Kaikoura, NZ, with kids

Kaikoura is a fantastic family vacation destination! It's an animal lover's paradise in NZ's South Island! Click to read more

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We spent a week in Kaikoura, on June 2016.

Kai is the māori for food and koura means crayfish (lobster). It’s a place full of marine wildlife. When I Googled it, I knew the kids would want to visit.

Kaikoura was Joao’s only ‘absolutely MUST GO’ place. He really wanted to see the albatrosses and the whales, but the dolphins and the fur seals were a huge bonus. It’s said to be paradise for the animal lovers. And it is.

kaikoura mountains and sea

The mountains and the sea of Kaikoura – if there’s one sight prettier than this one, I’d love to see it


It’s close to Christchurch (around an hour away with all the roadworks going on there after the earthquake) and you shouldn’t really miss it!

The first wildlife encounter in Kaikoura

We were driving from Golden Bay and around 20 km before we entered the city, we saw the first fur seal. One grown fur seal on the rocks by the sea and one enormous one just by the road. Melissa spotted it and we just couldn’t believe how peacefully it was sleeping there, by the motorway. It didn’t even mind people getting super close to take a selfie.

– by the way, you should stay at least 10m away from a fur seal, as hard as it is –

A little further and we found a colony, at Ohau Point. Oh, there was this little fur seal pup so bold and adorable we just fell in love. It wanted to get to us – and probably bite us, but anyway – so we had to go away before it came too close to the road.

fur seal pup in Kaikoura

Little fur seal pup at Ohau Point. The one I was talking about above – cute, fearless, and curious

Where to stay in Kaikoura with kids

So we came to Kaikoura. Oh so pretty! It must be something South Islandy, where the sea meets the mountains. How can one place be so beautiful everywhere?

It’s a small town, where all the shops are on one street, all clustered. Pretty little houses, the sea, and the mountains. I loved it.

While we were there, we stayed in this motel. It’s basic but clean and warm. We found the service to be amazing, everyone was nice, helpful and extremely friendly. The wifi worked PERFECTLY, and we were not expecting it to. It did lack an actual stove and bigger pots, though. Pasta and soup were not an option.

Find accommodation for you in Kaikoura here!

whalers Bay to Point Kean

Leaving Whalers Bay – it’s an easy walk, but full of hills and a few steps.

Family friendly places to eat in Kaikoura

Here’s a list of our favorite Kaikoura restaurants.

  • Coopers Catch: so good fish & chips…. We didn’t try anything else and we went there 4 times. High quality, loads of different fishes to try and seagulls trying to eat your food or poop on your head. We really loved it.
  • Why not Café: we had breakfast there once. It was expensive, but the food and the coffee were good. Waffles, try the waffles.
  • The Craypot: We didn’t eat there, but the tea…. oh man, probably the best tea I’ve had in ages! Super good service, warm, comfy and awesome kids area.
  • Poppy’s Handmade Ice creams: we all had the real fruit ice cream. Huge. Yum. Loved it!
Point Kean to Whalers Bay

The kids resting on the track to Whalers Bay – that’s the secret of hiking with kids: give them enough time to rest and enjoy


What to do in Kaikoura with children

We did the Whale Watch boat tour, which was really cool. We saw 3 sperm whales, dusky dolphins, fur seals, albatrosses and other birds. We missed the orcas and the Hector dolphins, though. You can read the whole review here. It’s definitely a great Kaikoura attraction, even though it’s pricey.

Other than that, we only did 2 walks:

  • Point Kean to Whalers Bay: it took us over an hour when it’s said to take 30 minutes. We wanted to do the whole track, but the kids weren’t in a good mood so we just gave up. It’s an easy walk, just uphill in the beginning. From up there you have a good view of the sea surrounding the peninsula and SO many fur seals!
  • Ohau Stream Walk: we didn’t expect much fun here because we’d seen so many fur seals… BUT you’re never bored enough to not have fun watching many fur seal pups playing, fighting, and swimming. Really. It’s a 10-minute return walk but we stayed there for an hour! So much cuteness! MUST DO! Coral didn’t want to leave at all until we lured her out with ice cream. Just know that the pups play there during winter months only.

One other thing we did was visit the aquarium. It’s super small, it smelled and it was sad. They had 2 carpet sharks in a super dirty little pool. I think we saw it all in 30 minutes. They have just changed management, hopefully, it will get better.

Kaikoura lookout

The view from Kaikoura Lookout and the stunning colors of the sky blending in with the sea and the snow-topped mountains…

The Kaikoura Lookout is just another pretty place. Who wants more of that? Just to see the bay, the town center, the mountains…. And it looks AMAZING during sunset. Just watch your step, because there was dog poop everywhere.

There were 2 things I found strange there: the beaches had pebbles and not sand. Not all of them, but most.

The second was the amount of seaweed. We could see them dancing on the waves, in the water, on the beaches, on the rocks, and everywhere. Coral HATED the beaches, she didn’t even get near them – unless there was a fur seal.

To finish it…

I loved Kaikoura. It’s a special place for those who love marine wildlife. We could have spent a lot more time there. They even have a cinema. I’m just not sure I’d want to swim there, though. Too rocky, and too many seaweed.

  • City / Country
  • Minimun Stay
  • $ ~ $$$
  • Child-friendlyness
  • Best local transport option
  • Safety
  • Do we recommend it?
  • Kaikoura / New Zealand
  • A coulpe of days
  • $$$
  • There isn’t much designed for kids, but my kids loved it!
  • Walk
  • Super safe
  • Yes!

So we made a video, the first one we’ve created. We hope you like it, but if you don’t, don’t forget to leave your feedback here at the bottom!

And follow us on Instagram! We’re there too!

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Kaikoura is known for its marine wildlife. It IS amazing. The most common mammal is the pretty fur seal. Who can resist a little fur seal pup? The fur seals found there are the kekeno or NZ fur seals. […]

  2. […] arrived, did the check-in and had our breakfast (muffins from the Whale Watch Kaikoura Café and they were good and cost NZ$ 3,50 each) while we waited for the safety video. The kids […]

  3. […] seal pups playing at the waterfall while mom takes a nap at the car park? Yep, you’ll see it in Kaikoura. They’re incredibly adorable and they’re not afraid of humans which is a great thing – […]

  4. […] went from warm Kaikoura to freezing cold Christchurch. The hardest thing we had to do was unload the car. Man, I was […]

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