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Kaikoura, New Zealand: What You Need To Know

Photo by @albertrenn

It is still a bit baffling to me that I had never been to Kaikōura, a quaint seaside town on the East Coast of the South Island. It's only a 2 and a half hour drive North from Christchurch and is home to some of my favourite animals… Whales!

There's no denying it... It may be small, but Kaikōura has been through a lot.

On the 14th of November 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake ruptured the town at 12:01AM. I can remember that night so clearly. I was living in Wellington at the time and had just been to Paraparaumu to watch my friends perform Grease The Musical that had been touring around New Zealand. The lovely Bronwyn had just dropped me back at my flat and I was lying on my bed, most likely thinking about how I really felt like some chocolate, when the whole house began to shake. My flatmates and I all huddled under our door frames while our stuff went flying off the shelves. I had been in Christchurch for multiple aftershocks so I wasn’t a stranger to the odd earth wobble, but this was something else. For some reason, standing felt too unsafe, so I crawled to the kitchen to get a bag of corn chips and a bottle of whiskey and we sat in our door frames for most of the next hour. The tsunami alert followed and a lot of Wellington was instructed to vacate their areas. We were living in Newtown and that was deemed to be safe from a possible tsunami, so we piled our mattresses into the living room, invited my Canadian friends over (this was their first earthquake!), and turned on the telly. The epicentre was around 250kms away. If this was how scared and shaken up (excuse the pun) (okay sorry but yeah the pun was totally intended) we were feeling, how must Kaikōura be feeling?

According to the BBC, the 2 minute earthquake has been described by scientists as the “most complicated earthquake ever studied.” From the scientists’ investigations, apparently 21 fault lines were broken during the quake, including some that hadn’t even been mapped yet. Earthquake ecologist Dr. Kate Clark said that this is possibly a world record. Two people died in the earthquake, many were injured, multiple buildings ruined beyond repair, and Kaikōura was completely cut off from the rest of New Zealand. All roads in and out were destroyed due to landslides, broken bridges, uplifted rail lines, and falling debris. It was an absolute disaster. One that no one will forget in a hurry that’s for sure.

State Highway 1 reopened on December 21 in 2017, but only during daylight hours. The road is open now, but repairs and construction were still happening when Jonas and I adventured there in the middle of June 2020.

And now, just as the town is getting back on its feet… COVID19 strikes. ‘Rona you little shit. I’ve got some serious words to have with you!

I had already planned to get to Kaikōura as soon as domestic travel opened up again, but after watching a Sunday feature about Kaikōura and the effects of COVID19, I was even more convinced!

We were only there for one rainy day and night, but we crammed so much in. I can’t wait to go back in the summertime.

Before we get any further just a small disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a small commission if you decide to make a purchase. Thanks for supporting me as I try to get this blog a happening thing!

Here’s what you need to know...


Accommodation can lean more on the expensive side in Kaikōura, so we stayed at the

Dusky Lodge Backpackers

in a private room with ensuite. I loved it there! Great vibe (except for the backpackers that burnt their breakfast sausages at 8:30AM in the morning causing the smoke alarms to be activated and the local fire brigade to be dispatched. It also resulted in me putting my track pants on backwards while I was hurriedly exiting the room remembering everything I learnt from primary school fire alarms: “Leave your bags!” “Don’t run!” What a way to wake up!)

But feel free to check out for more hotel and motel options

As well as over on AirBnb there are plenty of cute places to stay.

(Click here for up to $90NZD towards your first AirBnB trip!)

And of course, there's always the option to hire a campervan and get acquainted with nature! You can read all about New Zealand campervan hire right here!



Find out more on the official website



Strap in.

Did you know that New Zealand frogs don’t have ears?! And that’s why they don’t croak!? Not to be mistaken for the Australian frogs who do have ears though. I learnt that from this museum and I have pulled that fact out on many occasions!

Now, I’m no stranger to a museum. Over on my instagram stories, I occasionally share my museum experiences. There are a few of my followers who absolutely love it! (Bit niche, but I’m here for it!) So speaking with the authority of a museum connoisseur, this museum was wonderful. A large exhibition on the Kaikōura Earthquakes (I’m ashamed to admit I really didn’t know much about it at all!) and another room full of historical things (for lack of a better word?) and loads of animal information.

Also, did you know that Kaikōura has an underwater cliff face only 500m from the shore!? The Kaikōura and Hikurangi Trench is one of the deepest underwater canyons IN THE WORLD! Ngati Kuri believe that the Kaikōura Canyon was created by the God Marokura and the area is known as Te Tai o Marokura (the seas of Marokura.)

That slice of info was from the museum, too! A geologist’s dream I tell ya! Maybe I should restudy and become a geologist...?


One VERY excited Jess!

One place you’re guaranteed to see seals is only a short drive to the end of the Fyffe Quay.

But there are a few things you need to remember when observing the seals...

  • Seals can spend up to 3 weeks out at sea hunting and living their best lives. When they come to shore they are here to sleep and rest. They don’t need four million tourists screaming and taking photos right up in their faces!

  • YOU MUST KEEP YOUR DISTANCE (Just like we all should be during covid life anyway…) Stay at least 10m away from the seals at Point Kean, and 20m everywhere else.

  • DO NOT DISTURB THEM! The seals at Point Kean are not breeding seals so are likely to be less aggressive, however if provoked they can give you one of those delicious infected bites of theirs. No one has time for that.

  • It should go without saying, but DO NOT TOUCH A SEAL

  • And please keep your dogs in your car.

How to get there!

Another place there are usually seals is Ohau Point. This is the place to go to see seals and their pups frolicking in the water. It’s around 26kms from the centre of town, it should take around 25 minutes to drive there, but keep in mind the road works happening along the way. Plenty of car parks are available here.

Perhaps you've been googling and yes, you’re right. This IS where you can watch the seal pups swim up the stream and play in a waterfall. However, DO NOT attempt to walk the Ohau Stream Walk at this time! “The Ohau Stream Walk is unsafe due to earthquake damage and is closed until further notice. This is a long term alert,” says DOC. You can find more information here.

There are literally HUNDREDS of seals down below on the rocks for you to admire, anyway!

(I've decided to not post a photo of it, so if you go there you are in for the surprise of your life! There were SO many! SO MANY BABY SEALS!)

One of these seals is not like the others...


Due to the slight drizzle and the