If you have never done the drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura, I can recommend it. We had travelled the coastline by rail a few years ago but in the car, you are closer to the landscape and get a true November idea of the significance of the changes caused by the earthquake that altered the entire coastline and Kaikoura on 14 November 2016.
Riding in a higher than usual car seat Moti’s passenger seat gave me better view of the makeup of the coastal beaches – the rocks, the pebbles and the incredible jagged rocks that were pushed up from below when the earth’s plate moved. As we all know, the earthquake separated Kaikoura from the rest of New Zealand for many months and they suffered greatly.
The engineering task of securing the rocks on the hillside with metal netting and/or concrete is no mean feat and the highway itself is now world class. Along the route one can stop to observe the waves thrashing the rocks or watch the families of seals lazing on the rocks, or the infants twisting, turning, and swimming in the various pools. There are so many fur seal colonies along Kaikoura’s coastline, you would be hard pressed not to walk away with at least one photograph. We stopped at the The Ohau Point Lookout which was about 30 minutes north of Kaikoura on State Highway 1
Driving was a breeze as the traffic flow was light, in fact for most of the journey we had the road to ourselves. We only had to cast our mind back to 2019 and imagine what the highway and these coastal scenic stops would have been like with busloads of international tourists, and it cements the impact Covid has had on New Zealand’s tourist spots.
In Kaikoura by chance we found a small domain to park for the evening, fortuitously part of the Pier Hotel, an establishment well known for its Guinness and excellent food. We enjoyed a pre-dinner drink, but I had already planned my menu for the evening, so it was dinner in ‘Moti’!
Peeking out the window early the following day we wasted no time in clamouring outside as we saw the signs of what was to be a great sunrise. We only needed to walk 50 metres onto the wharf and watch the sky come alive.
In the early 1840s, a Scotsman named Robert Fyfe arrived in Kaikoura with four whaleboats with the intention of chasing the southern right whale. In1844, he supervised the build of the house and the whaling station, but today, Fyffe House is all that remains of the once-busy Waiopuka whaling station. Sadly, it was closed but it is a good example of a wooden colonial cottage, complete with character furniture, attic rooms, and various modifications typical of the times in which people made the most of what they had. Evidently many whalebones form much of the building’s foundations.
A short walk up the road the old wharf still stands, although in a state of disrepair. There’s also remnants of the original boat ramp and other accessories.
Business is picking up in Kaikoura – the whale watching boat tour was ‘sold out’ for two days, hence we could not go out. The town was bustling with visitors, and the many cafes we walked by seemed to be doing a good trade. Most of the other stores on main street consisted of clothing stores, home décor and/or gift stores, which after looking in one, seemed to offer everything that the bigger city stores offer.
Life in Kaikoura seems good and judging by the number of domestic travelers passing through, they are well on the way to recovery.