The drive from Blenheim to Kaikoura begins in the wine region then turns into barren sun scorched hills before reaching the East Coast of the South Island. Along the way you will pass New Zealand's salt works at Lake Grassmere. 1800 hectares of lakes where salt water is pumped in and evaporation takes place where nearly 40,000 tons are treated. Visitors can stop by on Tuesdays and Fridays at 1:30pm for a guided tour.
Continuing south on Route One now along the ocean you will find The Store (45 minutes south of Blenheim) judged the best cafe in Marlborough. Great place to stop and enjoy the scenery and also a place to stay overnight with your camper down by the sea. The beaches along here are of the gray volcanic sand and a lot are also from pebble to rock size in their composition.
It is now on to Kaikoura along one of the most spectacular coastal scenes on the East Coast. Stop just north of Kaikoura to have close encounter with the many seals lying about during the day. There are several ample pull off spots to take photos and/or just have a close look at the longing seals. Donít get too close. Remember they are resting after a night of hunting and do not enjoy being disturbed. Several good over night stopping places also along this area. We usually stay in an area where the locals do their surfing. Great to wake up to the sea next to you and the mountains as a backdrop. Going down tomorrow to photograph baby seals who hang out under a waterfall in the bush...left there while their mothers are off hunting.....will have the photos in the new video I am preparing for the area....
About 15 kms before Kaikoura on the left you will spot the Hapuku Lodge. They serve Supreme coffee so we go out of our way to stop there if our timing is right. Great food also along with a vista you can't believe. (By the way the place to have good coffee in Kaikoura is on the left as you enter the main centre of town at the Aromas cafť. They also serve fantastic meals.)
The town of Kaikoura is on a peninsula overlooked by majestic mountains. Very deep and plankton rich sea at its doorstep provides the habitat for marine mammals and sea birds. The area is renowned for whale, dolphin and albatross watching. If you do nothing else in New Zealand a ride out to the open sea to visit the whales is a must. Hope for a good day.
The town of Kaikoura offers great cafes and art galleries. The Pacific Allure Gallery is a showcase of one of New Zealandís top seascape artist Brett Pettit. See for yourself.
As you enter the town from the north on Route 1. We prefer to stay at the 69 Beach Road Holiday Park on the right not very far after entering town, a quality place well maintained by great owners and close to places to get food and drink and to stock up if required (New World). Far enough away from the train track to muffle the sounds. By the way there is actually a butcher in the downtown area.
Just before getting into the main downtown area you can turn left toward the whale watch building where a large parking area is good for camper vans and easy access to the main town. If you go on and turn left in the downtown area not too far on the left is also a large car park and the Information Centre. Be sure to go on past the main segment of town and explore all the way to
the turn around. Along the way you pass the main docks where you can purchase some very fresh seafood.
Kaikoura's early whaling history is featured at the Museum and one of the country's top festivals is held here, the Kaikoura Seafest. Have a look at one of the Kaikoura Information sites on the web for the particulars.
Don't miss going up the hill south of town to the Kaikoura Winery claimed to be the most scenic winery in New Zealand on the way south out of town on the right.
Both north and south of Kaikoura there are many places to freedom camp plus some great camps along the sea as you head south.
I will take us south of Kaikoura next entry to as far as just north of Christchurch. (Amberley)