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    Kaikoura On A Budget
    - Dorothy - 18/12/97

    A place with plenty of activities for the budget conscious

    Whenever Kaikoura is mentioned most people who know of that beautiful little town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand immediately think of whales. That is truly appropriate, as the first Europeans to settle in Kaikoura were whalers, as early as 1843 when Robert Fyffe established the first whaling station. Now the worldwide interest in seeing the whales has meant that whale watching has brought many visitors to the town - visitors who not only watch the whales, but enjoy the other attractions this town has to offer.

    At first of course access to Kaikoura was only by sea. Then came road access and when the railway was built from Christchurch to south of the Hundalee Hills and north from the Clarence River to Picton passengers travelled the difficult section over the hills and along the rugged coast by service car. In 1945 the last section of the railway was opened and finally connected Christchurch and Picton. Now travellers can arrive by train, car, bus or plane.

    Whether you come from north or south, by road or by rail, or by air to the recently improved airfield, you enjoy a feast of coastal scenery which helps you to relax, ready for holiday making.

    Accommodation and meals
    There has been rapid growth in places to stay and the range is there to suit all budgets - from camping grounds and backpackers hostels to hotels and modern motels. There are supermarkets to buy food, takeaways, cafes and licensed restaurants.

    What can visitors do in this beautiful town and district?
    There is a wide range of activities for young and old, for adventure seekers and those who simply want to relax and enjoy the beauty of the sea and the mountains.

    For families
    Family activities with no charge include swimming at Gooch's Beach near the town or at Armers Beach a little further along the same road. Both have dressing sheds. There is more shade at Gooch's Beach and also a children's playground. Another children's playground is at South Bay.


    Around the town
    There are pleasant short walks around the town itself and up on to the Peninsula to see further north and south.

    On the Peninsula
    The Peninsula Walkway

    The bonus on this walk is the chance to view New Zealand fur seals and sea birds.

    Seals - Kaikoura Peninsula
    Seals bask on the rocks at Kaikoura Peninsula
    source - Joe Levy

    You can begin your walk from the northern end at the carpark at Point Kean or from the southern end at South Bay. There is no public transport to these places, but it is possible to hire the Kaikoura shuttle.

    There is a choice of routes over this walkway area. If you have several days in Kaikoura you may choose to try different walks. If you have limited time I suggest that you start at Point Kean, walk up the track and along the Clifftop walk to the Whalers Bay lookout, go down the track from there and return along the shoreline, checking that you do not programme the shoreline section near Point Kean at high tide.

    View from clifftop track
    View from the clifftop track
    source - Joe Levy

    For this walk allow a half day. You will want to pause and view the birds, the seals and the scenery.

    Gulls, both red-billed and black-backed, breed along the shoreline in November and December. Shags, oyster catchers, and herons can be seen here too. At low tide there are rock pools to explore.

    Along the shoreline seals can be seen at close quarters, but it is dangerous to annoy them, especially a large bull or a mother seal with a newborn pup. I strongly recommend not getting between the seals and the sea.

    Young seal
    Young seal
    source - Joe Levy

    In the Mt Fyffe area
    Mt Fyffe Forest Walk

    Start from the Forest Walk carpark at the end of Mt Fyffe Road. Allow about two hours for this walk on the slopes of Mt Fyffe so that you have time to look at the trees in the native bush and at the lookout point enjoy the wide view of the Kaikoura plain and the sea. It is a loop track and I suggest that you walk the track anti-clockwise. The walk passes through regenerating formerly-logged forest. At the summit is a further loop track through virgin forest with an impressive stand of matai, rimu and totara.

    Hinau Walk
    This too is in the forest offering shade which is much appreciated in summer heat. Again you walk through regenerating forest, here with many dominant hinau trees. You will also see mahoe, putaputaweta, broadleaf, tree fuchsia and pigeonwood, and walk through a stand of kanuka. Some species are labelled on both these walks.

    This starts from the Mt Fyffe car park beyond the south-west end of Postmans Road. It is a loop track and takes about 45 minutes. The track is easy walking and suitable for the whole family. When you reach the lookout you can see the Kowhai River, which looks small and innocent most of the time but is prone to flooding and caused a lot of damage in the Kaikoura township in 1993.

    Mt Fyffe Summit Walk
    This too starts at the Mt Fyffe carpark and follows a 4WD road to 1602 metres above sea level, and is out in the open. It is not available to vehicles. The road to the summit follows the long south-west ridge and the return journey takes about eight hours.

    If you think that walk is too long you could walk to the hut - five hours return, or to the lookout point about an hour above the car park.

    In this area you may see the brown creeper, tomtit, robin, bellbird, rifleman, wood pigeon, falcon and kea.

    Mountain biking
    Mountain bikes are permitted on the Mt Fyffe Track, but be aware that it is very steep and that walkers have the right of way!

    Longer tramps
    For details of longer walks and huts in the area talk to the staff at the Department of Conservation.

    To the South
    Lake Rotoiti

    Again this a favourite area for birdwatchers. It is to be approached from the inland road through Lake Hills, the property of A. Dowle. Drive to the marked carpark and follow the track.

    Lake Rotorua
    This is reached from the south via the Kahutara River. Again the attraction is bird watching, especially pied shags feeding the young birds in their nests, great crested grebe and large numbers of paradise ducks.

    Oaro south to the rail tunnel and Haumuri Bluff
    This is a pleasant walk along the beach from the Oaro settlement. Park near the main road before walking through the settlement. Watch for trains when crossing the railway line. This walk takes an hour to the tunnel and another for boulder hopping at low tide to Piripaua - often called The Keyhole.

    Lookout walk
    This walk in the Omihi Scenic Reserve is described in Breaking the Journey. Remember to watch out for the trains when crossing the railway line.

    Ohau Point and Stream

    At Ohau Point 30 kms north of Kaikoura there is a clearly marked lookout area for viewing the seals. A little further north there is a short and shaded walk to a waterfall, also described in Breaking the Journey.

    You can fish from beaches, rocks and from the wharf near the Pier Hotel.

    Exploring rock pools
    At low tide opposite the aquarium and also at the end of the roads north or south of the Peninsula there are reefs and rock pools well worth exploring.

    In addition to the beaches around the town and the Peninsula there is a very pleasant picnic area at the Puhipuhi Scenic Reserve up the Puhipuhi River. Turn off immediately north of the Hapuku River bridge. There is shade and the river is shallow and suitable for the family to play in the water.

    Many people dive in the waters along the coast. Be careful to check which beaches along this rugged coast are safe for this sport. Services and advice are available in the dive shops in Kaikoura.

    A popular surfing beach is at Mangamaunu, 17.5 kms north of Kaikoura.

    Boating, canoeing and sailing
    There is ample opportunity to use your boat. Many people launch their larger boats from Armers Beach as the slipways built by groups are closed to non-members. Canoes can be launched from several locations.

    Activities with a small charge
    For a small fee you can view the audio visual show "See the Whales" at the Visitor Centre, swim at the swimming pool at Gooch's beach, visit the Museum in Ludstone Road, view Fyffe Historic House in Avoca Street or use the library across the road from the Visitor Centre.

    The library is offering special holiday programmes on December 22 and 23 and in the last week of the summer holidays.

    Sports clubs
    If you wish to play golf, squash, tennis, croquet or bowls, inquire at the Visitor Centre about fees and access.

    Read the second article in the series about Kaikoura...

    Published with permission from NZine