Kaikoura is known for its whales and whale-watching. It does have to be made very clear that visiting Kaikoura to spot some whales is a must-do in New Zealand but there is a lot more to Kaikoura than just whales and boats. A day trip is fine but if you allocate just a little bit of extra time to staying in Kaikoura I guarantee your trip will go from special to 'oh wow, I am speechless but have so much to say at the same time' special.
Here are ten reasons to visit Kaikoura that don't involve whales and whale-watching.
It's not called Crayfish for nothing. The name 'Kaikoura' translates to 'meal of crayfish' ('kai'- food/meal, 'koura' - crayfish). Where there is coast there is awesome seafood and Kaikoura is no different, even the fast-food takeaway places have great seafood. It is officially rude not to indulge when produce that good is readily available. Like all good coastal destinations in New Zealand Kaikoura thanks its fans with an annual Seafest, bringing all the goodness to one place so that you can sit, indulge and enjoy.
There are birds everywhere, and they are often, scabby and annoying but, and this is coming from an official bird hater, Albatross are amazing. You don't get to see Albatross everywhere and they need to be seen to be believed. The Albatross Encounter in Kaikoura is one of a kind.
3. Trekking with Llamas.
You have got to love a place that throws a random activity out there to its visitors. You see, Kaikoura isn't all about the water and marine life, the inland and water-fearing animals need to be promoted also. What could more bizarre and novelty than going on a two hour trek through the countryside with a Llama.
I admit that I am often biased when wineries come in to the picture but Kaikoura has its own AWARD-WINNING wines. Now if they have won awards, they should at the very least be tasted, and then consumed in the bottle load. Don't panic, you are in Kaikoura, the home of boat excursions and nothing beats a hangover then fresh sea air.
5. The Clarence River.
One of New Zealand's lesser known rivers which means it hasn't been taken over by tourists just yet and you can white water raft down it. The rafting is no match to the Grade 5 rivers of Rotorua but for those after all round grade 3 river experiences amidst the Kaikoura mountains then the Clarence River rafting is a good option.
6. One of the best hill tramps.
According to the NZ Best of Travel Awards 2009 the best hill tramp is the 18km walk through the bush and alpine valleys to the 5000m peak of Kaikoura. Considering New Zealand is the home of many Great Walks, this one must be pretty special.
7. Fur Seals.
It has actually surprised me that swimming with fur seals in Kaikoura isn't talked about as much as you would expect. Whereas you can swim with dolphins in many places around the coast of New Zealand for that extra special experience that not everyone may have done, then head to Kaikoura and meet the fur seals. Even if you don't swim with them, simply observing them will have you captivated.
8. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway.
There is no better way to soak up scenery and atmosphere in New Zealand than doing it by foot and the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is no different. You will not only get to witness the countryside and coast together you will learn all about the area and it's speckled history too.
9. The sunset.
It may be a bit to romantic for many people's liking but watching the sunset by the coast is always spectacular and a firm favorite of mine. No two sunsets are the same so you can never be disappointed.
10. Lonely Planet says so.
Lonely Planet rated swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura as one of the top 10 thrilling experiences in the world and who are we to argue.
Kaikoura really is a special place not only in New Zealand but arguably worldwide and there are plenty more than these 10 reasons to visit Kaikoura. I do have to remind you though that if you are going to see Kaikoura you really do have to hop in to a boat to see those whales that make Kaikoura famous.