NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group


forms on the north Canterbury coast — an enthusiastic nod from a road worker, a generous pour at a winery, a fleeting glimpse of a dolphin fin. The warm-hearted spirit of the region, shaken by an earthquake in 2016, is both tangible and undeniable. The drive from Amberley to Kaikōura lays claim to the holy trinity of scenic views: an abundant valley, sky-high mountains and wild surf. As if that weren't enough, further beauty is found below sea level, with whales and dolphins aplenty. Kaikōura, a small-yet-bustling seaside town, sits as close as 500m to a nutrient-rich submarine canyon. Sperm whales, dusky dolphins, seals, and seabirds thrive along the coast year-round and, in turn, have fueled the local economy for generations. Even the town's name nods to its wildlife. Kaikōura translates as “to eat crayfish”, after the abundant crustacean the legendary Tama ki te Rangi consumed on his journey around the South Island. Adventurers have migrated to the resource-rich land for hundreds of years. It began with the moa hunters, when Waitaha iwi arrived in Kaikōura drawn by its sheltered bays and abundant fauna, followed by waves of tribes settling in along the coast and nearby river. In the 1850s, the arrival of a whaling settlement on Kaikōura Peninsula saw the southern right whale nearly hunted to extinction. In the 1980s, the local Māori hapu again saw an opportunity to rebuild the economy on the backs of whales. Commercial whale-watching tours put the isolated town on the map and over the years has inspired a host of eco-marine activities. These days Kaikōura is home to 3500 residents, many of whom are tied to the tourism industry. During the summer months, the highway is packed with holidayers seeking coastal charm and world-class activities. And the locals? They have their wetsuits on, bottles of riesling chilled, eager as ever to share their land and stories.