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Kaikoura   (1st page) Directions/Transport Site map Birds found here Photos / Images Reviews/Trip reports
Photographs: David Curtis

The seaside town of Kaikoura, on the main highway between Christchurch and Picton on the east coast of the South Island, is overlooked by majestic snow-capped mountains. The mountain range rises to heights of over 2,600 metres and off shore are canyons and trenches that plunge to depths of 1,000 metres very close to shore, providing an environment rich in sea life.

The Kaikoura District Council is the first local authority in the world, and the second community in the world, to achieve Green Globe certification in recognition of their commitment to protecting the environment and working towards sustainability for residents and visitors, and for the generations to come.

Maori have inhabited the area for the last 800 to 900 years resulting in a rich history and culture. According to one writer, most modern translations of Kaikoura are given as 'eat crayfish’ but Kaikoura is actually a shortened version of the original name, Te-Ahi-Kai-Koura-a-Tamatea-Pokai-Whenua, meaning the fire at which crayfish were cooked for Tamatea Pokai Whenua, the legendary explorer. Another writer says that the name Kaikoura, meaning meal of crayfish, was given by Tamaki-te-rangi when he stopped over to eat there while chasing his runaway wives. It is likely that Kaikoura was first settled by the Waitaha followed by the Ngati Mamoe and then the Ngai Tahu tribes.

In 1770 Captain Cook first discovered the Kaikoura peninsula, believing it to be an island. The first shore whaling station was established in 1843. Whale numbers steadily declined after 1850, leading whalers to turn to alternative means of existence, such as farming. Whaling continued sporadically until as recently as 1964 when the last of New Zealand' s whaling operations ceased.

In 1978, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was finally passed, providing total protection to New Zealand's whales, dolphins and seals. Today Kaikoura lies in the Southern Hemisphere Whale Sanctuary.

(page last updated  17 May 2007)