Kaikōura area and history

Kaikōura - "Where the mountains meet the sea"

Come and explore the beauty of the Kaikoura peninsula where the vast Kaikoura seaward ranges meander down and merge with the rawness and diversity of the coastline.

A once small and sleepy, fishing and farming village by the sea, Kaikoura is now an energetic and thriving “must stop” destination located on the east coast of the South Island.

Whether its rich Maori history or a cultural experience through the ages, an adventure out on the water or views that span for miles, Kaikoura is now a leading eco-tourism destination with an activity that suits all.

World renowned as being a mecca for Marine wildlife with the 1800m deep Kaikoura canyon skirting its coastline, playing host to a huge variety of ocean life and also taking on the title of being the Seabird capital of the world. If getting up close and personal with animals in their natural environment sounds like you, then make sure to put Kaikoura as a stop on your New Zealand itinerary today.

Prepared to be transformed as you relax into the small-town charm but be wowed into submission by awe-inspiring views and a connection between land and sea like no other. Come and Experience Kaikoura today.

Local Maori History

Kaikoura has a rich Maori history, occupation dating back over 800 years. The earliest name given to the area is Te Taumanu o te Waka a Maui, which is derived from famous Maori mythology where the infamous character Maui used the peninsula to brace his foot from his waka (te Waipounamu - South Island) in order to fish up the North Island of NZ (te Ika a Maui).

The modern name Kaikoura comes from the Maori chief Tama ki Te Rangi, who stumbled across an abundance of crayfish in Kaikoura on a mission to look for his three runaway wives. After a feast over a bonfire, the name “Te ahi Kaikoura a Tama Ki te Rangi” arose.

The earliest known inhabitants of the peninsula were the Waitaha tribe, who were later joined by the Kati Mamoe people. The ever-rich and diverse Moana (ocean) around Kaikoura provided for these early occupiers alongside a peninsula full of moa. Some of the biggest and best-preserved remains of moa eggs were found on the peninsula. Approximately 350 years ago, Ngati Kuri, a sub tribe of Ngai Tahu,  arrived. After several small battles, Waitaha and Kati Mamoe gave up their rights to the land in one of the only peaceful takeovers in New Zealand Maori history. 

All three tribes' cultures are still celebrated to this day with the Takahanga Marae on the top of the peninsula occupied by Ngai Tahu.

Things to do in Kaikōura

Food & Drink
Bespoke, Wild and local sandwiches and craft beer
Food & Drink
On the doorstep of the Seal Kayak Kaikoura offices we are blessed to have delicious coffee and some of the best gelato and sorbet in the country being served out of our stylish and unique container setup.
Food & Drink
If it’s the towns namesake that your after Kai (food or a meal) Koura (Crayfish), then the Kaikoura seafood BBQ is a must do on the itenary.

Explore Kaikōura's Wildlife

Discover the wonders of Kaikōura's wildlife! Dive into the depths of the ocean or explore the rugged coastline. Encounter New Zealands fur seals, Blue Penguins, and Albatross in their natural habitat. Begin your wildlife adventure now and experience Kaikōura like never before!

Take a look at some of our guest reviews

Award-winning tours on award-winning kayaks

Winter Special! Book now and save $20 pp - use code SEAL20

Our Kayak Tours

New Zealand's first and only kayak tour of its kind. Easier, faster, hands-free, pedal or paddle Kaikōura kayaks — perfect for photos or those cheeky selfies