Kaikoura, New Zealand

Wildlife lovers, immerse yourselves in dolphin-spotting and more – a catalogue of much-protected marine life is at your flippers, including whales, seals, penguins and albatross. Or mingle with this vibrant fishing community and meet inspiring artists and craftsfolk whose wares make great mementos of this fascinating former whaling station with a rich Maori heritage. By the way, the surf’s not half bad either.

When to go

November until February is usually the warmest and driest time to visit; March is often a rainy month and temperatures drop in winter (June until August). If you’re planning some whale watching, summer (December to March) is the best time to spot orcas (killer whales), June to September is prime time for southern right whales, and giant sperm whales can be seen year-round, along with dusky dolphins and fur seals (all sightings are very weather-dependent).

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Sounds Air (www.soundsair.com) links Wellington with tiny Kaikoura Airport, seven kilometres south-west of town, or larger Blenheim Airport (www.blenheim airport.co.nz) to the north. Wellington International Airport (www.wellingtonairport.co.nz) is under an hour’s flight from anywhere in the country; Christchurch (www.christchurchairport.co.nz) is another international option. Domestically, try Air New Zealand (www.airnew zealand.com); and Qantas (www.qantas.com.au) or Pacific Blue (www.flypacificblue.com.au) from Australia.
  • Trains

    Tranz Scenic’s TranzCoastal service runs daily between Picton and Christchurch, stopping off at Kaikoura, departing from Picton at 1pm and Christchurch at 7am. The train journey is an easy-on-the-eye way to enjoy the Kaikoura coastline as it weaves between mountain and sea (www.tranzscenic.co.nz).
  • Automobiles

    Allow well over two hours from either Picton or Christchurch; from Blenheim, just under two. Christchurch is an especially scenic route.
  • Taxis

    There are no local firms as such, but there are shuttle services that operate sightseeing trips and airport transfers (www.kaikourashuttles.co.nz).