Three years after the Kaikoura earthquake, the community has recovered and is fully open for tourists to enjoy the natural beauty of this unique area. Unlike Christchurch, the area has not experienced much shaking since the midnight wake up quake on November 14, 2016.
It does take longer to get there from either north or south on Highway 1 due to the extensive roadworks. This is targeted for a March 2020 finish, but this is hard to believe given the extensive damage and the remaining work. Allow an extra hour to drive from Blenheim or from Christchurch. It is worth the effort as it is a absolutely stunning area of New Zealand.
Some of the rocks along the coastline shifted more than a meter, but the New Zealand Fur Seals do not seem to have noticed. When I stopped in Flaxbourne for a coffee, I asked about the wonderful trail to a waterfall and seal nursery close to Kaikoura. The young woman teared up and said it wasn’t there since the earthquake. I felt terrible. Then I stopped at Ohau Point Look Out to admire the fur seals. I saw the road works and rocks at the spot I thought was the same as the place where the seal nursery had been. When I got to the information centre in Kaikoura they reassured me that while people no longer can hike up to the waterfall, the transportation works created a tunnel so the seals can still use it. It was such a magical place and I am glad I was able to experience it.
Almost everyone I talked to in Kaikoura had a story about where they were and what they did when the quake occurred. There were a lot of people running around town naked! Because when you are thrown out of bed just after midnight and then sirens go off to move you to higher ground in case of tsunami, you don’t necessarily take time to get dressed and find your shoes. I drove by the Kaikoura Boutique Hotel and was happy to see it is open and looking great. The proprietors were Christchurch refugees, so when I heard about the Kaikoura quake I sent up a special prayer for them.
I wouldn’t hesitate to stay overnight in Kaikoura, I just needed to push on to Christchurch so I could have coffee with friends in the morning. However, I would keep my shoes and a sweatshirt or jacket handy by the bed at night, just in case.
I have visited Kaikoura before, and enjoyed the very long but wonderful walk around the headlands. There are also whales, dolphins and little blue penguins to observe. Kaikoura has one of the world’s most productive marine areas and is a few hours from Christchurch and even closer to Blenheim. It scores 4.5 out of 5!