Kaikoura On A Budget
- Dorothy - 18/12/97
A place with plenty of activities for the budget conscious
Whenever Kaikoura is mentioned most people who know of that beautiful
little town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand
immediately think of whales. That is truly appropriate, as the first
Europeans to settle in Kaikoura were whalers, as early as 1843 when Robert
Fyffe established the first whaling station. Now the worldwide interest
in seeing the whales has meant that whale watching has brought many
visitors to the town - visitors who not only watch the whales, but enjoy
the other attractions this town has to offer.
At first of course access to Kaikoura was only by sea. Then came road
access and when the railway was built from Christchurch to south of the
Hundalee Hills and north from the Clarence River to Picton passengers
travelled the difficult section over the hills and along the rugged coast
by service car. In 1945 the last section of the railway was opened and
finally connected Christchurch and Picton. Now travellers can arrive by
train, car, bus or plane.
Whether you come from north or south, by road or by rail, or by air to the
recently improved airfield, you enjoy a feast of coastal scenery which
helps you to relax, ready for holiday making.
Accommodation and meals
There has been rapid growth in places to stay and the range is there to
suit all budgets - from camping grounds and backpackers hostels to hotels
and modern motels. There are supermarkets to buy food, takeaways, cafes
and licensed restaurants.
What can visitors do in this beautiful town and district?
There is a wide range of activities for young and old, for adventure
seekers and those who simply want to relax and enjoy the beauty of the sea
and the mountains.
Family activities with no charge include swimming at Gooch's Beach near the
town or at Armers Beach a little further along the same road. Both have
dressing sheds. There is more shade at Gooch's Beach and also a children's
playground. Another children's playground is at South Bay.
Around the town
There are pleasant short walks around the town itself and up on to the
Peninsula to see further north and south.
On the Peninsula
The Peninsula Walkway
The bonus on this walk is the chance to view New Zealand fur seals and sea
Seals bask on the rocks at Kaikoura Peninsula
source - Joe Levy
You can begin your walk from the northern end at the carpark at Point Kean
or from the southern end at South Bay. There is no public transport to
these places, but it is possible to hire the Kaikoura shuttle.
There is a choice of routes over this walkway area. If you have several
days in Kaikoura you may choose to try different walks. If you have
limited time I suggest that you start at Point Kean, walk up the track and
along the Clifftop walk to the Whalers Bay lookout, go down the track from
there and return along the shoreline, checking that you do not programme
the shoreline section near Point Kean at high tide.
View from the clifftop track
source - Joe Levy
For this walk allow a half day. You will want to pause and view the birds,
the seals and the scenery.
Gulls, both red-billed and black-backed, breed along the shoreline in
November and December. Shags, oyster catchers, and herons can be seen
here too. At low tide there are rock pools to explore.
Along the shoreline seals can be seen at close quarters, but it is
dangerous to annoy them, especially a large bull or a mother seal with a
newborn pup. I strongly recommend not getting between the seals and the
source - Joe Levy
In the Mt Fyffe area
Mt Fyffe Forest Walk
Start from the Forest Walk carpark at the end of Mt Fyffe Road. Allow
about two hours for this walk on the slopes of Mt Fyffe so that you have
time to look at the trees in the native bush and at the lookout point enjoy
the wide view of the Kaikoura plain and the sea. It is a loop track and I
suggest that you walk the track anti-clockwise. The walk passes through
regenerating formerly-logged forest. At the summit is a further loop track
through virgin forest with an impressive stand of matai, rimu and
This too is in the forest offering shade which is much appreciated in
summer heat. Again you walk through regenerating forest, here with many
dominant hinau trees. You will also see mahoe, putaputaweta, broadleaf,
tree fuchsia and pigeonwood, and walk through a stand of kanuka. Some
species are labelled on both these walks.
This starts from the Mt Fyffe car park beyond the south-west end of
Postmans Road. It is a loop track and takes about 45 minutes. The track
is easy walking and suitable for the whole family. When you reach the
lookout you can see the Kowhai River, which looks small and innocent most
of the time but is prone to flooding and caused a lot of damage in the
Kaikoura township in 1993.
Mt Fyffe Summit Walk
This too starts at the Mt Fyffe carpark and follows a 4WD road to 1602
metres above sea level, and is out in the open. It is not available to
vehicles. The road to the summit follows the long south-west ridge and the
return journey takes about eight hours.
If you think that walk is too long you could walk to the hut - five hours
return, or to the lookout point about an hour above the car park.
In this area you may see the brown creeper, tomtit, robin, bellbird,
rifleman, wood pigeon, falcon and kea.
Mountain bikes are permitted on the Mt Fyffe Track, but be aware that it is
very steep and that walkers have the right of way!
For details of longer walks and huts in the area talk to the staff at the
Department of Conservation.
To the South
Again this a favourite area for birdwatchers. It is to be approached from
the inland road through Lake Hills, the property of A. Dowle. Drive to the
marked carpark and follow the track.
This is reached from the south via the Kahutara River. Again the
attraction is bird watching, especially pied shags feeding the young birds
in their nests, great crested grebe and large numbers of paradise ducks.
Oaro south to the rail tunnel and Haumuri Bluff
This is a pleasant walk along the beach from the Oaro settlement. Park
near the main road before walking through the settlement. Watch for trains
when crossing the railway line. This walk takes an hour to the tunnel and
another for boulder hopping at low tide to Piripaua - often called The
This walk in the Omihi Scenic Reserve is described in Breaking the Journey.
Remember to watch out for the trains when crossing the railway line.
Ohau Point and Stream
At Ohau Point 30 kms north of Kaikoura there is a clearly marked lookout
area for viewing the seals. A little further north there is a short and
shaded walk to a waterfall, also described in Breaking the Journey.
You can fish from beaches, rocks and from the wharf near the Pier Hotel.
Exploring rock pools
At low tide opposite the aquarium and also at the end of the roads north or
south of the Peninsula there are reefs and rock pools well worth
In addition to the beaches around the town and the Peninsula there is a
very pleasant picnic area at the Puhipuhi Scenic Reserve up the Puhipuhi
River. Turn off immediately north of the Hapuku River bridge. There is
shade and the river is shallow and suitable for the family to play in the
Many people dive in the waters along the coast. Be careful to check which
beaches along this rugged coast are safe for this sport. Services and
advice are available in the dive shops in Kaikoura.
A popular surfing beach is at Mangamaunu, 17.5 kms north of Kaikoura.
Boating, canoeing and sailing
There is ample opportunity to use your boat. Many people launch their
larger boats from Armers Beach as the slipways built by groups are closed
to non-members. Canoes can be launched from several locations.
Activities with a small charge
For a small fee you can view the audio visual show "See the Whales" at the
Visitor Centre, swim at the swimming pool at Gooch's beach, visit the
Museum in Ludstone Road, view Fyffe Historic House in Avoca Street or use
the library across the road from the Visitor Centre.
The library is offering special holiday programmes on December 22 and 23
and in the last week of the summer holidays.
If you wish to play golf, squash, tennis, croquet or bowls, inquire at the
Visitor Centre about fees and access.
in the series about Kaikoura...
Published with permission from NZine