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Hiking the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: South Bay to Point Kean

Hiking the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway: South Bay to Point Kean

I always kind of dismissed Kaikoura as being a bit of a one trick pony. I knew there was world-class whale watching on offer, but could that really be it? I later found out there was a waterfall where baby seals go to play, but the recent earthquake put a stop to that. The good news is that I found another reason to visit Kaikoura; its home to one of the most surreal coastal hikes in New Zealand. The track from South Bay to Point Kean (or Point Kean to South Bay), known as the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, is full of interesting views and wildlife spotting opportunities — don’t miss it when road-tripping through New Zealand.

South Bay

It’s worth checking out South Bay even if you’re not hiking the Kaikoura Peninsula Track. It’s a really nice beach area, perfect for swimming, diving and exploring rock pools.

The track starts at the northern end of South Bay — you’ll easily see it from the beach area. You’ll see unique coastal views almost straight away. The varying shades of blue combine with white rock formations of Limestone Bay to create a surreal scene. The track continues up the hill and then on towards Point Keane — you could call it a day above South Bay but there is so much more to see!

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New ZealandBeautiful view on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New ZealandLimestone Bay, Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New Zealand

Whalers Bay

The track continues uphill towards Whalers Bay, the most impressive part of the whole hike. There are a few places to stop and admire the views along the way. It was around 30 degrees C when I was there and it was pretty tiring, but in normal conditions (aka a cold day) it’d be pretty easy going.

Whalers Bay, Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New Zealand

I’d rate the view of Whaler’s Bay from above as one of New Zealand’s best coastal viewpoints, but if you visit on a grey day it might not be so impressed. Clear skies are key on hikes like this! There is a track down to Whaler’s Bay, but I pushed on towards Point Kean and planned to return along the lower track.

View over Whalers Bay, Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New Zealand

Point Kean

The Point Kean viewpoint wasn’t quite as good as some of the others, so I quickly moved on and soon found myself at the Point Kean car park. From there I walked around the rocks in the hopes of spotting some seals. It didn’t take long before I was watching half a dozen seals playing in the water while even more of their friends relaxed on the rocks.

Seals on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New Zealand

Walking back along the lower track

A combination of sandy tracks, rocks and stony beaches is the terrain of choice on this section of the hike. It was nice to be able to return a different way — variety is always appreciated! The track leads to a set of stairs which bring you back to the main track. You may also be able to keep walking along the beaches and rocks, but I was thirsty and hungry and didn’t feel up a long detour to a (potentially) dead end. If you’ve done this track and walked further along the lower track, leave me a comment and let me know how it was.

The lower track on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, New ZealandHiking in Kaikoura, New Zealand -- the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

Once back on the upper track it’s an easy (mostly) downhill hike back to the car park. All up this hike took me around 90 minutes — I was walking pretty fast though!

Getting to the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

You can drive to either Point Kean or South Bay and start the hike from there. It doesn’t matter which way you do it, although I think South Bay is nicer so you might want to spend some time there before or after the hike. If you’re walking from town you’ll want to head to Point Kean first — it’s only a few kilometres from town and it’s all along the coast.

Are you planning a trip to Kaikoura? Did I convince you to do this hike? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.