NZ 2012 – Day 12 – Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura to Christchurch

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Day 12
Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura to Christchurch

Hanmer Springs - Kaikoura - Christchurch

Point A (Starting point) = Hanmer Springs
Point B = Kaikoura
Point C = Christchurch


It was a really chilly day with the sky, all cloudy and gloomy. We hit the road as early as possible as we had booked a boat tour for whale watching at Kaikoura.

The journey took about 1.5 hours. It was raining by the time we reached Kaikoura and ultimately, the Whale Watch where we signed up for the whale watch tour. The Whale Watch office sits beautifully by Kaikoura coast and it also serves as one of the train stops for Coastal Pacific line, operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys.

The Kaikoura Peninsula extends into the sea south of the town, and the resulting upwelling currents bring an abundance of marine life from the depths of the nearby Hikurangi Trench. The town owes its origin to this effect, since it developed as a centre for the whaling industry. The name ‘Kaikoura’ translates to ‘meal of crayfish’ (‘kai’- food/meal, ‘koura’ – crayfish) and the crayfish industry still plays a role in the economy of the region. However Kaikoura has now become a popular tourist destination, mainly for whale watching (the Sperm Whale watching is perhaps the best and most developed in the world) and swimming with or near dolphins. There is also a large and readily observed colony of Southern Fur Seals at the eastern edge of the town. At low tide, better viewing of the seals can be had as the ocean gives way to a rocky base which is easily navigable by foot for quite some distance.

When we first arrived, we were taken aback by the meter high waves crashing violently to the shore. The sea looked really choppy and we were not sure if we should continued with the tour. While waiting up, we were constantly be informed of the sea condition and Whale Watch did a magnificent job by giving us appropriate warning about getting seasick due to the rough seas. One of our friends decided to sit back as he was quite prone to seasickness. Although we had paid for the tour before we came to NZ, they still gladly refunded us the full amount. As for my friend, he ended up wandering around Kaikoura town on its own while we were up in the high sea.

The three of us decided to continue with the tour and bought a pack of non-drowsy seasick pills for use later. We were given a short briefing and thereafter, we were chauffeured by bus to the jetty.

Whale Watch @ Kaikoura

It was drizzling by the time we took on the choppy sea and the crews wasted no time in telling us about the vomit bags which were placed all over the boat. LOL!

The minute after we sailed out, we were already bouncing like balls, so we quickly took some pills for prevention. (As later, we found out they weren’t pills but merely menthol candy.)

It didn’t take long before one of the crews introduced himself and gave us a educational lecture on whales and the types we were about to see, which made us pretty excited. Minutes later, the boat slowed down and the first whale was spotted. We managed to catch a glimpse of sperm whale feeding calmly. For us as first timers, the whale looked like a piece of floating wood. We were not able to see its head but as it dived, it showed us its enormous tail. That is the main selling point of whale watching.

Whale Watch @ Kaikoura
First dive!

The first dive wasn’t that spectacular as we were not at the right position to witness it. The boat captain then continued the search for the next whale and not to be disappointed, the second whale appeared but its dive also not that spectacular.

It took quite a while before the first whale was found feeding again. This time, we waited patiently. One good thing about the crews is that they will inform us when the whale is about to take its dive. Armed and ready, I positioned myself nicely and when it dived, I took as many photos as I could.

Whale Watch @ Kaikoura

Whale Watch @ Kaikoura

We were thrilled to be able to witness one of the largest sea mammals and the excitement didn’t just stop there. The crew took us to another spot where hundreds of dusky dolphins were having “fun” and we were excited to see them flipping around happily.

Here’s a video of the playful dusky dolphins with some flipping around at the end of the clip.

We safely made it back to the shore and not sure if the seasick pills did the trick or what, but we did not suffer much. 🙂

We were brought back to the station and after having some drinks and light food, we took the coastal road further north to hunt for Kaikoura’s famous delicacy, crayfish. Crayfish is actually lobster, and Kaikoura is apparently the best place to have one and there’s a particular shop which we researched earlier from the Internet that serves unbelievable delicious crayfish.

Nin’s Bin is located along State Highway 1, north of Kaikoura (before Half Moon Bay, S42 15.970 E173 48.308). You will not miss the sight of the cute little caravan on the right (if you are coming from Kaikoura).

Nin's Bin @ Kaikoura
Nin’s Bin!

We bought two crayfish steamed with butter and garlic and a pot of really “fresh” mussels. (They weren’t even properly cleaned!!) We licked the plates clean! What a joy! LOL!!

Nin's Bin @ Kaikoura
Fresh mussels~!

Nin's Bin Kaikoura

Nin's Bin @ Kaikoura
Finger licking good~!

Feeling completely satisfied, slowly we made our way back to Christchurch to spend our final night in NZ. We had the first KFC meal in NZ and later headed to the local supermarket to grab some food stuffs to be brought back to Malaysia.


View posts by chleong
A travel addict and food junkie. When he is not traveling, he loves penning his thoughts on his latest adventures, whether food, places or anything that fascinates him. His travelogues often include intriguing photos that capture the moments as he believes a photo speaks thousand words.


  1. […] to Franz Josef Day 10 – Franz Josef to Greymouth Day 11 – Greymouth to Hanmer Springs Day 12 – Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura to Christchurch Day 13 – Christchurch — […]

  2. […] whales. Joining the cast are the extra playful dusky dolphin dancing in the water. [Day 11 Story, Day 12 Story, Day 13 […]

  3. HanifahOct 16, 14

    hi there chleong… surely the experience of whale watching is a lifetime experience. do you recommend this whale watching to others ?

    1. chleongOct 16, 14

      Hi Hanifah, I find whale watching is simply fascinating, something that is hard to find, let alone witnessing it in front of your eyes. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who’s visiting Kaikoura. The sea can be rough, not for those who are prone to seasick but you can always buy ticket in advance (tours run out fast) and if the sea condition is not ideal for you, you can get the refund on the spot.


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