The Road to Kaikoura – Exploring, Fishing, and Whale Watching in the Town Named “Crayfish”

Driving to Kaikoura was part of the fun as this region is full of sweeping ocean look outs, empty stretches of beach, and a highway that follows the coast. We began our journey hiding out from the weather again in a beautiful farm Airbnb tucked away from everything, 6km down a dirt road in the small town of Hurunui.

Complete with an outdoor bathtub that overlooks a frog filled pond, cotton candy colored skies, and the northern most tip of the Southern alps on the horizon line, this was our oasis from the storm. The weather was erratic, going from hailing, to snowing, to blistering hot all within an hour of each other. We woke up to snow on the mountains one morning and ended the day with sunset margaritas in the bath.

After resetting our batteries for 3 days, we repacked the car and headed north to make our way to Kaikoura, stopping first at The Cathedrals Outlook, a couple beaches along the way to play with crabs and spy on seals. After setting up camp with a mountain view we made a stop at the Kaikoura bakery to treat ourselves after a day in the car.

We arrived in Kaikoura with 4 objectives: The 2 escape rooms in town, a fishing charter, whale flight, and eating a Crayfish – the namesake of the town. We promptly completed the escape rooms at the Emporium, bringing our total to 29, and enjoyed a couple of the beers they brew on site!

Kaikoura has an incredible sandy east facing beach, so I made sure to fit in one of my favorite things one morning which is journaling and coffee on the beach at sunrise. We biked to and explored the not-yet-in-bloom lavender fields, ate lavender ice cream, and looked forward to our fishing charter. Our fishing charter was cancelled due to high winds – big surprise this time of year – but the following day was perfect weather.


We attempted to kill two birds with one stone and bike past the seal colony on the way to the fishing charter. We saw there was a walking path that followed the waterfront around the peninsula and decided we would bike it. WELLLL… there is a reason it is only labeled as a walking path, but we committed and carried our bikes over lava rock, hopping over tide pools, fallen rocks, under cliffs, and up a large hill on the established hiking stairs. We received a lot of side glances, a few “that’s brave” comments, and children pointing at the two solo crazies biking their way around the peninsula and even earned a view once we finally reached the biking trail at the time.

Eventually we made it to the Rodfather boat panting and apologizing for being late. Steve was an absolutely fantastic guide and took us to his favorite spots. We caught 4 blue cod, a bunch of perch, and a single Crayfish was of size and without egg. Not to toot my horns – just kidding, totally humble bragging here – I caught the biggest fish and the most fish. 😀 This is becoming a pattern when we fish and my favorite part is how much is playfully annoys Oli. There isn’t a lot I beat him at, but consistently fishing is one of those things.

Fresh coconut crusted fish tacos was on the menu for the evening and we had WAY more fish than we knew what to do with. Not the best thing to have a surplus of whilst living out of a vehicle, but we managed to use everything, except the Crayfish. We didn’t have a pot large enough to cook him, so we froze him and accidentally forgot about him. We still haven’t had Crayfish and I’m writing this a month after visiting Kaikoura.


Another item on our NZ bucketlist was a whale watching flight tour. A couple days after our fishing tour, the weather was good enough to take our flight. We went with Air Kaikoura and they were absolutely fabulous. We started with an explanation of the type of whales in the area and why Kaikoura is the ideal place for whales and that is because of the Kaikoura underwater Canyon that stretches for over 60 kilometres and reaches depths of up to 1200+ metres. The canyon is part of the Kermadec Trench system which extends far out into the Pacific Ocean.

A couple at our campsite had their tour cancelled the day before ours because there were no whales in the area – but as luck has been our companion in New Zealand – our flight was a go. A young humpback whale was spotted just north of our airstrip. We hopped in our 4 person puddle jumper and took off for where the whale was spotted. All the companies in the area collaborate on the radios with one another – which I think is awesome – so we had a beacon in the water to know where to look.

After many circles around the boat below – we finally spotted the whale. It kept diving deep to eat but eventually started leaping, playing, and slapping the water to stun its meal. It was an amazing thing to see, but next time I think we will skip the flight sickness and opt for a boat. I managed to snap a couple photos of the whale and then we took a scenic tour of the coast to calm our uneasy stomachs. It was a quick 45-minutes but one I will remember for a long time.