It’s a wild wild life

Where to stay in Kaikoura


Hapuku Lodge and Tree Houses

There are tree houses – and then there is Hapuku Lodge. Set in peaceful countryside north of Kaikoura, five stylishly simple boxes of glass, copper and timber perch on stilts 10 metres above a stand of native manuka trees. Wallow in a deep bath with a long view over the olive orchard to the Pacific Ocean, or toast your toes before the log-burner as you watch the sun set behind the snowy peaks of the Kaikoura Mountain Range. Down below is the main lodge with suites for those who like to keep their feet on the ground, a comfortable lounge for pre-dinner cocktails, and Fiona and her team in the kitchen, devoted to respecting local produce and making everything themselves. The daily-changing menu ranges from homegrown vegetables to crayfish (rock lobster) freshly caught beneath those white-capped waves, and wild venison from the hill country. The hardest part of the evening is choosing which fine New Zealand wines to accompany it all.

In the morning, force yourself out of the supremely comfortable bed with its goosedown quilt, and crunch over the driveway gravel past sheep grazing in the vineyard and fat rabbits in the deer paddock. Pass the graveyard where lichen grows on old markers inscribed in Maori, and walk down to the beach where the wet stones shine in the bright sunshine. Breathe that fresh air, look at those mountains, maybe spot a whale out there in the sea; and then go back to the lodge. Breakfast is waiting.



Things to do and see in Kaikoura


Thar she blows! 

With Kaikoura’s resident population of sperm whales, plus four other visiting species, sightings are virtually guaranteed. Get up close in a boat, or take to the air to appreciate the size of these leviathans in the clear water.


Whiskery cuteness

Follow the short track along Ohau Stream and discover a fur seal pup crèche, where the youngsters frolic throughout winter under a waterfall and practise their swimming and diving safe from the dangers of the sea.


Dive, dive, dive

Kaikoura’s deep offshore trench and cold-water current means a non-stop buffet for sea life. Go with a guide to explore the kelp forests and discover octopus, crayfish, rays, sea urchins and even seals, dolphins and whales.


Drop a line

Where else can you reel in dinner within view of snowy mountain peaks? Sail out in search of blue cod, sea perch, tarakihi, grouper and crayfish. All gear is supplied, and they’ll even fillet your catch for you.


Seabird stroll

From five minutes to the full three-hour circuit, wander as far as you fancy along the Shoreline Walk which loops around the Kaikoura Peninsula past nesting colonies and feeding birds, including little blue penguins. Watch out for seals!



Other accommodation choices in New Zealand


Bay of Many Coves

Accessible only by boat, this secluded retreat is located in beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound. Luxurious self-catering apartments rise up the bush-clad hillside in a sheltered bay perfect for water activities. It’s just as desirable from a bird’s-eye view as the avian population is many and varied. And don’t miss the glow-worms!


Kaimata Retreat

With extensive views over the Otago Peninsula, Kaimata is the most elegant bird-watching hide imaginable. With albatross and yellow-eyed penguins outside, and luxury within, there’s almost no kudos at all in getting those enviable close-up shots.


Greenmantle Estate

Located on the Kapiti Coast an easy drive from Wellington, the lodge offers a peaceful, rural escape. Fancy a steaming hot-tub in a natural bush setting with fantails fluttering overhead? This is the place for you.



Other regions to consider:


Stewart Island (for Kiwi spotting):

Kapiti Coast (Kapiti Island):

Dunedin (Otago Peninsula):

West Coast:


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