Friday, 25 July 2014

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

With an entry point to the Kaikoura Walkway just a few steps away from where we were parked it was too good an opportunity to miss. The complete walkway is a 12km long loop that takes in the town, the coast road to Point Kean, the peninsula’s cliff tops, South Bay and Toms Track across farmland back to town. I decided to just walk the 4.5km sea cliff section from South Bay to Point Kean, where I’d call up David to come and collect me.

I set off up the the very steep stairway behind us and after crossing a couple of paddocks came to a junction in the track with no signposts, one headed over the hill in the direction of town so I took the other track and carried merrily on my way heading towards the cliffs. After a short while the path headed down hill through a pine plantation and next minute (nek minit) I popped out into an alleyway beside the backyards of some houses. Houses in South Bay! South Bay just a short FLAT 20 minute walk along the beach from where we were parked.

Low tide at South Bay with the snow capped Seaward Kaikoura Range behind.

By the time I wound my way through the back roads of South Bay and crossed the reserve to the grand entrance to the walkway I had wasted an hour! (I suppose not wasted as such, it was good exercise). I then realised I had forgotten by binoculars so I was able to call David up and he delivered them to me just down the road. Everything happens for a reason. That’s what I told myself anyway.

The South Bay Powhenua, at the entrance to the walk, tells the story of Maui going fishing in his canoe and pulling up the house of Tangaroa (God of the sea)

It was a very impressive walkway entrance, in fact the best I’ve seen on our travels. The building is shaped like a waka (Maori war canoe) & has a number of large interpretation panels inside explaining the wide range of geology in the area. The second Powhenua is of Maui fishing up the North Island.

The shelter also had a large panoramic section cut-out in the wall providing the perfect frame for the limestone tidal platform out front.

A wide fenced boardwalk led around the edge of the bay to a steady steep climb on a cobbled pathway to the top of the first cliff & to a lookout platform, again shaped like a waka, overlooking Limestone, South & Goose Bays, and the mountains beyond.

At various points along the way there were interpretation panels telling the stories of the land, the sea, the animals & of the people who lived on the peninsula. There was a very cold and bitter southerly blowing and I was very thankful for my scarf, hat, gloves & warm jacket and although there were very few people on the track the few I did pass were not dressed for the weather, no jackets, short sleeves and unsuitable shoes.

Limestone Bay

Behind a predator proof fence located on the sea cliff near Whalers Bay are the nesting burrows of a new colony of endangered Hutton’s Shearwaters. Kaikoura is the only place on earth that the Hutton’s Shearwaters breed. The usual breeding colonies are up in the mountains behind Kaikoura but these sites are under pressure from various environmental issues so this new site was set up as a safe guard.

Chicks are brought down from the mountain colonies a few weeks before they fledge and are fed & housed in artificial burrows behind the fence for up to four weeks. This ensures that this new site will imprint (on their bird brain) and that they will then return here to breed. In 2009 the first of the chicks returned to breed, five years after leaving. It will take some time to fill the area fenced off but eventually the fence will protect a breeding population of 10,000 birds.

I liked the little fenced booth to sit in and catch your breath......and to protect you from marauding sheep perhaps......? :)

The peninsula has many small bays and tidal platforms that would make for some interesting exploring in the summer.

Whalers Bay & “The Sugarloaf”- a wooden stairway follows the same route down the cliff to the shoreline that former whalers used many years ago when Kaikoura was a very busy whaling station.

Whalers Bay nowadays supports a very large NZ Fur Seal (Kekeno) colony. Well I thought it was large until I walked a little further on. These seals appeared to be a lot more skittish than the ones at Point Kean & further up the Kaikoura coastline because as they saw me coming most started to move away looking over their shoulders as they went. I didn’t want to disturb them so I took a few zoomed shots and headed back over the path and up the steep stairway.

Seals rest on a "Hanging Garden"

“I’m the King of the Castle”

Outcast- this little fellow was all by himself out to the side. He wasn’t happy to see me either.

Back at the top I continued on along the walkway and at the next view point it was a huge surprise to see the size of the seal colony below. Like chocolate sprinkles on a cake there were hundreds of seals, dotted across the grass & resting head to tail over the limestone rocks. White rocks with lots dark patches, stained from the resting seals. I was too far above them to get a whiff but I can only imagine the stench that would emanate from that lot.

The track continued on around another small bay to another platform…..

…that revealed even more seals, hundreds of them taking up every available space on every limestone peak that cleared the tide.

It was fascinating watching them through the binoculars, a withering mass of blubber moving about, some finding new spots to rest, others getting a growling for encroaching into another space, some arriving, some leaving, some cooling off in tiny pools of seawater and many just sleeping. A city of seals going about their business. Imagine the food bill!

This next photo should give you an indication of how high up I was. Can you spot the two people exploring on the rocks? While I was standing taking photos near this edge here I got the fright of my life when a person suddenly appeared in my viewfinder. How could that be I thought, I’m pointing it out over the cliff. I moved closer and he had climbed up a very steep ridge that came up the point from below, a steep clay wall with no plants on it and a few gouges he could use for foot & handholds. How he made it I have no idea. He looked pretty startled himself when he found he was at the top. Some people…..

Finally I reached Point Kean & the carpark (with the town of Kaikoura in the distance), and the end of the section I was walking. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and although it was cold I had walked it in the right direction, I had the wind to my back the whole way.

The carpark seals slumber on. These guys have no fear, unlike their cousins in the colonies further round the point.

My personal taxi arrived and we headed off to get groceries with just a quick stop at the historic Fyffe House, Kaikoura’s oldest surviving building & a link to Kaikoura’s whaling past. It was built in 1860 and stands on piles made from whalebone vertebrae. Across the road is an old brick chimney, this is all that remains of the former customhouse. I thought it looked like it would be a great place to cook up a pot of mussels or BBQ the crayfish you just pulled out of the sea.

Back in town the clouds had lifted off the mountains to provide this beautiful snow covered backdrop. Imagine waking up each day with this on your doorstep, you couldn’t help but go off to work smiling.


  1. Kaikoura is pretty well took along time to load,..... fab as usual.

    1. Very good Jimu, you are a bright spark! :) Hopefully the latest post won't take so much time.

  2. Thanks for a great and informative blog. I know Kaikoura well, haven't been there for a few years though and sounds like the walkway has been upgraded. Love your photos, it's one of my favourite coastal areas... And it does get hot there in the summer.

    1. Hi Angela, lovely to hear from you. Yes I thought the walkway was brilliant, I can see why so many people enjoy it. Mind you the weather has to be on your side. Hope things are back to normal with you and all your worries are behind you. Cheers Shellie


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