shore everywhere – hundreds of them sunning themselves, chasing each other, playing, fishing. It is so exciting to be so close to so many seals.
- Ohau Stream Waterfall Track: This is a beautiful short walk to a magical waterfall and stream where seal pups congregate. However, since the earthquake the surrounding area did get damaged, so it is best to check the NZ government site to see if the track is open or not before visiting.
- Maori Leap Cave: Take a guided tour of a limestone cave by the sea (approximately 45 mins)
- Swim with the dolphins: Swim with the Kaikoura dolphins – allow a few hours, and book in advance.
Does Kaikoura sound like a place you want to visit or do you already know it?