Before heading to Kaikoura, I admit I was having second thoughts. I remember several Kiwis telling me that Kaikoura hasn’t been the same since that earthquake last November 2016. I also found out that to get to Kaikoura from Christchurch, the buses had to change their routes because several roads were still under repair. i didn’t take that as a good sign. But my friend reassured me that everything is back to normal. I guess there’s no one more reliable than a person who actually lives there, I so went ahead and purchased a bus ticket.
Heading to Kaikoura from Christchurch was easy. i just hopped on the bus at 7 AM, and we arrived before 10 AM. The bus was surprisingly full, I thought there would be less people heading there since the quake. I guess they didn’t get the memo. I slept the entire time so I couldn’t comment on the view, but the person beside me said i didn’t miss much. I was told that before, the roads heading to Kaikoura were scenic. The alternate route where buses pass these days isn’t all that great.
Now this wouldn’t be an entry about tips for fellow travelers planning on heading to Kaikoura. I wouldn’t be able to recommend how to get from one place to another, where to eat, where to stay and all those things because I didn’t go to Kaikoura as a tourist or traveler— I came as a guest. I’ve always said that one of the perks of traveling is you gain friends from all over the world. An added bonus would be if those friends would invite you and insist that you stay at their place when you visit. heh.
Kaikoura is beautiful no doubt about it. If you love nature, you might want to stay indefinitely. The town is very laid back. Everything you’ll need will be at the town center. Going to other areas though would be a problem if you don’t have your own means of transportation since there’s no public transport within the town. You either have to rent a car or buy an old one if you plan on spending a few days here unless you’re just planning on staying near the center of town. My friend drove me around from place to place so it wasn’t a problem for me. I actually went on a private tour for free. haha.
Not far from the center of town is the peninsula. It’s quite a long walk from where the bus drops you off, but you wouldn’t mind since the views are so amazing. When you feel tired, you can just sit by the beach and relax. Every spot is ideal for chilling and relaxing. By the time you reach the peninsula you’ll be rewarded with views of such amazing landscapes behind you and the ocean in front of you. My friend told me that the landscape is quite different now because of the quake. Arguably, it even became more beautiful. You’ll also get to see a lot of seals and birds in this area. Looking at the amazing landscape, you can take your pick of which mountain to hike. There are many hikes you can do in the area, some of which lasts for several days. Hiking Mt. Fyffe is a popular activity since you can do this in just one day. (about 8-10 hours)
Surfing is also a popular activity in Kaikoura. My friend brought me to Meatworks, one of the surfing spots popular with the locals. The waves were great that day. It’s on a boulder beach though so one should exercise precautions when surfing here. If you don’t surf, it’s not ideal to just sit on the beach admiring the scenery. I got a lot of sand fly bites and the itch hounded me for weeks!
Night life in Kaikoura was predictably laid back. You won’t find any clubs, they only have dive bars playing acoustic and old school music. I still had loads of fun though, it was very different from the night life that I’m used to. Being the new guy in town I was given pints of beers consecutively. It was hard to say no, though in hindsight I really should have since I had to wake up early for a “private boat tour“.
So my friend and his dad are fishermen and they planned on taking out their boat the next morning. When his dad found out I was visiting, he invited me to tag along with them. After they do their thing, we would just go around the ocean looking for whales. Whale watching is one of the most popular activities in Kaikoura. It costs about NZD 150 when you do it with a touring company, and I was totally psyched that I would be able to do it for free!
Obviously, chugging pints of beer the night before wasn’t a good idea. Normally I don’t get seasick, but the motions of the waves combined with all that alcohol made me really nauseous, I felt like throwing up. I was able to control the urge to barf though, miraculously. After they’ve finished trying out all equipment to check if everything was in order before the start of the fishing season, we proceeded to look for whales. We saw one of those tour boats and we just followed them until they stopped lol. Right on cue, a couple of whales appeared. i couldn’t take clearer pictures since the boat kept shaking, but seeing those animals up close was really awesome. Before we went back to the dock we stopped by the peninsula again to see some seals and birds. Lunch was really awesome after that. My friend cooked a couple of the fishes he caught. Nothing like eating fresh fish, especially if you haven’t had breakfast yet. i couldn’t believe I was close to throwing up a couple of hours earlier. No one would have guessed it judging by the rate I was scarfing down those fish sandwiches. lol.
Kaikoura is a very beautiful place and I found it very hard to leave. True, I could say that about a lot of places in New Zealand. The laid back small town vibe, the beautiful scenery– it’s no wonder a lot of travelers find it hard to leave once they get a taste of this place. The people I met were remarkable as well. I gained a couple of new friends during my short visit. It felt very much like home, and it won’t be surprising if I decide to do a return visit after a couple of years.