The small coastal town of Kaikoura New Zealand has become a popular destination for its epic landscape and marine life. One of the best things to see it is stroll along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway! Here you’ll see the Kaikoura seal colony and long beaches from above as you walk along the tall cliffs of the South Island. Join us for a day of adventure on this stunning Kaikoura walk.
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Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway
This awesome trail takes you from the town center of Kaikoura New Zealand on a loop around the cliffs. Here you will get the chance to not only see the Kaikoura seal colony, but whales, dolphins, penguins, and many species of birds while overlooking the ocean.
The best part about this Kaikoura walk is that it’s fun for all ages. Along the way there are many detailed maps, and posted boards with the history of the area as well.
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Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway Info
In total, the 11.5 km journey should take you 3 to 4 hours depending on how many breaks and detours you take. We left town around 10am which gave us the perfect opportunity to eat our packed lunch at one of the viewpoints.
Even though it’s an easy hike by New Zealand standards, there are plenty of steeper cut downs to and from the Kaikoura beaches. The timestamps below are about how long it should take you to get to each point of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway with minimal stops.
- Kaikoura Town – Start
- Point Kern Viewpoint – 1 Hour
- Kiakorua Seal Colony – 1.5 Hours
- South Bay Viewpoint – 2 Hours
- Kiakoura Lookout – 2.5 Hours
- Kaikoura Town – 3 Hours
Kaikoura Walk Tip: Don’t feel up for the entire loop? You can drive to the Point Kern Viewpoint for a 45 minute walk to the Kaikoura Seal Colony before returning to the carpark.
Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway Start
From town, head out along the beach and take in the views Kaikoura mountain ranges in the distance. The first hour of the walk will have the ocean to one side, and the road to your other. However, as you get further towards the end of the peninsula there is a nice planked walkway to enjoy.
Kaikoura Seafood BBQ
Kaikoura actually means “Eat Crayfish” in the Maori language so you can guess what the must try meal is here! As you walk along the water from town you’ll see this small food stand on the side of the road.
Kaikoura Seafood BBQ is very popular, so in peak summer season it’s common to see a line forming around lunch time. In addition to Crayfish you can order whitebait fish, scallops, and so much more at this BBQ lunch stop.
We recommend trying the seafood platter if you’re with a group for 53 NZD to get a taste of all the best food in Kaikoura. Also, check out our article for more amazing things to eat in New Zealand.
→ Best New Zealand Food & Drinks: 27 Delicious Things to Try
Kaikoura Point Kean Viewpoint
Where the road ends you’ll find yourself at a small carpark. On the rocks stretching beyond the road is the Point Kean Viewpoint. Take some time to soak in the views and explore the rocks to search for seals.
After that, you can hike the ramp up to get a birds eye view of the entire area. This is also where the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway turns into a small clifftop walk above the seal colony.
Kaikoura Seal Colony
A little over half an hour into your walk from Point Kean Viewpoint and carpark you’ll see a set of stairs going down the cliff. Head down the steps to get a closer look at the Kaikoura seal colony. If you catch it on a good day, hundreds of these playful mammals will be laying on the rocks and jumping in and out of the ocean!
Even if you’re not up for the entire Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, seeing the seals is still one of the best activities in town. We loved how you can walk the clifftops to the seal colony then head back to the carpark along the rocky beach.
Kaikoura Walk Tip: They look very friendly, but it’s still important not to get too close to the seals! Keep a safe distance and try not to disturb them in their natural habitat.
Penguins and More Ocean Life in Kaikoura
Another huge draw for tourists to Kaikoura New Zealand is the little blue penguins. They can typically be seen coming ashore from the Kaikoura beaches to nest their eggs in May and June every year.
Unfortunately, on our visit at the beginning of June they had already left. Hopefully we will see them when we return someday! Don’t worry, even if you don’t see these cute penguins on your visit there’s tons of other marine life to be on the lookout for.
Sperm whales and dusky dolphins also call Kaikoura New Zealand home, and there are plenty of ways to get out and see them. One of the best things to do in Kaikoura is to actually take a kayak or whale watching tour from town.
Kaikoura New Zealand History: The whaling industry here began in 1843 after the arrival of Europeans in New Zealand. Kaikoura would go on to become the biggest whaling port in the entire country.
Hike to the Kaikoura Lookout
After coming down off the clifftop walk you’ll find yourself in South Bay. If you’re committed to the full loop it’s time to make the easy climb up to the Kaikoura Lookout! This section of the trail is a mix of walking paths and roads.
You can either hike Dempsey’s Track up from the water if you are doing the full loop from town, or make the quick drive with a vehicle. Either way, make sure not to skip this incredible view of Kaikoura.
From here you can see the entire peninsula, Kaikoura beaches, and snow capped mountains in the distance. Once you’re taking in the views it’s all downhill back to town.
More Things to do in Kaikoura New Zealand
Our hike on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway was easily the best day we spent in town. We’d also recommend doing a whale watching or kayaking tour from the Kaikoura beaches, and checking out the lavender fields if you have time. With so many things to do in Kaikoura it’d be wise to plan an extra day if you can!
→ South Island New Zealand Itinerary: 4 Amazing One Week Routes
Where To Stay in Kaikoura New Zealand
Ultra Luxury – The White Morph – Heritage Collection – Set right across the ocean and walking distance to town, this luxury hotel has everything you need to enjoy a stay in Kaikoura. Take in the views of the mountains from your private balcony, and relax before and after your outdoor adventures.
Fun Vacation – Kakatu Retreat – Located just outside of town, the Kakatu Retreat is a home away from home in Kaikoura. There is a shared kitchen if you’d like to cook your own meals, and it’s just a 5 minute walk to some of the best Kaikoura beaches.
Hostel Life – Dusky Lodge – This budget friendly lodge is great for solo travelers as well as families. It has a large property with swimming pool, hot tub, and two kitchens, as well as dorms and family rooms. Also, it is just a quick walk from the center of town.
For more places to stay in Kaikoura New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!
Have any questions on this article or want to share your favorite part of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway? Leave us a comment at the bottom of this post!
Brigitte & Jake
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New Zealand Travel Planning
Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.
Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll still need a vehicle to get around. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to go anywere.
Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150!
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise!
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South Island New Zealand
Travel Tips & Guides: North Island Itinerary – 25 Beautiful Beaches – Wellington to Picton Ferry – 15 Freedom Camping Tips – 7 Milford Sound Tips
Queenstown: Ben Lomond Track – Fergburger (Is it Worth It?) – Tiki Trail Hike – Fun Wine Tour – Queenstown Hill Hike – 18 Fun Queenstown Things to Do – Queenstown Restaurants – Arrowtown NZ
North Coast: Abel Tasman Day Hike – Wharariki Beach & Archway Islands – 6 Picton Things to Do
East Coast: Banks Peninsula – French Town of Akaroa – Tunnel Beach Dunedin – Hanmer Springs
Mt. Cook & Tekapo: 10 Mount Cook Tips – Hooker Valley Track – 5 Can’t Miss Lake Tekapo
→ Explore all our North Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides
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