Kaikoura has a rich history and culture to explore. There is plenty to choose from and lots of activities that cater for all abilities marine or land based.
The local speciality is crayfish, you will be spoilt for choice whether you are eating in or dining out. Kaikoura's community cares about its environment and is taking steps to protect it.
Historically, Kaikoura is fascinating with remnants of the Maori and European settlement of the area and Kaikoura's whaling history, which can still be seen today by visiting the Kaikoura Museum and the historic Fyffe House.
The town is also home to numerous artists and craftspeople, all of whom creatively incorporate local flavour into their designs. Wonderful local products can be seen in several galleries in and around the town, including gold gilding, pottery, paintings and prints, jewellery, wood turning, knitted garments and much more, or join the Art Trail starting at the Visitors Centre and see for yourself the artists at work in their own enviroment.
The Kaikoura Peninsula extends into the sea south of the town, and the resulting upwelling currents bring an abundance of marine life from the depths of the nearby Hikurangi Trench. The town owes its origin to this effect, since it developed as a centre for the whaling industry. The name 'Kaikoura' translates to 'meal of crayfish' ('kai'- food/meal, 'koura' - crayfish in Maori) and the crayfish industry still plays a role in the economy of the region.
However Kaikoura has now become a popular tourist destination, mainly for whale watching (the Sperm Whale watching is perhaps the best and most developed in the world) and swimming with or near dolphins. There is also a large and readily observed colony of Southern Fur Seals at the eastern edge of the town. At low tide, better viewing of the seals can be had as the ocean gives way to a rocky base which is easily navigable by foot for quite some distance. It is also one of the best reasonably accessible places in the world to see open ocean seabirds such as albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, including the Hutton's shearwater which nests high in Kaikoura's mountains.
The town has a beautiful setting, as the Seaward Kaikoura mountains, a branch of the Southern Alps come nearly to the sea at this point on the coast. Because of this, there are many walking tracks up and through the mountains. A common one for tourists is the Mt. Fyffe track, which winds up Mt. Fyffe, and gives a panoramic view of the Kaikoura peninsula from the summit.
Mt. Fyffe owes its name to the first family to settle in Kaikoura, the Fyffe family. The cottage that they lived in, built in 1842, still stands, and is now a tourist attraction operated by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The construction of the cottage is unusual in that the supporting foundations of the house are made of whalebone.