12 hours Kaikōura
Think you can't experience a taste of Kaikōura in 12 hours? We can prove you wrong. We’ve gathered a neat package of activities, delicious food, scenic spots, and great entertainment that can all be squeezed within a day trip to this seaside town.
The best things to see, eat, and do in Kaikōura
There’s no time to be wasted when new experiences await, so rise and shine with the sun – watching it pop up from behind the ocean it is not a bad way to start the day.
Breakfast at Sime’s
33 Beach Road
Head over to this Beach Road eatery and begin the day by refuelling with some of the most interesting breakfast options on offer in Kaikōura. Meals are not done half-heartedly at Sime's and every dish on the menu has been given a twist that makes it stand out from the rest. Think your café favourites lifted up a notch with a bit of ingenuity in the kitchen, such as creamy parmesan mushroom medley on manuka sourdough finished with white truffle oil, or brioche french toast with pistachio cream, roasted pistachios with dulce de leche and seasonal fig. Top that off with coffee brewed to perfection with Peoples Coffee beans and you’ve got a pretty nice start to the day!
Stretch the Legs with Peninsula Walk
The Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway has it all; ocean vibes, clifftop and mountain views, and of course an abundance of marine wildlife. You can drive to Point Kean car park and wander around the rocks in seal search mode or explore the range of shorter tracks from here. For those looking for more of a expedition, tackle the walk all the way from the town centre to South Bay (which takes just over three hours).
Photo credit: Jess Snoek
Coffee at Bean Me Up
74 West End
Just down the road towards the southern tail of West End, sits Bean Me Up. This quirky café brews some serious coffee that’ll keep you going for the next few hours. There's to look at here with owner-operator Sharon’s collection of vintage finds, artworks, photographs and knick-knacks galore. If you’re feeling peckish, there are plenty of delicious sweets and savouries to choose from, all vegetarian and made on-site. Make sure you poke your head in Bean Me Up’s arcade around the corner and have a go at some of the old school games like Pac Man that they have there. A word of warning though, they are pretty addictive and you might get stuck here for some time!
Retail therapy at Husk Home and Addy & Lou
27 West End, Kaikōura
It’s now time to check out what Kaikōura has on offer on the retail side of things. You’ll find the most beautifully curated homewares store Husk Home on the main drag. Filled with an interesting selection of handmade products and established brands, it’s hard to choose what to walk out with. Across the road and a few steps forwards sits Addy & Lou, another homewares store showcasing more stunning items perfect for the home or as gifts. Plenty to choose from here too, and if you’re lucky this store might just have one of its pop-ups going when you visit!
BeeBox for local honey and mead tasting
28 West End
Once back in the centre of Kaikōura, make your way to the container mall and enter BeeBox, a locally run store specialising in organic honey selections. Celebrating honest honey and supporting sustainable beekeeping practices, BeeBox is your one-stop-shop for all things honey. Don’t leave without having a wee taste of Mead, which is a speciality dessert wine made with honey.
Lunch at Slam Club
10 West End
By now it’s surely time to eat again, right? Slam Club is the destination to curb your hunger. Famous for its toasted sandwiches (which are so much more than the humble name suggests) the sandwiches are quite something. Filled with your choice of game, venison, duck or pork, grilled to perfection and served with roasted potatoes. Add a sneaky midday beer for the ultimate experience!
Head North for some Crayfish and Coastal Artwork Package
It's time to hit the road to find some cray and culture (and you're in luck as this is one of the most scenic drives in New Zealand!). Post-earthquake, there has been the addition of over 20 roadside sites showcasing cultural artworks that tell the rich local history. The artworks are dotted along the 60km of road from Oaro to Clarence. It is well worth heading north to check out the sites Paparoa and Rākautara as at the latter you'll discover Nin's Bin (more info on that below). Other worthy stops include famed surf spots Mangamanu and Meatworks.
Jul-20 NZ, State Highway 1, 6
At Rākautara, go straight to Nin’s Bin for some local seafood delicacies. It is a classic Kaikōura destination. This iconic caravan restaurant sits oceanside along State Highway 1 where it first opened up some 40 years ago. The crays are caught early morning right out front using sustainable fishing methods, cooked in copper pots and served with fresh lemon and garlic butter direct from the caravan – simple and delicious and 100% worth the drive.
Emporium Brewery Tasting
1 Avoca Street
By the time you’ve finished with all that driving, it’s surely beer-o’clock. Find your way to Emporium Brewery to taste some local craft beer and have a chat with the friendly brewers. Purchase a number of different beers brewed right on these premises that you won’t come across at your local supermarket, a perfect souvenir to savour at a later date or a gift for that friend who is feeding the cat while you're away. These guys also run a mini-golf course and a couple of escape rooms, should you feel up for another activity.
The Pier Hotel
1 Avoca Street
As the sun begins to set behind those majestic mountains, there’s no better place to be than The Pier Hotel. This classic Kiwi pub showcases some of the best views in town and is the local’s favourite for a pint or two. Grab your drink of choice, head outside to the beer garden or try your luck with finding a window table to park at and watch the sky turn pink.
Dinner at Zephyr
40 West End, Kaikōura
One of the finest restaurants in Kaikōura, Zephyr is the place to make your dinner reservation. The menu draws inspiration from French cuisine and focuses on meat, but vegetarians have been taken into consideration as well. A calm and relaxing spot to wind down after a big day.
Film at The Mayfair
Walk off that food baby and take a stroll along the waterfront to The Mayfair. This culture and arts hub functions primarily as a movie theatre with brand new state of the art auditoriums. You can expect to find the latest releases on show and tickets can be grabbed online to avoid missing out. Time to sit back and settle down for an hour or two in the comfy seats with big-screen entertainment.
Nightcap at The Strawberry Tree
21 West End
You may feel like tucking yourself into bed after emerging from that dark theatre, but since you’re here, you might as well tick off the last box that will complete a pretty well-spent day in Kaikōura. Head back to the town centre and finish off the evening with a nightcap at the iconic Strawberry Tree. Find a seat near the crackling open fire, stargaze out back in the beer garden or perhaps find yourself catching some tunes by local musicians.
Words by: Petra Nyman
Photography by: Nancy Zhou