Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kaikoura - tips for travellers on a budget

Those of you who went 'TL;DR!' on the second paragraph of my previous post : this post is for you.


We stayed in Adelphi Lodge - those of you with decent $$ will want to avoid this place.

  • THE cheapest ensuite you can get around, period. $60 for a room with a queen bed and a double bunk (can fit 4 people), with toilet and shower attached.
  • Gives free soup. (Con: We disliked the soup so much that we even declined it on the second day)
  • Well-equipped kitchen with cutlery, stove, microwave, toaster, boiler, etc.
  • Room comes with a heat pump and electric blanket to boot. Very warm.
  • They have a TV and VCR in the room (antiquity +1!) and free VCR tapes in the lounge for rent.
  • Comics pasted on the wall next to the toilet bowl to brighten up your mornings when you sit on the pot. ;)

  • The place is reeeeaally old. Walls are painted with garish red paint that is peeling. Switches are ancient flip ones.
  • Due to the bar located right next to it, it is extremely noisy at night. I had no idea Kiwis typically drink til 3am, but the ones here do.
  • The shower floods very easily, and the cubicle is tiny.
  • Most expensive internet use I've seen in a backpacker's lodge. $1 for 10 minutes.


We rented a car for $39/day, but it's possible to take either the bus or the TranzCoastal there. If you do, however, be prepared to fork out lots of $$ for transport around the town. While Kaikoura isn't very large, it's very spread-out, with the town centre located on one end of the peninsula, and most of the other activities are a few km away either on the tip of the peninsula or in the mountains.

As far as I know, Kaikoura Shuttles is the only transport available within Kaikoura, and the prices, taken from their website, are as below:

Sightseeing Tour - 1 hour:
$25 per person
Sightseeing Tour - 2 hour:
$48 per person
Winery tour:
$35 for one person
$25 per person (2 or more)

Local transfers/taxi:
$10 one person - within city
$8 per person (2 or more) - within city 


1) Apparently Kaikoura is located near the Hikurangi Trench, and the resulting upwelling currents are pretty rich in nutrients, leading to an abundance of marine life. The most widely-touted marine activities are the whale tours, dolphin tours, and albatross tours. We didn't do any of those, however - besides being rather pricey for a couple of hours on a ship, we read numerous reviews claiming the activities to be not worth the moolah. If you are seasick-prone, you WILL be sick, and reviewers claimed that usually only a few fleeting glimpses of the animals will be seen.

Other packages include 'swim with dolphins/seals/whales'. Those I would have gone for, if s) it hadn't been winter, and b) I had actually known how to swim. *sadface*

2) There's a pretty well-known farmyard park nearby (not near enough to walk), called the Cushchine Cottage Farm. Besides offering farmstays ($100+ per night), you can visit the farm for $10 per person. It's an interesting visit if you've never seen farmyard animals up close and personal before, but otherwise it's rather small, many of the animals are in cages, and some listed in their website don't even exist (chinchillas, peacocks). Pictures will be posted in the future if requested. :) Also, having seen the cottage where the farmstays are done, I would recommend against staying there.

3) Walks/sightseeing. Now this is a mixed bundle. We loved the ocean/mountain views, the stroll on the rocky beach during low tide, the seal colony at the tip of the peninsula. Then, we tried the peninsula walk (around the tip of the peninsula through the highlands). I have no idea why it was listed as 'easy, for families', but..

Yeah, right.

The round trip takes about 2 hours, including uphill slopes - but that isn't the problem. The problem is what we dub as The Ridge. See, sometime during your descent, you will come across a part of the walk that looks like this:
And it goes on for about 500m or so. Note the lack of any barrier between 'a terrified you' and '1000m drop off the cliff'.

I don't know any families with kids who can manage that, really.


Kaikoura's namesake, the crayfish, is surprisingly difficult to find here at times! We inquired at several restaurants and bars but some were out of stock, and some were exceedingly expensive ($70 for a full crayfish). We finally asked the locals and were advised to go to the seaside stall opposite The Point B&B near the tip of the peninsula - they were selling whole crayfish for $40, but were out of stock for the day, and closed the next day. -_-; I finally tried a quarter crayfish at a restaurant for $25 (with salad). It tasted remarkably like... lobster. Surprise, surprise.

(Picture taken from as I forgot to take any of my dish. Was too tired and hungry after the peninsula 'walk')

As might be expected for a seaside town, much is said about their seafood, but frankly I didn't find any of it superior to well-chosen establishments in Christchurch. The fish & chips opposite Adelphi's, near the junction, has reasonably-priced and pretty decent grilled fish.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Kaikoura; a quaint little seaside town named by the Maori after crayfish. My decision to head there was made with some trepidation - after all, should I really be spending my decidedly limited funds traveling to a place when I probably couldn't even afford to eat its namesake?

The 2.5 hour drive there from Christchurch was winding and boring - only barren hills and brush to be seen, compared to the alpine passes towards Hanmer Springs and the West Coast which were full of snow-covered mountains, gorges, and riverbeds. The coastline from Oaro to Kaikoura, however, was pretty spectacular, and Kaikoura itself was something out of a dream. Never had I imagined that it was actually possible to view alpine peaks, rocky beaches and rolling waves... all in one scene. Dayum.

The large brown blobs you see on the rocks below aren't bags of soil; they're NZ fur seals, which inhabit the top end of the Kaikoura peninsula. B joked that you'd need to observe a sample size of 20 for 5 minutes to see ONE of them move. Wikipedia claimed that they're most active during early mornings and near dusk, but the best time to view them is really during low tide.

Pictures are mostly taken from a distance because we were warned that despite their oh-so-innocent demeanour, they can be aggressive and thus we should stay 10 metres away from them. I obeyed simply because I don't much fancy having the following conversation:

Friend: How'd your trip go?
Me: Not good. Spent half of it in the ED. 20 stitches.
Friend: Oh mai gawd. Did you get involved in a diving accident? Kayak overturned? Heliski crashed???
Me: Uh, no. I was mauled by a seal.
Friend: ....Oh. Did he bounce you on his nose, too?! HAHAHAHAHHAH.

For huge creatures with only two flippers, they can sure move a long way inland. This fellow lumbered all the way up the beach, past the carpark, and towards the road leading up the hill, just to sit there and point his nose at the sky:

Or even further back.

And another, in the customary pose:

They do sorta grow on you after a while, although the noises they make resemble old men with pneumonia more than the adorable 'honk honk' that cartoons lead us to believe.

Aww, isn't he cute?

Kaikoura is situated on a shallow, rocky shelf that extends for a bit before it dips sharply out to sea. So when the tide recedes, you can stroll out a looooong way on the peninsula. Like, loooooooooong. The entire area of land below was covered with water when we arrived. And that's not even half of it.

Moss, seaweed, kelp, and all sorts of underwater plants (okay, I fudged that, I have absolutely no idea what sort of underwater plants these are) can be seen on the surface of the shelf. VERY slippery.

Huge-ass brownish leaves that feel like leather.

Clam colonies can be seen clinging for dear life to virtually every spot imaginable - on top of rocks, beside rocks, under rocks... you get the idea. They do a remarkably good job of it, too - you can't get them off without some sort of wedge. I tried.

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