Coming down the East coast Kaikoura is a must see place, famous for its abundant marine life. Whales, dolphins, seals, albatross you name it.
If you wonder why the whales are in Kaikoura and not somewhere else, the reason is simple: Deep water. Just 1km offshore the sea floor drops below 1000m depth. This is due the geological position between two crusts which has also pushed up the Kaikoura ranges (up to 2600 metres high just 12km from the sea).
Therefore the drive along the coast to Kaikoura and onwards is one of the most scenic drives you can find in NZ. The sea on your left the whole time and now and then mountains rising up to your right:
Before you even reach Kaikoura you can see your first seals at the Ohau stream and waterfall. The best thing: These are cute little pubs playing in the stream and waterfall. Unfortunately the easy 5 minute walk from the highway also means tourist crowds.
It doesn't really get much better than that even though the seal colony in Kaikoura has pubs as well:
But everybody comes to see the whales and the only question is: boat or plane? It turns out if you get a good deal a scenic 40 minutes flight might even be cheaper than the 3 hour boat trip and - well - even if we were unlucky and didn't see any whales the flight alone would have been really cool:
But of course there where two sperm whales coming up to breath shortly after each other and we were circling over them for more than 10 minutes.