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Minor urban area
Town of Kaikoura as seen from the peninsula
Town of Kaikoura as seen from the peninsula
Kaikoura is located in New Zealand
Country New Zealand
Region Canterbury
Territorial authority Kaikoura District
 • Urban 6.78 km2 (2.62 sq mi)
 • District 2,046.77 km2 (790.26 sq mi)
Population (June 2015 estimate)[1]
 • Urban 2,040
 • Urban density 300/km2 (780/sq mi)
 • District 3,650
 • District density 1.8/km2 (4.6/sq mi)
Postcode 7300

Kaikoura (Māori: Te Ahi Kaikōura a Tama ki te Rangi) is a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located on State Highway 1, 180 km north of Christchurch.

Kaikoura became the first local authority in the Southern Hemisphere to achieve recognition by the EarthCheck Community Standard.[2]

At the time of the 2013 census, the permanent resident population was 1,971, a 9.3% decrease since the 2006 census.[3] The town is the governmental seat of the territorial authority of the Kaikoura District, which is politically a part of the Canterbury Region.[4] The District has a land area of 2,046.41 km² (790.12 sq mi) and a 2013 census population of 3,552 inhabitants.


  • Geography 1
  • Climate 2
  • Transport 3
    • Rail 3.1
  • Media 4
    • Television 4.1
    • Newspapers 4.2
    • Radio 4.3
  • Entertainment 5
  • Local Government 6
  • Gallery 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


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 means 'meal of crayfish' (kai - food/meal, kōura - 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.

It is also one of the best reasonably accessible places in the world to see open ocean seabirds such as albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, including the Hutton's shearwater which nests high in Kaikoura's mountains. A strategic plan for the future of the Kaikoura coast is being developed by Te Korowai o te Tai o Marokura, the Kaikoura Coastal Guardians.[5][6]

The town has a beautiful setting, as the Seaward Kaikoura mountains, a branch of the Southern Alps, come nearly to the sea at this point on the coast. Because of this, there are many walking tracks up and through the mountains. A common one for tourists is the Mt. Fyffe track, which winds up Mt. Fyffe, and gives a panoramic view of the Kaikoura peninsula from the summit.

Mt. Fyffe owes its name to the first family to settle in Kaikoura, the Fyffe family. The cottage that they lived in, built in 1842, still stands, and is now a tourist attraction operated by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. The construction of the cottage is unusual in that the supporting foundations of the house are made of whalebone.[7]


Climate data for Kaikoura
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 20.6
Average low °C (°F) 12.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 47
Source: NIWA Climate Data[8]


a Dusky Dolphin leaping off Kaikoura's beaches

The town is on State Highway 1 and the northern section of the South Island Main Trunk Railway. Kaikoura also has a small, sealed airstrip located 6 km to the south of the main centre. The Kaikoura Aerodrome is mainly used for whale spotting tourist flights by Wings over Whales and Air Kaikoura - Kaikoura Aero Club, it can also be used by small private and charter flights. It previously had return flights to Wellington by Sounds Air.


Kaikoura is served by the Main North Line, the northern section of the South Island Main Trunk Railway. Due to the hilly terrain north and south of the township, the railway only opened to the town on 15 December 1945, seventy years after a line to the town was originally planned.

Kaikoura is served by the TranzCoastal long-distance passenger train, which connects the town with Christchurch to the south, and Picton and the Cook Strait ferries to the north. Kaikoura Station was the last station in New Zealand to have a refreshment room for passengers, which closed in 1988 when the Coastal Pacific Express (former name for the TranzCoastal) introduced on-board refreshments.

Freight trains also pass through the town, mainly carrying freight between the marshalling yards at Middleton in Christchurch and the Interislander rail ferries at Picton.



Free-to-air digital satellite television is available through the Freeview platform which provides all TVNZ, MediaWorks, Māori Television and selected regional stations. Throughout New Zealand, pay-TV operator Sky TV provides digital satellite television with many channels available including most of the free to air channels. Prime Television is available on Freeview in Kaikoura.


The main newspapers for Kaikoura are the Wednesday weekly Kaikoura Star and Mon-Fri late morning daily The Marlborough Express. The early morning Monday-Saturday Christchurch based daily The Press is also available. These papers are all owned by Fairfax New Zealand


Kaikoura has three locally transmitted radio stations on FM. These are More FM Marlborough (formerly Sounds FM) broadcast from Blenheim during the day and Auckland at night, Blue FM which is a locally broadcast Kaikoura station, and Tahu FM broadcast from Christchurch. Non local transmissions of the following stations can be received: The Breeze (Wellington AM/FM), Radio New Zealand National (Wellington AM/FM), ZM (Wellington and Christchurch FM), Radio Hauraki (Christchurch).


Movies are shown at the Mayfair cinema (opened 1935), located on the Esplanade, and historically known for its carbon arc movie projector. In November 2013 the cinema went digital.

Local Government

During the period, 1853 to 1876, Kaikoura was administrated as part of the Nelson Province. In 1876 the Kaikoura County was formed. The current district mayor is Winston Gray, who was elected to the position after the retirement of incumbent Kevin Heays in the 2010 local body elections.



  1. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2015 (provisional)".  
  2. ^ "Green Globe". Kaikoura District Council. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  3. ^ 2013 Census QuickStats about a place: Kaikoura Township, Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Kaikōura Coastal Marine Values and Uses A Characterisation Report. Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura (Kaikoura Coastal Marine Guardians). Second edition May 2008.
  6. ^ "Team Korowai - Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura - Kaikoura Coastal Guardians". Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  7. ^ "Fyffe House at the New Zealand Historic Places Trust". Archived from the original on 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  8. ^ "Climate Data". NIWA. May 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2007. 

External links

  • Official District Council website
  • Official tourism and information site

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