We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

Anywhere
Level Contributor
76 posts
2 reviews
Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

Hi guys

I'm in serious need of objective feedback here. So my husband and I are coming to NZ for the second time this mid-April. We've been wanting to do whale watching in Kaikoura. However, it will be a significant detour from our overall plan. Our itinerary so far is:

Day 1 (arrival in Christchurch at 9.30am): Christchurch

Day 2 (new moon): Lake Tekapo, Mt. John

Day 3: Wanaka

Day 4: Haast, Franz Josef

Day 5: Franz Josef, Hokitika

Day 6: Greymouth, Hanmer Springs

Day 7:Kaikoura (whale watching)

Day 8: Nelson (Abel Tasman)

Day 9: Marlborough

Day 10: Marlborough

Day 11: Picton

Day 12: Wellington

Day 13: Wellington (depart from Wellington at 7:15pm)

Does it still make sense to put Kaikoura in? Or am I being unrealistic? Kindly advise. And ideas about where to stay in Kaikoura would also be much appreciated! :)

16 replies to this topic
Napier, New Zealand
Level Contributor
971 posts
306 reviews
1. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

Kaikoura isn’t a detour at all the way you have planned it and I am sure the whale watching is fantastic although I haven’t personally been on one of these tours. I recently stayed in Kaikoura though (pre-quake) and found the township pretty ho-hum. The surrounding scenery and Coastline is stunning but I just didn’t think much of the town itself. My point is....just stay one night here if possible as per your plan above. As for your route I am going to suggest things in a slightly different order (to make travel more efficient and logical) and also change the number of nights in some places. Some places you have too much time (and Malborough and Picton are really the same in that Picton is a town in the Malborough region) and ither places you have too little time.

Day 1) arrive Chch

Day 2) drive to Tekapo (Mt John and consider day trip/ detour to Mt Cook)

Day 3) drive to Wanaka (stay 2 nights here as it is beautiful and even more so in April with autumn colours emerging).

Day 5) drive to glaciers and stay 2 nights (I suggest 2 nights here for 2 reasons....a) it is a long drive from Wanaka the previous day and b) there is plenty to see and do at the Glaciers)

Day 7) Drive to Punakaiki (you can’t miss the Pancake Rocks). Stay the night.

Day 8) drive to Hanmer Springs

Day 9) drive to Kaikoura

Day 10) drive to Picton/Malborough

Day 12) go to Wellington.

Hmmm ...I have missed out Nelson sorry as the further theough my post I got the more I realised that getting to all the places was a bit awkward without a lot of zig-zagging and back-tracking. Is Nelson a priority for you?

Napier, New Zealand
Level Contributor
971 posts
306 reviews
2. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

Also, I see you have Abel Tasman in brackets which I assume is the attraction for you in the Nelson region? This is another hours drive away when coming from Kaikoura. Do-able but once there I would then stay 2 nights (ie nights 10&11) which leaves you driving to Picton for the ferry on day 12 and missing out on nights in Picton/Malborough. If you did do it this way you’d need to book one of the later ferries as the drive from the Abel Tasman region to Picton will take 3.5-4h. I see what you’re saying about Kaikoura being a detour as it would be easier to make this trip a nice easy loop and just drive from Punakaiki to Nelson/AT on day 8 but then you’d miss Hanmer and Kaikoura which would be a shame. And who said we had to do our travels in nice, easy loops....a detour/deviation is just sometimes unavoidable and well worth it!

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
39,715 posts
443 reviews
3. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

What are your plans for the 3 N in Marlborough?

You could modify like this:

6. Hokitika to Nelson (2N)

7. ATNP

8. Nelson to Kaikoura; PM seals (1-2N)

9. AM whale-watch; PM Kaikoura to Blenheim/Renwick (1-2N);

10. Wine tour

11. Drive to Picton; cruise QCS; stay Picton

12. AM ferry to WLG.

New York
Level Contributor
58 posts
24 reviews
4. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

We had a similar conundrum in wanting to see both Kaikoura and Abel Tasman, but with our limited time and not wanting to backtrack and zig-zag too much, Kaikoura won out. It was 100% worth it. We did the dolphin swim at Kaikoura and it was absolutely amazing. The town itself is small and I think you only need one night, but the surrounding scenery is spectacular with the mountains overlooking the sea. We stayed at the Kaikoura Cottage Motel and ate at the Green Dolphin, and both were excellent.

