On my journey north from Christchurch to Wellington, I stayed a night in Kaikoura and a night in Picton. Kaikoura is a lovely little town on the east coast about 3 hours drive from Christchurch. In Māori, Kai means food and Koura means crayfish and there is no better place to eat crayfish than in Kaikoura. It’s also one of the few places in the world where Sperm Whales can be seen year-round and close to the shore.
Whale Watch is a company that offers boat tours to see the whales every day of the year, apart from Christmas Day. Dolphins, fur seals and other marine life can also be seen around Kaikoura. If you’re interested in learning about the Māori culture, there is a great half-day tour called Māori Tours Kaikoura, which I did a few years ago, that gives visitors an insight into and understanding of the Māori people, their way of life and spiritual connections to the natural world. I would have liked to have stayed in the town longer this time, but due to train schedules, I had to move on to Picton the next day.
On my way to the train station that morning, I stopped by the Beach House café, next door to the Lazy Shag Hostel that I stayed in. This is a lovely café with home-made food and local produce, with a bright and cheery seating area inside and tables outside as well, with great views of the Kaikoura Mountains. I had a great breakfast here which set me up for the rest of the day.
I took the Coastal Pacific train from Kaikoura to Picton. It’s one of the most beautiful scenic train journeys in New Zealand, with the sea stretching as far as you can see to the east, providing stunning close up views of the Kaikoura Mountains to the west, then gliding through the vineyards of the Awatere Valley. This train runs from Christchurch to Picton daily throughout the summer season, beginning on the last Friday of September and ending on the last Sunday of April. Picton, a pretty seaside town at the top of the South Island, is the base for ferry services that run between the 2 main islands of New Zealand. It was here that I did a 3-hour Marlborough Sounds Deliveries Cruise with Cougar Line, which delivers walkers to the Queen Charlotte track and freight and fresh supplies to the remote homes and resorts along the Queen Charlotte Sound.
The weather was bright and sunny that morning and I enjoyed the cruise as it dropped off hikers, eggs, bran, beer, laundry etc and picked up walkers and other supplies from the various resorts in the area. It’s heavily forested and quite remote but I’ve been told by a New Zealand friend of mine that it’s a great place to camp. Directly after this boat trip, I made my way to the Interislander Ferry terminal where I picked up the ferry to Wellington.