New Zealand's Best 2 Day Coastal Walk

Kaikōura in the South Island of New Zealand is world famous for whale watching, with the distinction of being able to see whales up close all year round. But this blog is not about whales. It's about another Kaikōura attraction; the 2-day Kaikōura Coastal Walk, rated by many as the best coastal walk in the country. It offers stunning scenery, a mix of sea, mountains, forest, wildlife and farmland.

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Spectacular views of the Seaward Kaikōura Range, taken from the Kaikōura Coastal Walking Track.

The following article was published in the leading New Zealand newspaper 'Stuff' and written by Siobhan Downes who walked the track in 2017. Photos; Siobhan Downes.

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There's plenty of time available to admire the spectacular views along the Kaikōura Coast.

The Kaikōura Coast Track was established by a small group of New Zealand farming families who wanted to share their piece of paradise with the world. So, in 1994 they set to work constructing a private walking track and they called it The Kaikōura Coast Track.

The Beach House, Ngaroma on the Kaikoura Coast Track.

The Beach House on the Kaikōura Coast Track.

WHERE

The Kaikōura Coast Track starts about 25 miles south of the town of Kaikōura.

You'll be hosted by two lovely local farming families, the Macfarlanes and the Handysides.

The walk begins with a long trudge along the beach.

The walk begins with a walk along a black sand beach.

It's a two-day walk, and you can expect to be hiking for about four to six hours each day, depending on your fitness level - and how long you allow yourself be distracted by the breathtaking views along the way.

The track is open from the beginning of October to the end of April.

DISTANCE

The track covers 16 miles, divided into 8 miles each day.

DIFFICULTY

The track is suitable for those with a reasonable level of fitness. The experience as a whole has been designed with comfort in mind.

There are hot showers, flushing toilets and fully equipped kitchens in the cottages. Your hosts will transport your luggage between stops, which means you only have to carry a light day pack. You can bring in your own food, or have homemade meals prepared for you at an additional cost.

One of the delicious feasts on the Kaikoura Coast Track.

One of the delicious feasts on the Kaikōura Coast Track.

We went with the latter option, and enjoyed two beautiful, farm-inspired roast lamb feasts. Our lunchboxes were stuffed with leftover lamb sandwiches, fruit, and delicious baking. At the end of each day, a pitcher of fresh lemon drink and a tin of biscuits was waiting for us.

ALONG THE WAY

Day one takes you along a moody, black sand beach, past cliffs embedded with 8000-year-old tree stumps and fossils.

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Keep a watchful eye on the ocean - you might just see seals and Hector's dolphin.

After a couple of hours, you'll turn off the beach and head into the forest for a cup of tea and some lunch at the blissfully peaceful Circle Shelter, an ancient Māori campsite.

The track then climbs to a spectacular lookout, where you can see Banks Peninsula to the south and the Kaikōura Peninsula to the north. If you open up a box on the bench, you'll find a pair of binoculars have been thoughtfully stowed there so you can take a closer look.

From here, you'll walk across open farmland and through a conservation area of regenerating forest.

Drink in the fresh air like a tonic and be sure to listen out for the birdsong of fantails, wood pigeons, and grey warblers.

You'll encounter plenty of wildlife along the way.

Take a break at the picturesque "Rest and Reflect" bench at the top of the hill, before making your way to the Whare cottage, where you'll be spending the second night.

The next morning you'll be up early for a van ride to Buntings Gully, where the next section of the track was cut through the forest by hand.

It takes about three hours to reach the skyline, where you'll be rewarded with panoramic views over the Kaikōura Ranges and the coast - that awe-inspiring place where the alps meet the ocean.

Looking out towards the ocean.

Looking out towards the Pacific Ocean.

Carry on along the track to Skull Peak Shelter, where you can have a hot drink, fill up your water bottle and take a bathroom break. After that slog up the hill, it will be one of the best lunch breaks you've ever had.

The rest of the afternoon will be spent making your way down towards the coast, across rolling farmland and through more of that sweetly fragrant coastal bush. You'll end up where you started, back at the Beach House.

HIGHLIGHTS

Kaikoura Coast Track for travel feature.

The magic of the track lies in its many beautiful rest stops, so make sure to take your time and soak in all of the views. There's also plenty of wildlife to be encountered along the track, including dolphins and seals.

Only 10 people are allowed on the Kaikōura Coast Track each day, so you can go for miles without encountering a single soul. At some points, it might even feel as though you and your walking buddies are the only people in the world.

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Ask the team at New Zealand Vacations how you can incorporate the 2-Day Coastal Walk into your New Zealand vacation itinerary.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Oct 04, 2022