If you are planning a visit to Kaikoura, or if you have already booked to visit us this summer and you have any concerns at all about what to expect following last year’s widely-reported earthquake, please have a read through these FAQs.
How is life in Kaikoura following the earthquake?
We’re doing fine, thank you! We have had tremendous help and support from all over New Zealand and people have been working very hard to help us get back on our feet as quickly as possible, Life in our community is pretty much back to normal. Our shops and businesses are open, people are going about their daily lives, and with summer here, we are welcoming visitors from all over the world in ever greater numbers.
How does the town look? I heard it was a bit of a mess!
No, it’s really fine. Some of our older buildings have been damaged, but most have not, and there is very little sign of any damage in the town. Our infrastructure is all functioning perfectly well and you’d hardly know we’d been through a big one! Some of our local roads have had temporary repairs carried out, so there are a few uneven patches where holes have been filled with gravel, but that’s about all there is to be concerned about.
Is it safe to visit?
We have earthquakes all the time in New Zealand! They are a feature of life. Fortunately, the big and powerful ones which make the news don’t come around too often. It’s highly unlikely there will be a repeat of last year’s shake. There might be the occasional rumble underground from time to time, but that’s normal and it’s the same anywhere in the country. Most of the time we don’t even notice them. So yes, it’s perfectly safe to visit. We wouldn’t encourage you to do so if it wasn’t.
I heard it’s difficult to reach Kaikoura? Is this true?
It was for a few weeks, but not any more! For drivers, State Highway 70 – what we call the “inland road” – is open to traffic 24/7. This is a beautiful scenic drive and the one to enjoy when coming to us from the West Coast, Nelson Lakes, Abel Tasman National Park, and Blenheim, via Nelson Lakes National Park. It takes longer than the old coastal road, but you’ll forget the time long before you forget the views.
State Highway 1 to the south of Kaikoura is also open, for a direct route to and from Christchurch. At the moment there are still some night time restrictions on this highway while repair works continue. So just allow a little longer for your journey and aim to arrive in Kaikoura before nightfall.
You don’t have to drive. InterCity is running a daily bus service from Christchurch to Kaikoura and return. The journey time is around 2 hours 40 minutes. You can book your ticket here.
State Highway 1 to the north of Kaikoura remains closed for this summer, whilst repairs are carried out. So please plan your alternative route to us and allow enough to time to drive safely, and to take in the South Island scenery as you travel.
What’s the situation with accommodation?
All but a few accommodation providers are open and operating perfectly normally. We have a wide range of campgrounds, holiday parks, motels, hotels, b&bs, lodges and homestays from which to choose.
If you are already booked in somewhere, it’s probably not a bad idea to drop them a line to confirm your reservation. If you are looking for somewhere to stay, we can help! Many properties have more rooms available than normal for the time of year, but not all of them are necessarily listed on internet booking sites, so contact us with your enquiry and we’d be happy to make the booking for you.
Are the restaurants and shops all open?
Mostly, yes. One or two have had to close temporarily, some shops have already relocated to new premises while the old one gets fixed up, and one or two buildings are going to make way for new ones. But it’s business as usual for most of our cafés, bars, restaurants and takeaways, and we’ve even got a new restaurant in town this summer. You will be made very welcome when you visit them.
OK, so what’s happening with Whale Watch?
Whale Watch Kaikoura is back out on the water! They are operating a reduced schedule while we carry out repair work in the marina, but subject to weather and sea conditions, Whale Watch is out every day, and guests are having a great time seeing the unique marine life which makes Kaikoura such a special place to visit.
Are the whale watching flights still operating?
Yes they are! We have two fixed wing aircraft operators and two helicopter flyers, who will take you over the ocean to see whales and dolphins, and also a fly-past of the new-look landscape a little further up the coast and in the mountains. They are all awesome experiences, and even more interesting now, with a new story to tell.
And the other marine attractions, are they open?
All our marine excursions are up and running. The ever-popular Dolphin Encounter and Albatross Encounter trips are operating a slightly reduced daily schedule, and are as memorable as ever. Seal Swim and Kayaking tours are running normally, and are as popular as ever. For the scientifically curious, we have some new natural attractions in South Bay! A kayak tour will let you see them up close!
How are the walking tracks? Did they get damaged?
Our most popular walking track for visitors is the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. Offering spectacular views in all directions and a large fur seal colony on the beach, the Peninsula track is open to everyone and easily accessible. No serious damage, no problem.
What else is there to do in Kaikoura?
We have a brand new museum, just opened! It’s the newest museum in New Zealand, and among the best. And we already have some new history to add to it! It’s well worth a visit, and a great way to spend an afternoon if the weather is not so good.
Other walking tracks around Mount Fyffe, the Puhi Puhi Valley and Ocean Ridge are all waiting to be explored. Snorkelling, diving, surfing, golf, llama trekking sheep shearing, farm tours and other visitor attractions are all open. We’ll help you with any activities you want more information on, or want to book.
Where can I get more information if I need it?
If you are on Facebook, you can look us up here. We regularly post news updates about what’s happening around town on the Kaikoura iSite page, and share information that comes our way.
If not, please get in touch with us by email or just give us a call on +64 (0)3 319 5641. If you are in town, you can pop in to see us. We are located in the town centre opposite the new civic centre building. You can’t miss it!