I can't speak to Marlborough and Picton, but Blenheim has great wineries if that's what you're looking for, and you could stop there on the way from Kaikoura. Perhaps Kaikoura-->Blenheim-->Abel Tasman-->Picton?

Anywhere
Level Contributor
76 posts
2 reviews
5. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

Thanks Kristabel2016, zhuhai2007 and megaboom2005!

Your inputs are really helpful and I'm trying to combine all of them into one :) I finally have another idea to avoid zig-zagging: fly from CHC to WLG rather than taking a ferry! :D

But when I tried to calculate distance and time from Marlborough to Kaikoura, I realized there is a road closure on SH 1 Mangamaunu to Clarence. What I don't understand is, on the NZTA website, they say:

"This road will be open daily from 7am to 8:30pm. There are multiple roadwork sites through this section of road with speed restrictions in place. Road users are advised to expect delays and to plan ahead for their journeys. Please note the road may close at short notice due to weather conditions.

Scheduled time:

Start: 14 Nov 2016 02:21

End: 30 Jun 2018 00:00

Detour route: During scheduled road closures, southbound traffic from Blenheim should use SH63, SH6, SH65, SH7 and back onto SH1 at Waipara. Reverse for northbound."

So is the road open from 7AM-8:30PM everyday and closed at 8:31PM-6:59AM? Or is it closed all the time and I really need to take SH63 to go to Kaikoura?

There is also road closure from Goose Bay to Peketa on the way to Christchurch with similar information.

Hope to get some insights from you guys!

Edited: 07 February 2018, 20:17
Anywhere
Level Contributor
76 posts
2 reviews
6. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

Oh and also, how is Kaikoura recovering from the quake so far? Are there still a lot of to see or is it more like Christchurch?

Te Anau, New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island, Te Anau
Level Contributor
4,538 posts
49 reviews
7. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

That seems fairy clear.

The road is open during the day, but closed at night.

They are still working on restoring the road, and there could be delays, so factor this into your schedule.

There is always the possibility that heavy rain, or another earthquake could bring down more slips, closing the road. The likelihood is quite low, but it has happened a couple of times in the past year, so you should be aware of it.

Kaikoura didn't suffer the catastrophic building collapses like Christchurch, so the damage in town is not so obvious.

The whole area was raised a meter or so, and this is very aparent if you knew what it was like before the quake, but hard to comprehend for someone seeing it for the first time.

I was gob smacked.

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for South Island
Level Contributor
9,555 posts
220 reviews
8. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

All of which adds reasons to visit Kaikoura. I'm really quite looking forward to seeing what they have done to the road.

So there are a few changes Barry? No one has really painted a picture on TA as to what it is like now.

Christchurch, New...
Destination Expert
for Zhuhai, Christchurch, South Island
Level Contributor
39,715 posts
443 reviews
9. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

As Barry said, unless you clearly remember what the coastline looked like before, you won't notice the differences. I didn't, but I was gob-smacked by the damage at Ohau Poiint. I still don't see how on earth they can make this road 2 lanes. Given average luck with the stop-go lights it seems that each sector (N & S of Kaikoura) requires only about 15 min more than before.

We don't know where the OP is located (stupid answer on their profile) but I assume that due to time differences they are trying to calculate driving times when it is night time here, thus the road is closed. The description on the NZTA website is accurate.

Te Anau, New Zealand
Destination Expert
for South Island, Te Anau
Level Contributor
4,538 posts
49 reviews
10. Re: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?

The main difference for me was the rocks and reefs in the bay The ones which were there previously are far more prominent, and there are new ones. (I guess not really new, they were previously under the water)

The smell of newly exposed sea floor was quite noticeable in places also. Not as bad as the liquefaction around Christchurch , but similar.

I wasn't able to get South if Kaikoura at the time, but I believe the sea floor uplift is even more evident there.

We had to come in via the back road, and the land deformation and hillside collapse is amazing.

For anyone with even a passing interest in extreme natural events this an absolute must see. IMO it's far more exciting than looking at a few whales.

I intend going back in April to spend a couple of weeks between Christchurch and Picton just looking around. It's a once in a lifetime experience, and in a few years it will be "normal" again, and no one will notice it.

Reply to: Kaikoura: worth the long detour?
Get notified by e-mail when a reply is posted