Kaikoura is a lovely little town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Many people visit the area for its abundance of marine life and opportunities to see whales, dolphins, seals and more.
It is also a beautiful area, where huge snow-capped mountains plunge almost directly into the ocean, and the grey pebble beaches hide shining paua shells.
The peninsula, just south of the town of Kaikoura, offers spectacular views back over the town and the mountains beyond.
I passed through the town very quickly on my first visit as I had a whale watching boat trip booked but had to move on afterwards.
On my second visit, I decided to check out the Kaikoura Peninsula Walk and I’m so glad I did!
There are a couple of options for the route: a cliff-top track and a sea-level track.
I opted to take the cliff-top on the way out and return at sea level to get the best of both worlds.
The tracks run between South Bay car park and Point Kean car park, so you can start at either end. I started at South Bay.
1 hr one way / 2 hr return
South Bay car park to Whalers Bay viewpoint
The track starts at the car park and there are some information boards to read before you head off.
There are also some toilets and drinking water taps.
The start of the track is on a boardwalk slightly above the rocky bay, which then turns into a paved walkway, climbing quite steeply up to the South Bay viewpoint.
Take a moment to catch your breath at the lookout and soak in the view.
The path then continues over beautiful grassy hills, but once the initial climb is out of the way, the going is much easier.
I recommend that you take any little paths that you see leading off to the right from the main trail, as they take you to some lovely lookout spots.
Soon, you will find yourself at Whalers Bay viewpoint, where some information boards tell you about the history of whaling in the area.
This is the point where you can decide whether to continue along the cliff top to Point Kean, or descend down to sea level.
Whalers Bay to Point Kean
If you continue along the higher route, you’ll soon see a fenced-off area above you on the hill.
This is a sanctuary for the Hutton’s shearwater colony and the fence is designed to keep out predators that threaten these ground-nesting birds.
More information boards are provided here, as well as a sculpture of the bird, where you can offer a donation to the sanctuary if you wish.
Once you’ve passed the sanctuary, you’ll start seeing the mountains again on your left.
On your right, down on the rocks, you’ll see a large red-billed gull colony and probably a few seals.
You’re now not far from the final viewpoint! But remember, there’s still the return journey to go.
Point Kean viewpoint has more information boards for you to peruse before you follow the trail down to the car park.
Depending on the tide, you should be able to walk quite far out onto the flat rock beds. But be careful, as there is a seal colony here too.
They may look lazy and slow, but the seals can move surprisingly fast, so always stay at least 10 metres away.
The return journey
When you’re ready to head back, you should decide which route you’d rather take: back the same way along the cliff-top or along the sea shore.
The lower route only goes back as far as Whalers Bay before climbing back up to the cliff path.
If you’re taking the sea-level route, be aware that there is not a clear path.
The track is quite rocky and pebbly but it’s still easy to find your way.
You’ll get a closer look at some seals and the huge gull colony and, depending on the time of year, some lupin flowers.
Once you reach the small hill that juts out towards the sea at Whalers Bay, the track climbs steeply up again.
When you reach the viewpoint you’ll recognise where you are and you can follow the same track back to South Bay car park.
The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a really nice activity to help you learn more about the area and take in its beauty.
The walk itself is not too long or too strenuous and is a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.
Take some binoculars with you for a chance to see dolphins, whales or even an albatross!
Have you visited Kaikoura yet? Are you planning to do this walk? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- Whispering Falls: Nelson’s stunning day hike
- Aoraki/Mount Cook: Hooker Valley Track
- Rocky Mountain: Wanaka’s short but rewarding hike
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