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Why Kaikōura should be on your South Island Road Trip itinerary
Trying to decide where to stop on your scenic road trip on the South Island? One place you cannot skip is Kaikōura. Towering mountains line this breathtaking coastline combining New Zealand's best attributes. Add in one of the most beautiful drives in the country, a plethora of wildlife, including whales and dolphins, and viewpoints that will make you swoon, and you'll only wish you spent more time in this idyllic place.
The town of Kaikōura has several attractions with a small-town feel – an excellent opportunity to experience the famous Kiwi hospitality. It's a destination worth visiting year-round with endless nature-filled activities great for any age.
Need more convincing? Continue for the run down on why you need to add it to your South Island road trip itinerary, what to do while you're here and where to stay.
Let's dive in!
Why is Kaikōura such a good road trip destination?
Kaikōura is perfectly placed on the South Island's state highway one, a coastal drive that will blow you away. If you're coming from Christchurch (2.5hr drive) or Picton (2hr drive) region, it's an accessible destination to reach on your road trip. On your way, you will ooh and ahh out the window as you wind along the mountains and oceanside. Take advantage of the safe car-stopping zones to take in the views and possibly meet some of the local seals who love hanging out on the rocks all down the coastline. You barely need to turn off the main highway to visit the seaside town, and we 100% recommend sticking around for a bit to experience as much as possible.
Kaikoura Coastal Drive
What to do?
In Kaikōura you'll find a slew of things to do on the water and land. The number one attraction in this 3,000-person town is the famous Whale Watch Kaikōura. Catch a boat or even heli above for the chance to see whales, dolphins, and more in this region rich in marine life. Jump on a kayak tour or, hire SUP boards if paddling around the coast is your thing. Keen to stay on dry land? Simply hang out at Kaikōura beach or head to South Bay for epic sunset views.
Another must-do is to reach a viewpoint. If you enjoy hiking, lace up and hike up Mt Fyffe for an expansive view of the ocean and the remarkable Kaikōura Ranges. If you fancy a night in one of NZ's famous tramping huts, there is even a hut near the top for a night in the backcountry. If you're short on time, head along the coast to the peninsula and up to Kaikoura viewpoint (also possible in your car) to enjoy the sweeping view of the island's eastern coast.
For leisure activities, play a round of golf, hire a bicycle, tour the region on two wheels on the Kaikōura Trail, or stroll on one of the many walking tracks. Fishing charters are also a great way to enjoy the ocean and catch a fresh dinner. Ever walked a llama? You can do exactly that with Llama trekking, a super unique activity that will have you laughing and learning about these furry creatures.
The town is small, but has everything you need, including classic fish and chip shops, trendy cafes, souvenir shops, and even a local history museum.
View from Mt Fyffe
Where to stay?
This all depends on how you arrive in this cool coastal town. If by car, choose from a wide range of budget backpackers to luxury retreats and everything in between. For a truly memorable stay, check out the Hapuku Lodge, which offers its guest a night's stay in a tree house with Kaikōura's best views.
For those arriving in a home on wheels try out the very popular Kaikōura Top Ten Holiday Park close to town. If you need access to a kitchen or laundry or want to relax in a hot pool, this is the spot for your home on wheels.
In this town, you'll find playgrounds, mini-golf, beer tastings, watersports, quad bike tours, and an abundance of incredible wildlife. With a simple glance at the town of Kaikōura', you will soon realise it's worth the stop, so make sure you add it to your South Island itinerary and check out more epic activities here.