Kaikōura is a place i’ve only ever driven through on the way to somewhere else. And it really deserves more attention than that.
The name Kaikōura means “to eat crayfish” in Maori (kai – eat/food, koura – crayfish) and this beautifully picturesque part of new zealand has both mountains and ocean as its backdrops. Stunning.
As I mentioned in a previous post, this little seaside village has had its share of tragedy recently. In 2016 an earthquake completely isolated the town, leaving them without power and essential services. I have no idea if they have fully recovered from that experience. Maybe they never will.
This part of new zealand is renown for the whale watching tours that happen all year round. Most of the tours guarantee at least 95% chance of sighting the sperm whales who feed here throughout the year. You’re also likely to spot orca and dolphins as well. Humpback whales, pilot whales, blue whales and southern right whales can also be seen here during parts of the year when they’re migrating. June – August is (apparently) the best time for these other visitors. The reason for these visits and the general abundance of other sea life is because of the nutrient rich waters and abundance of kelp forests in the Kaikōura Canyon. It’s about 800 metres off the coast, stretching for more than 60k and reaching depths of up to 1200+ metres.
Given the presence of a cold (nic) and a dry, scratchy cough (me) and it not being the right time for the migrating whales, we decided to save the tours for another visit in favour of checking out some of the other local attractions.
15 minutes drive north of kaikoura is arguably one of new zealand’s best places to eat seafood. Despite the decidedly limited menu of crayfish, mussels, whitebait and fish & chips, it’s definitely worth a visit. Nins Bin has been owned and operated by the Clark family since the 1977, when Johnny’s grandfather set it up. The caravan is named after a lady who used to work there. It was closed for a couple of years after the earthquake and re-opened in April 2018. There’s a lot more beachfront now than there was before too – apparently the land lifted 3.5 metres in the quake!
2 // the alpine pacific scenic route
As we only had one full day, and neither of us were feeling up for much in terms of strenuous activity, all the walks i’d imagined us doing didn’t happen. Instead we decided to drive some of the alpine pacific scenic route. We started by heading south from Kaikōura then heading inland to Waiau before heading back north on the inland road. Given more time, or energy, we would have probably ventured all the way to Hanmer for a soak in the hot pools. Something to look forward to next time we visit.
3 // the Kaikōura museum
Sunday, before heading out of town, we stopped in at the museum. For such a tiny place it is packed with history and exhibits. The thing I was most interested in seeing was ‘The New Normal’ exhibition – combining science with stories from the community who experienced the earthquake. Along with video interviews, there were newspaper clippings, mini exhibitions, photographs and articles that helped us understand the magnitude of the destruction.
This visit also got me thinking about colonialism and how much of what is exhibited in museums was stolen from its owners. I wonder if there will ever be a time where it is returned to those owners (or their descendants) instead of being kept locked up in glass cases. Perhaps it is useful for us to understand our history, but is something missing from each exhibit that would also educate us of its provenance?
4 // ohau point lookout and seal colony
There’s a huge car park and viewing area with loads of fur seals & pups lazing about on rocks in the sunshine or playing in the pools. There’s also what looks to be a colony of pied shags nesting nearby. I am guessing that these were pairs with the female sitting on an egg or two, but I’m not 100% certain of that.
When you’re not feeling the best, it’s lovely to have luxurious accommodation to stay in. And we were lucky to have found that at the Glenburn Coastal Retreat. Just a few minutes out of town, our accommodation had sea views from the bedroom and mountains from the lounge. Neither of us took advantage of the bathtub, but the bathroom has a stunning view and bi-folding doors so you can pretend you’re outdoors when soaking in the tub. We did have the fake fire going both nights though and definitely spent time enjoying the ocean views from the bed!