View to South Bay
The track crosses the Peninsula’s cliff top, with excellent views of the Seaward Kaikoura Range, ocean and coastline, to South Bay. It returns to the township via South Bay and Toms Track.
Distinctive marker posts and, at some locations, interpretation signs link a loop walkway, from West End the town centre, to Point Kean car park.
To fully explore and enjoy the features of the walk, allow at least three hours to complete the whole walkway.
Map of Kaikoura Peninsula walkway (PDF, 212K)
Point Kean car park to Point Kean viewpoint
Time: 5 min
Distance: 200 m
A five-minute walk up the hill from the car park takes you to a lookout platform. This platform, designed in the shape of a waka, affords an excellent view of both the sea and the mountains. Here, interpretation panels provide stories of the land, the sea and the people who lived here.
From the car park when the tide is low, you are able to explore the open tidal platforms. You may see wading birds, such as oystercatchers and reef herons, feeding on the platforms. Shags are common also, and blue penguins may be seen bobbing just offshore.
View of Kaikouras from walkway
Just off the tidal platforms is an excellent diving area for those who want a closer look at the marine life.
Seaweeds, both small and large, thrive in the nutrientrich waters of the Kaikoura coastline. In the many rock pools, shellfish, anemones, shrimps, triplefins and rockfish can be seen, although the fish may be hiding to avoid stalking birds.
This is also an excellent snorkelling area for those who want a closer look at the marine life.
You may notice patterns on the rock surface, as if a mini water-blaster has been at work. These are left by limpets grazing on algae when the tide is in, or at night.
One species always returns to the same place to await the tide’s return. Over time it modifies the rock to fit its particular shell-shape, thus minimising water loss.
South Bay car park to Limestone Bay
Time: 5 min
Distance: 250 m
At South Bay, a fully accessible path from the car park takes you to Limestone Bay. The elevated walkway above the tidal platform gives wonderful coastal views and allows you to smell the ocean and watch the birds.
Limestone Bay to South Bay viewpoint
Time: 10 min
Distance: 350 m
A 10-minute climb up to a viewpoint on the cliff top rewards you with superb views of tidal platforms, cliff formations and Haumuri Bluffs to the south.
South Bay viewpoint to South Bay car park
Time: 15 min
Distance: 600 m
From the South Bay viewpoint, the Walkway descends to a fully accessible path that leads to an information shelter and toilets at South Bay. Before descending to South Bay, linger to view the tidal platforms and the view south. The interpretation panel here has a landscape profile identifying the mountain peaks and Goose Bay.
Whalers Bay side-trip
Time: 20 min return
Distance: 200 m
Staircase to Whalers Bay
A 10-minute track follows a former whalers’ route down the cliff to the shoreline. A prominent feature in this area is known as “The Sugarloaf”. To prevent further erosion to this landmark, please refrain from climbing it.
Seabirds, seals, walkers, divers, crayfish floats and fishing boats all lend their own flavour to the view. Out to sea, you may see scores of seabirds feeding frantically on small fish herded to the surface by bigger fish or dolphins. Please take great care to avoid disturbing any wildlife along the shoreline as there are large colonies of birds in the area. These are particularly vulnerable to disturbance during the breeding season over summer.
Return back up via the same cliff track, as tides or seals along the shoreline may prevent you from returning to the car park.
Interpretation on the cliff top overlooking “The Sugarloaf” describes the point below as “Bird City” — the largest red-billed gull colony in the South Island. From here, whalers kept a vigil over the sea, looking out for their quarry. Around the corner in Whalers Bay was the launching point for the whalers’ boats.
Whalers Bay viewpoint to South Bay viewpoint
Time: 20 min
Distance: 1.1 km
On the sea cliffs near this section of the Walkway, DOC is working to establish a new colony of Hutton’s shearwater. If you are walking this section in summer, you may see large rafts of these birds sitting on the water. At nightfall, these birds, after feeding at sea all day, return to their breeding colonies high up in the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges. An interpretation panel further explains the work being undertaken to establish a colony on the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Point Kean viewpoint to Whalers Bay viewpoint
Time: 25 min
Distance: 1.5 km
Beyond the lookout platform, follow the track along the cliff top for superb views of rugged cliff formations, tidal platforms and the Seaward Kaikoura Range.
An interpretation panel on this section of the Walkway explains that, hundreds of years ago, the Peninsula was forested with many species of native New Zealand trees and plants. Most of this vegetation was removed during successive waves of human development, leaving small, remnant outcrops of hardy shrubs and plants clinging to the steep cliff faces.
Kaikoura town centre to Point Kean car park
Time: 50 min
Distance: 4.4 km
From the town centre, follow the footpath and road verge along The Esplanade, Avoca Street and Fyffe Quay to Point Kean. On the way, look out for the interpretation signs on The Esplanade opposite Brighton and Margate Streets, telling stories of “Life on the Edge”, a community living by the sea — the land, the sea and the people. At Avoca Street, the sign takes you back to 1909, when the new wharf was built. Near Fyffe House, a sign details the early European settlement in Kaikoura and, at nearby Armers Beach, the story tells of the importance this site holds for the local community, both past and present, for the shelter it provides.
Seal resting at Point Kean carpark
As you approach Point Kean car park, you will notice several signs warning that seals are likely to be present in the surrounding area. Most of the seals in the car park are males. They may appear to be harmless; however, they are capable of becoming aggressive if disturbed and can inflict a nasty, infectious bite.
The seals on the rocky platforms out from the car park are females and their pups. These females have recently begun breeding at this location. For your safety and to avoid disturbing the seals, please remain 10 metres from any seal in the vicinity of the car park. Along the rest of the Kaikoura Coast, 20 metres is the recommended distance to keep away from a seal. There are no toilets at the car park. The nearest toilet is at Armers Beach.
South Bay to Kaikoura town centre via Scarborough Street
Time: 1 hr 5 min
Distance: 3.9 km
From the South Bay shelter, return to Kaikoura town centre by following the marker posts along the coast towards the marina. Follow the marker posts to South Bay Parade and cross to South Bay Track, walk up the hill, cross Scarborough Street and walk down Toms Track to return to The Esplanade.
Management of the walkway
The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a joint community project, shared among Whale Watch Kaikoura, Te Runanga o Kaikoura, Kaikoura District Council and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Whale Watch Kaikoura and Te Runanga o Kaikoura allow access over private land for parts of the Walkway; Kaikoura District Council manages the urban sections, including Toms Track and Dempseys Track; the remainder is managed by DOC.
Kaikoura lies almost midway between Picton (154 km) and Christchurch (183 km) on the east coast of the South Island. Regular bus and train services pass through the town.
There is no scheduled public transport from Kaikoura to the Walkway.