Lodged between high mountains and the Pacific Ocean, on New Zealand’s South Island, it is said that no two views in Kaikoura are the same. Look left, and you’ll see snow caped peaks and rolling meadows. Look right, and you’ll see seals hauling out on rugged shores. Look straight ahead and you’ll see nothing except the wide expanse of the Pacific.
Kaikoura’s claim to fame is its rich abundance of marine life. Visitors have a 95% chance of spotting giant sperm whales, as well as dusky dolphins, orcas and humpback whales, regardless of whether you are travelling by boat or by air. Additionally, New Zealand Fur Seals live in the shallow waters of the town’s peninsula, and surely there can be no greater experience than swimming alongside the playful marine mammal in its natural habitat.
Very little is known about the town’s Māori history, although the word “Kaikoura” translates in the Māori language as a 'meal of crayfish' ('kai' meaning 'food', 'koura' meaning 'crayfish'). In Māori legend, the great fisherman Maui placed his foot on the Kaikoura peninsula to steady himself while he fished the North Island from the sea with his fishhook taken from his grandmother's jaw-bone. The legend attracted Māori settlers to the coast, and several of their settlements (pa) can still be seen from the peninsula.
More recently, Captain Cook discovered the region in 1770, although believed it to be an island. European settlers began a thriving whaling trade in the 1840s, which only ceased in the mid-1960s.