8 best Kaikōura walks: Short strolls to mountain peaks

Kaikōura is known for its beautiful mountain views and extensive marine and bird life. How better to see all the region’s natural beauty than by enjoying one of our favourite Kaikōura walks?

Join us as we run through the best hiking tracks, covering all fitness levels and timeframes.

Kaikōura is a quaint coastal town that’s popular among wildlife lovers.

Not only will you come across adorable seals, whales and dolphins year-round, but you’ll also be able to spot several New Zealand birds flitting around the coastline.

Along with spotting animals, you’ll also be able to walk along balmy beaches and take in the beautiful Kaikōura ranges. In fact, we think this is one of the best ways to enjoy the area.

Whether you have a basic level of fitness or consider yourself a complete gym buff, these Kaikōura walks offer something for everyone.

Now, let’s get moving.

Fur seal pointing its nose upwards in Kaikoura.

Kaikōura walks that showcase New Zealand’s natural beauty

Puhi Puhi Reserve Walk

DifficultyVery easy
Time10 minutes
Suitable forAll abilities

This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it trail is ideal for walkers who want to stroll through beautiful forests and bushland.

Although this is the shortest of the Kaikōura walks we’re sharing, you shouldn’t count it out.

It’s a huge plus that you head toward the Puhi Puhi Bridge and the Puhi Puhi River (which you can hear!) but it’s the Scenic Reserve that takes the cake.

While you’re there, you’ll be able to see matai and kahikatea trees that have been standing in this spot for over 1,000 years.

Plus, the fact that it’s a hiker-only trail means you won’t have to battle with cyclists or mountain bikers as you explore the area.

The walk starts and finishes inside the Puhi Puhi Scenic Reserve Campsite which makes it incredibly easy to find, and with a total walk time of only 10 minutes, it fits in perfectly around your Kaikōura activities.

Distance1.9km return
Time30 minutes return
TrackOut and back
Suitable forAll abilities

If you’re looking for Kaikōura walks that are short, sweet, and easy, you can’t beat the South Bay Track.

This simple out-and-back trail takes just 30 minutes to conquer and only has an elevation gain of 48 metres making it suitable to almost all fitness levels.

It’s a wonderful option for views of the bush and the waterfront. Plus, you can easily access the nearby beaches if you fancy a quick dip.

To make things even more appealing, this spot is extremely popular with birdwatchers. This means you might see a few of our favourite feathered friends in their natural environment along the way.

Hinau Track

Time30 minutes
Suitable forAll abilities

No trip to the Canterbury region is complete without a walk along the Hinau Track.

This beautiful trail passes through an impressive stretch of bush and forest (including the track’s namesake hīnau trees).

You’ll be able to recognise these beautiful trees by their distinctive white flowers, purple fruit and long leaves.

While you’re walking, you should also keep an eye out for māhoe, pigeonwood, and putaputāwētā plants.

Although the vegetation is the main drawcard here, you’ll also be able to see the Kowhai River from various vantage points along your walk.

Oh, and if you’re visiting New Zealand during the autumn months, you’ll be treated to some gorgeous fall foliage!

Start this walk by heading to the Mount Fyffe car park and continuing down the marked trails toward the main walking track.

Kaikoura Flat, Kaikōura 7373

Okiwi Bay Lookout Walk

Distance1.1km return
Time20 minutes return
TrackOut and back
Suitable forAll abilities

This trail is ideal for anyone who wants to check out the natural beauty of Kaikōura without investing too much time walking.

The short walk takes you along the coastline toward a designated lookout and picnic point above State Highway 1. On a good day, you might even spot whales or dolphins from this vantage point.

Thanks to its location, it’s also a great walk to do as you drive between Picton, Nelson, or Blenheim and Kaikōura.

Start at the Okiwi Bay Campsite before taking on an easy-going 56-metre elevation gain.

Pro tip: If you want to bring your pups along on this walk, make sure that you’ve obtained the correct DOC permit to do so.

Blue waters crashing onto a sandy beach with grasslands and a promontory at the base of a small cliff in the background.
Photo: Department of Conservation.

Mount Fyffe Forest Walk

Time1.5 hours
Track Loop
Suitable forMost abilities

This beautiful track brings you into the heart of Mount Fyffe Forest.

