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Not having planned our route of the South Island, we quickly decided, with the help of Lonely Planet, that our first destination would be the small adorable town of Kaikoura, home to only 3,600 residents. Taking us over three hours to get to it due to regular side stops to see NZ fur seals and take in the landscape, we were greeted by a stunning coastline with a breathtaking backdrop of the snowcapped mountains. These fur seals we saw along the way can be seen lounging around on the rocks right next to the coastal road. There are various view points along the way but we parked the car on the side of the road and walked across a narrow pebble beach to admire them up close. Probably being accustomed to tourists they allowed us to get quite close but were still weary if we got too near. I was surprised at how many there were, not in big groups, but I could see them as we drove by for a long time. We stood and watched a group of young seals playing in an enclosed area of water, which was quite amusing.
A seal pup enjoying a swim nearby, stopping to pose for the camera
Max being watched at Tiki’s Fish and Chip Shop
NZ fur seals we luckily met on the way
Maori heritage is reflected in the name of the town, Kaikoura, ‘Kai’ meaning food and ‘koura’ meaning crayfish, after they arrived and found ample crayfish to eat. Kaikoura’s coastal waters is known to be home to an astonishing array of marine life such as NZ fur seals, dolphins, whales, penguins and albatrosses. We only saw seals during our visit because we did not take any tours seeing as we had already seen dolphins and killer whales from the shore up in Mangawhai but they offer a wide variety of activities such as sperm whale watching boat trips and helicopter rides, kayak trips to visit the seals, dolphins and seal swims, llama trekking, albatross trips, Maori tours and quad biking, so you won’t have an excuse of getting bored there!
Once we arrived, we visited I-Site like we always do, and then drove along the coast to the furthest point which was the Seal Colony Point. On the way we stopped to watch local fishing boats unload all the catch of the day, including many crayfish of course.
Beautiful fishing village
Ending at the seal colony these seals were even less bothered about us, however, we did get the occasional bark from one of the larger ones.
Watch out for the camouflage seals basking on the rocks ;) Hello little seal
Not having much to do we set ourselves up by the beach to fish. All geared up for the cold weather with our two camping chairs, we sat and hoped for a catch but unfortunately it did not come. Two men near us though were lucky to catch a few, releasing a few dog fish and a sting ray back into the sea. Even though we returned to the car empty handed the scenery of the sun setting with the snowcapped peaks next to it was breathtaking.
Couldn’t ask for a more scenic fishing spot! Sting Ray catch but released back
We decided to treat ourselves to the local speciality of a crayfish dinner as we felt it was a must seeing as the town was famous for it so we dined at The Pier Hotel and ordered half a crayfish and a plate of mussels in a creamy sauce to share…yum!
Our tasty local dinner at The Pier Hotel
The following morning we awoke to a beautiful beach as we had parked in the beach front parking. We gave the seals another visit and ate in NZ’s second best Fish and Chip shop, Tiki’s Takeaway, located at the entrance of the town. We enjoyed a lovely lunch, being constantly watched by seagulls which apparently steal food right off your hands, before beginning our long drive through Arthur’s Pass to the West Coast.