91. Kayak with dolphins and whales in Kaikōura
From whale-watching and go-karting to spending the day as a sea postie and the night in a haunted castle, there’s no shortage of family fun to be found here: here is No. 91 of our 101 Reasons To Stop Dreaming About New Zealand And Go.
Fancy getting the kids up close to giant sperm whales in their natural environment? Then make your way by car, bus or scenic train to Kaikōura, a coastal village on the east coast of the South Island/Te Waipounamu blessed with marine wildlife, sparkling blue waters and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains. Homeland of the Ngāi Tahu tribe, Kaikōura is a culture-rich township packed with fun things to do.
Jump in a sea kayak with Kaikōura Kayaks for a guided tour; its super stable, watertight kayaks are great for families, including children as young as three, and you will be kitted out in warm, waterproof gear. Tours run year round and range in duration. Morning tours are recommended: it’s usually calm on the water and offers the best chance of seeing marine life. Common sightings include dusky dolphins, penguins, New Zealand fur seals, whales and majestic seabirds. Sometimes the world’s smallest, rarest dolphin, the Hector’s dolphin, makes an appearance.
Boat tours with tribally owned Whale Watch Kaikōura are another great option for families, with the company offering an 80 per cent discount to anyone who doesn’t see a whale! Enjoy a mihi, or Māori greeting, when you arrive and plenty of information about the nature you see around you. Other great family experiences include fishing tours (Kaikōura is known for its fresh fish and crayfish), mountain biking and hiking the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway, a three-hour return journey of the township. Getting there is an equally picturesque proposition: jump on the Coastal Pacific train in either Picton or Christchurch/Ōtautahi for a scenic rail journey that will give you the chance to make memories as a family, while enjoying views of the stunning coastline. Expect driving to Kaikōura from either Picton or Christchurch to take around two-and-a-half hours – and be equally breathtaking.