It’s a relatively short walk that offers pleasant views of the bay and takes you past a few waterfalls.

The climb is slightly steep in places, but it’s constant and level enough to make this track suitable for most fitness levels.

Just be warned that the track can be slightly slippery heading downhill if it has rained recently. So, you may want to come equipped with trusty poles if you don’t have great balance.

While you’re on the track, expect to come across a few forest birds like the kererū and ngirungiru (bring binoculars – tomtits are tiny) and ancient podocarps.

To enjoy this walk, follow Mount Fyffe Road from Ludstone before heading towards the labelled car park.

Kaikoura Flat, Kaikōura 7371

Haumuri Bluff Walk

Distance12km return
Time needed4 -5 hours return
Track typeOut and back
Suitable forMost fitness abilities

We won’t say that the Haumuri Bluff Walk is an easy trail (as it’s fairly long), but it’s certainly a beauty.

It takes you along a rusted railroad track, into a unique tunnel and over rocks before you hit the gorgeous shoreline.

If you keep your eyes peeled near the rocky stretch of the trail, you might be lucky enough to spot some lounging New Zealand fur seals too.

The highlight of this trail, however, comes after you hit the limestone rocks of Spy Glass Point.

There, you’ll get breathtaking views of the bluffs, coastline, and the Seaward Kaikōura Ranges from every angle.

Talk about a walk to remember!

26-12 Te Keepa Road, Oaro 7374

A brown fur seal resting on its belly over a rocky surface.
Keep your eyes peeled for fur seals on many of these Kaikōura walks.

Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway

Distance400m – 12.6km
Time10 mins – 3 hours
Suitable forAll fitness levels

The Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway is a popular series of trails that skirts you past the gorgeous coastline, and unsurprisingly, along the Kaikōura Peninsula. It is only a 6-minute drive from White Morph Hotel and Kaikoura Boutique Hotel.

Choose to hike along an elevated track or stick to the lower elevation option at sea level.

Although you’ll need to keep an eye out for seals at low tide, this is one of the best locals walks for families thanks to the grassy and well-carved path. Plus, it’s really easy to pick and choose a combination of tracks to suit your needs.

If you want to cut things short, it’s easy to create a loop that runs past Whalers Bay Viewpoint and back.

And if you’re not keen on walking to the trail itself, you can stop at Point Kean Car Park to shorten the overall length.

Walk the full loop

If you’re up for a serious walk that’ll take a few hours, pull on your hiking boots and explore the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway loop in full.

This will see you walk a circular trail around the peninsula. It’s considered moderately challenging, taking the average hiker around 3 hours to complete.

The views over the peninsula are truly breathtaking, and the long loop takes you right around the coast which passes through South Bay.

A lot of the route passes along the local roads (which may not be as aesthetic as you want) but don’t worry; you’ll still get plenty of hill climbs, bush views, and even seal colony-spotting opportunities along the way!

Oh, and don’t forget to pack a hat and slather yourself with sunscreen as this walk doesn’t offer much shelter.

Trees on both sides of the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway creates a fantastic view, leading down to the blue ocean with mountains in the background.
Photo:  Kostek Strzelski.

Patutu Route

Distance12.1km return
Time needed9 hours return
Track typeOut and back
Suitable forExperienced hikers/climbers

The Patutu Route isn’t one of the Kaikōura walks for the fainthearted, but it’s a rewarding tramp if you can manage it.

It’s a regular out-and-back trail that gets pretty slippery and steep after the first 3kms or so.

The elevation gain on this walk is intense and the path isn’t particularly well-formed either, which makes it difficult for beginners.

For these reasons, this tramp is really only suitable for experienced, well-prepared trekkers.

However, if you can manage the steep and slippery sections, you’ll be rewarded with stunning coastal views from the summit of Mount Patutu.

To start this rocky and scrambly trail, head to the Okiwi Bay Campsite.

The stunning landscapes and mountain ranges covered in greeneries and the distant coastal views as seen from the summit of Mount Patutu.
Photo: Department of Conservation.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to New Zealand or a regular traveller, the country’s natural beauty is bound to bowl you over – and hitting the trails in and around Kaikōura is the perfect way to soak all that nature up!

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