With a population of approximately 3,200 residents, the Kaikoura township is located on a rocky peninsula, protruding from lush farmland beneath the mountains. In the waters off the peninsula, a complex marine system provides an abundantly rich habitat for marine mammals and seabirds making it an ideal place for getting 'close to nature'.
Our Kaikoura accommodation places you right in the town to investigate its fascinating history. Archaeological remains indicate that Moa Hunters inhabited the peninsula 900 years ago. In Maori legend, Maui placed his foot on the Kaikoura peninsula to steady himself while he 'fished-up' the North Island. The Maori name Kaikoura translates to 'meal of crayfish' (Kai - food, koura - crayfish), and it is crayfish that the region is traditionally famous for. The area's abundant food sources attracted Maori settlement, and the remains of several pa sites can still be seen on the peninsula to this day.
In 1770, Captain Cook first discovered the Kaikoura peninsula, believing it to be an island. The first shore whaling station was established in 1843, located near where Fyffe House still stands today. Other whaling stations soon followed, and at one stage the industry employed over one hundred men in the Kaikoura district alone.
Whale numbers steadily declined after 1850 and the exportation of them became unprofitable, leading whalers to turn to alternative means of existence, such as farming. Whaling continued sporadically until as recently as 1964 when the last of New Zealand’s whaling operations ceased.
Today, the emphasis in Kaikoura is the conservation of marine life, working with a sustainable tourist industry, which allows visitors from all over the world to appreciate life in the ocean. In 1978, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was finally passed, providing total protection to New Zealand's whales, dolphins and seals. Kaikoura lies within the Southern Hemisphere Whale Sanctuary.
Our Kaikoura hotels are perfectly positioned so that you can explore in boats the several different species of whale that can be seen off Kaikoura at different times of the year, but almost always the huge Sperm Whales. Flukes lifting clear at the start of the deep dive, adolescent male Sperm Whales enjoy the rich diet of the Kaikoura waters, while building up their strength to move to the mating grounds of the warm north. Regularly diving to depths of one kilometre, Sperm Whales have been known to dive to three kilometres, holding their breath for up to two hours - perhaps gulping down a few groper, or wrestling with a giant squid.
The clean sharp fin of the Orca is often sighted in Kaikoura, and schools of Pilot Whales are occasional visitors. And everywhere the fun-loving Dusky Dolphin, which you are allowed to swim with! Fur seals, once hunted almost to extinction are now plentiful here, resting on warm rocks after a night's fishing. Seabirds, also enjoying the rich sea harvest, are abundant.
Search all Canterbury accommodation.
Popular regions to stay near Kaikoura: