A literal translation of the name Kaikoura from the original Maori means "meal of crayfish" - Kai = food, koura = crayfish. The Maori occupation of the Kaikoura Peninsula began centuries prior to the arrival of the European explorers such as Tasman and Cook. The region is famous for its abundant food sources, and the crayfish (or rock lobster) has been a highly prized delicacy from the Stone Age right the way through until the present day! The earliest Maori explorers noted the abundant food sources, which in turn attracted Maori occupation and settlement, and the remains of "pa" (fortified village) sites are located on the Kaikoura peninsula.
History tells us that Captain Cook, standing cautiously off the coast in the ship "Endeavour" in the year 1770, mistook the Kaikoura peninsula to be an island. The first European occupation was the establishment of a shore whaling station in 1843, located near the historically important Fyffe House, one of the earliest dwellings dating back to the whaling days, and now open to the public as a museum. Other whaling stations followed, and it is estimated that in its heyday, the industry employed over one hundred men within the Kaikoura district. With declining whale numbers from the 1850's, a number of whalers turned to farming, and descendants of those early pioneers still farm the land here today.
Kaikoura's crayfish, still a local delicacy, are always available from one or other of the many restaurants. No visit would be complete without a trip to the Kaikoura Lookout on top of the peninsula, a great place for taking photographs of the Kaikoura panorama. The peninsula walkway is a great place to stretch the legs, and a walk to the seal colony is always a delight. If you have a car the 15 minute drive up to Ohau Falls to see the seal nursery is worth the trip.
Kaikoura is located 2 hours from Christchurch, via State Highway 1, or by taking the inland scenic route. Hanmer Springs and its famous Thermal Reserve Hot Pools is only two hours from Kaikoura via the Inland Road. Blenheim, a major New Zealand wine growing region, is 1.5 hours drive north. Another 20 minutes north of Blenheim is Picton, the gateway to the South Island, the InterIslander ferry terminal, and the entrance to the Marlborough Sounds.
Kaikoura is a major centre for eco-tourism activities within New Zealand, and a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. A wide variety of adventure activities abound here:
- Dolphin Swimming
- Whale Watching
- Seal Swimming
- Scuba Diving
- Bird Watching
- White Water Rafting
- Sea Kayaking
- Four Wheel Driving
- And much more . . .