NZ South Island Road Trip Stop 7: Seals, Seafood, and Seeing it for Yourself in Kaikoura


After a couple of days rest (and study! There’s no such thing as a real vacation for this graduate student!) in Sumner, Tom and I packed up the car once more for our last stop on our great south island road trip: Kaikoura.

Kaikoura is a beachside town 112 miles north of Christchurch best known for some of the greatest marine life viewing in the world. Whales, dolphins, seals, and a number of seabirds regularly visit Kaikoura shores, and the town is popular with domestic and international tourists alike. Like many stops on our trip however, visiting in the dead of the southern winter made for a quiet excursion. We found the town and restaurants to be nearly deserted as we arrived on a cloudy afternoon. Oh well, more stunning sea views for us!


After checking in to our accommodation, we headed to the eastern edge of the town to check out Kaikoura’s most famous year-round inhabitants – a large colony of southern fur seals. They were lethargic on this chilly day, passed out on the rocks along the shoreline and in the case of these youngsters, right along the banks of the parking lot.

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Then, it was time for the real reason for this visit (at least as far as I was concerned!). Kaikoura literally translates to ‘eat crayfish’ (a shellfish very similar to North America’s lobsters) – and I was eager to see if this sleepy town would live up to its name.

Alas, we arrived at a seaside inn to a friendly bartender, blazing fire, and the worst news of the trip – they were out of crayfish. And by ‘they’ I don’t mean this cozy inn. I mean the entire town. The town whose name literally translates to EAT CRAYFISH was OUT OF CRAYFISH.

What else could we do? We ordered some beers, sat at a window with a sea view, and laughed. Then we feasted on nearly the entire rest of the sea-themed menu.

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The next morning we awoke to find the clouds had moved on. It wasn’t the first time New Zealand treated us to a blue sky day, but it was gorgeous all the same. We made our way to the shore to pull out our trusty camp stove one more time. We breakfasted in view of crystal waters on a beach of pebbles and smooth, black and white stone. In the distance were the Kaikouras themselves, the mountains appearing mirage-like through the sparkling sea mists. Local seagulls, delighted by the smell of our meal, ambushed us in welcome – their advances so bold we eventually had to move our stove under the safety of a tree. Those damn birds didn’t get a scrap.

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Like all of our stops on this trip, our time in Kaikoura was over too soon. I didn’t get to go whale watching or eat crayfish, but I did get a peek – however brief – at the alluring beauty this island has used to seduce its visitors for hundreds of years. This place has a long history of stunning those who come upon it to the point of total infatuation. Why else would its settlers be so willing to lay down roots so far away from the rest of the humankind?

It is no secret to the world that New Zealand is a beautiful place. But there is only one way to really understand what that means. Pictures will never do it justice.

You have to see it for yourself.


Just joining us? Make sure you’re caught up! Read about the rest of our road trip stops in Lake Tekapo, Queensland, Milford Sound, Fox Glacier, Hokitika, and Sumner. And while you’re at it, check out the views we had along the way!

4 thoughts on “NZ South Island Road Trip Stop 7: Seals, Seafood, and Seeing it for Yourself in Kaikoura

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