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On Walkabout On: The Kaikoura Peninsula, New Zealand

After my wife and I completed our drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura in our rented campervan, we pulled into the first of our eventual many caravan parks we would stay at during our tour around New Zealand’s South Island. The caravan park was located just off the scenic Kaikoura Peninsula:

The small village of Kaikoura (Pop: 3,621) is located on a relatively flat peninsula of land that extends out into the ocean and is backdropped by large and dramatic snow capped peaks:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

For someone originally from Colorado, it sure was nice to see such large snow capped mountains that cannot be found in Australia, though Mt. Feathertop in northeast Victoria and the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales do a decent impersonation of the much higher and impressive peaks of Colorado and New Zealand.

It was late November when we visited New Zealand and that night sleeping in our campervan was actually a little cold. For those that don’t know late November in the Southern Hemisphere would be late Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. During our stay on the North Island the weather was mostly beautiful and warm with the only coldness I felt was when I hiked through sometimes freezing temperatures in Tongariro National Park.  The South Island was an entirely different story in regards to weather.

The next morning we woke up and headed over to Whale Watch Kaikoura, which as the name of the company suggests, is a company that launches whale watching tours off the coast of Kaikoura:

Kaikoura is famous in New Zealand for the abundance of whales that flock around the peninsula. The Kaikoura peninsula that extends out into the ocean is surrounded by extremely deep water. Here is a nice picture of the peninsula from the Wings Over Whales website:

Less then a mile from the peninsula’s coast is what scientists call the Kaikoura Canyon which is a massive geologic complex with trenches that plunge to depths of 22,000 feet (6,705 meters):

This geologic complex is popular with scientist because it is rich with sea life and one of the few places in the world where scientists actively search to film giant squids that live in the canyon. The sea life of this canyon was well known even before scientists discovered it because the original inhabitants of the peninsula, the Maori, named the peninsula Kaikoura, which in the local dialect means “feast of crayfish” because of the large catches of seafood they would harvest from the peninsula’s surrounding waters.

However, with the arrival of the Europeans the area became popular with whalers that set up a whaling station on the peninsula:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Here is what is left of this whaling station today in Kaikoura:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Besides the remains of the whaling station, the historic home known as the Fyfe House, from the whaling era can still be seen today on the peninsula as well:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whales continue to be a big part of the local economy today, but now it is not for hunting them, but instead helping tourists to see them. Unfortunately for my wife and I we would not have the opportunity to get out on the ocean and see Kaikoura’s famous whales ourselves because Whale Watch had suspended its tours due to winds that were causing high waves. It was windy out but the weather appeared to be pretty nice overall. However, I guess out in the deeper water where the whales were located the waves must have been pretty high for them to suspend the tours. They told us to check in later in the afternoon to see if the weather improves.

So my wife and decided to spend the morning walking up and down the sea shore of Kaikoura:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Along the beach it wasn’t uncommon to see fishermen looking to catch some of Kaikoura’s abundant seafood themselves:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

After walking up and down the beach we decided to check out the downtown area of the city next. The city of Kaikoura is very small, a bit uninspiring, and totally focused on catering to tourists. There is a number of hotels and hostels in the town along with all the nice little quaint tourist stores that sell plenty of whale and New Zealand related items.

Truthfully there isn’t a whole lot to see in the town and the real attractions of Kaikoura is the wildlife that surrounds the peninsula. A great place to see this wildlife is to drive to the far tip of the peninsula where a large sea lion colony lives. The tip of the peninsula is extremely rocky and the type of terrain sea lions like to live on:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

We walked out on the rocks in search of the sea lions and along the way we had the opportunity to see birds that were poking around the pools of water probably looking for fish to eat:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

We did eventually find what we were looking for out on the rocks and that was the sea lion colony. If you look closely, in the below photograph you can see the black shapes of sea lions both in the foreground and background:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

On some of the outlying rocks where the majority of the sea lions were located, we could actually see divers swimming out there to see the sea lions. My wife and I were not about to do that when we could just do some rock scrambling and get near some of the sea lions that were located on the more inland rocks:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

We approached this sea lion and it seemed like he actually liked having his picture taken. Every time I would pull up my camera he would strike a pose:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

This sea lion was really tame and soon enough more and more tourists came over to where we were at to take pictures of this sea lion and he seemed to enjoy every minute of it:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

This sea lion wasn’t alone though. He had a female sea lion that was dosing near him:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

We eventually had a group of probably around 30 tourists now mobbed around the sea lions which of course meant plenty of noise which didn’t seem to go over well with the female sea lion who woke up and gave the crowd an angry look:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

After giving the crowd an angry look, the female sea lion then began to walk out back into the ocean and even took a big stinky fart to let us know what she thought of us tourists spoiling her beauty sleep:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

She was eventually out to sea and gone, but not before giving everyone a farewell wave:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

However, her male friend had no intentions of joining her. The male sea lion was continuing to have a ball posing for photographs for the increasingly bigger and bigger mob of tourists:

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

Picture from Kaikoura, New Zealand

After checking out the sea lions, my wife and I then drove back to Kaikoura to see if the whale watching tours had restarted. Unbelievably despite what appeared to be nice weather, all the whale watching tours were cancelled for the entire day because of the wind. It was extremely disappointing, but the Whale Watch Kaikoura folks told us to come back tomorrow morning and hopefully the weather would improve.

We hoped it would because we were really looking forward to the whale watching tour.

Next Posting: Kaikoura’s Sea Lions

Prior Posting: Video of the Kaikoura Peninsula

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