If you like the water and all things that call it home, you will like Kaikoura. Marine mammals tend to capture visitors' attention in this coastal town tucked in between the Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Pacific Ocean.
Whales, fur seals, and dolphins swim and jump in the waters here, meaning whale-watching trips run several times a day throughout the year. If you're willing to zip up a wetsuit, you can swim near dolphins in the open ocean or New Zealand fur seals in the shallow waters of the Kaikoura Peninsula.
Prefer to stay warm and dry? You can hike the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway to visit a seal colony, take a bird-watching tour, or visit the colonial whaler's cottage known as the Fyffe House. While just 3,600 people call Kaikoura home, more than 800,000 folks visit each year.
Kaikoura is about a two-hour drive north of Christchurch, making it an easy day trip option from the city. Set in northern Canterbury on the east coast of the South Island, Kaikoura's seaside location makes the peninsula a sought-after destination for visitors.