Kaikoura, New Zealand
After breakfast in Christchurch, it was time to move on to our next destination. We continued north for 2.5 hours to the town of Kaikoura. This journey once again stunned us with the scenery going through pin turns in the mountains then emerging onto the coast line seeing the brilliant blue water dazzling in the sun next to us. The final leg of the drive kept us in awe of the new landscape and we were so excited to explore.
Ready for food, we drove straight towards the peninsula. Completely enthralled with the landscape, it was impossible to not beam with excitement. The snow capped mountains met the ocean where the waves constantly smashed into the rocks, recoiling with each beating. It was such a magnetic scene, hard to take your gaze away.
We stopped at Kaikoura Seafood BBQ, a road side spot serving fresh seafood.
Kaikoura literally translates to “crayfish food” and it is the seafood item of choice when visiting this area. Crayfish is the New Zealand lobster and this was one of the top places to get it in Kaikoura. And it is certainly priced like lobster… a bit expensive! To order, you open a cooler and pick out the crayfish you want, each with a marked price on it often ranging in the $60 area for a full crayfish.
We opted for the half crayfish platter of rice, salad, and garlic bread, as well as a seafood chowder. We grabbed a spot on the water with the snow caps mountains in the back ground- how is this a real place?!
Our order came out and we were thrilled- the crayfish looked beautiful!
As everyone around us ate their tail meat and called it a day, we sat painstakingly getting every bit of meat possible out of this half of a crayfish. Each leg was surprisingly full of sweet meat. Our years of training eating crabs has served us well. We definitely won eating crayfish.
We continued driving around the peninsula to the Point Kean Viewpoint. While the parking lot was full, there seemed to be plenty of overflow parking on the sides of the road. We parked and got right onto the walking the rock beach, but not before spotting a snoozing seal! Not so different from their cousins in the Galapagos Islands.
The water is such a brilliant color blue as I would expect to see in the tropics. The wind today was extremely high and made the waves very rough along the rocks. With the tide beginning to come in, it made for some interesting encounters with the waves!
Out far away from the coast, the snow capped mountains meeting the ocean seemed more magical than before.
There are two ways to see the entire peninsula on the Kiakoura Peninsula Walkway– you can walk along the top or walk along the bottom. The walk along the top gives more sweeping views of the entire landscape but the walk along the bottom gives more detail and closer encounters with wildlife, including the seal colony. With the tide coming in, we opted for the walk along the top and the views were spectacular.
Along the walkway were informational plaques and the town, the peninsula, the history, and the animals that Kevin enjoyed reading to give meaning to everything we were observing.
This hike round trip is estimated for 3 hours return starting from either side (north or south) of the peninsula. We walked about an hour south before turning around and heading back north to the car.
With a few hours to kill before checking into our Airbnb, we drove through the center of town and spotted an ice cream store. This trip has been severely under the typical vacation ice cream quota so it was an easy snack push. With several spots in town, we chose Poppy’s Real Home Made Ice Cream & Cafe.
Disappointed to not see a chocolate option- not even just a plain chocolate option- my excitement deflated. How do you now have chocolate as an ice cream option? Kevin noticed my frustrated sigh but then I saw what the people in front of us got- real fruit ice cream. They picked a frozen fruit and it was placed into a funnel that then turned out grounded up frozen fruit with frozen yogurt to make a fruit custard.
I think this would work! We had never seen anything like this before so it was a good opportunity to try something new. I ordered banana and Kevin ordered mango. It was a refreshing option that did not feel as bad for you since it was not loaded with sugar. As we travels more north, we saw “real fruit ice cream” everywhere. Delicious!
Since we were not able to make it to Nelson on this trip, we were excited to find Emporium Brewery in Kaikoura. We found it behind some other store fronts and were disappointed to discover it was not a venue where you could sit but rather a place to buy can/bottles and growler fills. While we were sure it was probably good beer, we have no place to store these so we turned around to find another option.
Nearby, we went to Hislops Wholefoods Cafe and although they were closing in 20 minutes, seated us for a glass of wine. I ordered a Central Otago Riesling and Kevin ordered a Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc. It was a nice break after a windy walk! We both really enjoyed our wines as well and we were so happy to discover the depth of New Zealand wine on this trip (both North and South Islands).
Enough time had passed for us to check into our Airbnb on a working farm not even 15 minutes outside of town. We were given specific instructions on how to enter the premise and met our host for a brief tour of the property before showing us to our room. We could have spent days here! The backyard view is the giant snow capped mountains. There was a full shared kitchen, a crayfish farm room, and multiple types of farm animals. We were staying in one of three rooms she regularly boarded. It was neat to have this experience and be so close to everything in Kaikoura.
Ready for another meal, we were told blue cod fish and chips was another staple of Kaikoura. Without much convincing, we made our way to Top Shop down the street for this dish.
It came out of the kitchen all wrapped up in paper like a package. We sat and unfolded the layers until the fish and chips was revealed. This version really did a good job showcasing the fish as the batter did not overwhelm the flavor of the cod. When you have confidence in the quality of the fish, the batter does not need to carry the weight. And the chips (fries) were just to our liking- nice and crispy.
Knowing we would not have much more time in Kaikoura, we drove back to the peninsula car park to watch the sun set. We stayed for awhile watching the tide and the gulls conduct their nightly ritual. Clouds moved in making a picturesque sunset or night full of stars unattainable so we drove back to the Airbnb for a good night’s rest.
Before we got back onto the highway, we took five minutes to see the sun coming up over the ocean horizon as it began to illuminate the water and the mountains.
We were so happy to have made Kaikoura a stop on our road trip. Absolutely stunning landscape that was so unique. While we saw a lot of what Kaikoura has to offer, we did miss on one of the most popular things to do here which is go on an excursion out into the ocean. The day we were there all boats were canceled due to the rough waves but there are so many different tours to chose from! Whale watching, encounters with albatrosses, and swimming with dolphins are all options. There are also boats that will take you crayfish fishing. Kaikoura is the perfect spot to break up your outdoor adventure.