Nestled into a peninsula on New Zealand’s east coast, Kaikoura is simultaneously more and less than I ever could have asked for. More in its amazing scenery, nature, and ability to me bring back to those core essentials. Less because it did all of this with its beautiful, simple charm which reminds me that sometimes we don’t need so much to be ‘happy.’
We visited in July, which is actually the off season since it’s winter time in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s chilly and fresh at sea level with the breeze coming off the ocean, and just atop the mountains sit heavy blankets of snow. Growing up in Cape May, New Jersey, I’m used to a whopping maximum of 14 feet above sea level. Our largest hills are much closer to a small pile of dirt. A really, really small pile.
Here, the mountains replace skyscrapers and rise up to meet the clouds. I haven’t quite adjusted to the time difference yet so my days start early, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When the sun peaks over the ocean in the morning it changes the snow caps from white to pink and the water from blue to purple. There is no buzz of traffic or 9 o’clock rush hour. Just the sound of waves crashing and a few people passing by here and there. Point Kean is the best place to watch the sunrise.
From our little bungalow in South Bay, there’s about an hour and a half trek that takes you around the peninsula and into town. There’s also a shorter, more direct route that takes about 45 minutes to get to the town center. Most people at home wouldn’t dream of making the walk when a car gets you there in about seven minutes, but Kaikoura has helped me rediscover the beauty of walking, and not just the destination. There are some spectacular views, and the walk was a great time for me to pause and reconnect with the present moment.
Kaikoura is also a fantastic spot for sea life, both in and out of the water. In the water, I got to swim with dolphins, which I have been talking about nonstop. They don’t chum the water or bait the dolphins in any way, they just plop us in the water wherever the pod is. The dolphins are surprisingly curious, and come insanely close to you! I put together this video of my incredible experience, and definitely recommend it to anyone who’s in the area!
I’m not particularly a bird junkie, but Kaikoura is also one of the best places in the world to see Albatross and some other sea birds. I’d love to tell you more about which species are around, but am entirely the wrong person. BUT I can show you a few pictures of what showed up during the trip, and you avid birders out there can have a great time ID’ing my pictures…
Overall, Kaikoura was so refreshing. It reminded me just how important nature and simplicity are to living our lives. A walk can do amazing things for the mind, and fresh air does wonders for the body, too. If you’re looking for a place to reconnect and relax, Kaikoura is the spot for you.