A beautifully located town half way between Christchurch and Picton, Kaikōura is home to around 4,000 people. It is famous for the sea life feeding in the nearby Hikurangi Trench, including whales and dolphins, and for a huge earthquake that struck in 2016. This was second largest in New Zealand since European settlement in the 19th century, second only to the 8.2 strength 1855 Wairarapa earthquake. It was a complex series of ruptures, causing a 7m tsunami in Kaikōura and raised the seabed by up to 2m. The town was cut off and it took four years to fully fix the roads and rail link between Christchurch and Picton.
The best place to see the town, peninsula and nearby Kaikōura Range of mountains is from the Kaikōura Lookout.
The nearby Kaikōura Cemetery was also pretty scenic.
One of the best land based activities (rough seas put me off searching for sea life) is the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway. This walkway extends around most of the peninsula, a mixture of dedicated footpaths, coastal tracks and a bit of road walking (though there’s not much trafffic). There is some impressive coastal scenery and unusual rock formations, many of which were created by the 2016 earthquake.
There is also a seal colony, best observed from a distance as they can get aggressive and smell awful.
To finish with Fyffe House, named after the first European family to settle in Kaikōura. The cottage was built in 1842, and is now owned and maintained by Heritage New Zealand. It is the last remnant of a pioneer whaling station, fittingly the supporting foundations of the house are made of whalebone.