The southern island of New Zealand is known for its abundance of wildlife. On the northeastern coast, about three hours north of Christchurch, you can see plenty of wildlife in the quaint town of Kaikoura. In addition to whales, albatross, and dolphins, fur seals also call this area home. When visiting Kaikoura, be sure to stop at Point Kean on the Kaikoura Peninsula to enjoy the Kaikoura seal colony.
You can find the Kaikoura Peninsula just south of the main area of town. There is a small parking lot at the end of Fyffe Quay Drive. Once at the parking lot, you’ll see signs indicating that you are now at the Kaikoura Seal Colony and the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway; this area is also known as Point Kean.
Although you may have already seen the seals while driving into the area, it shouldn’t be hard to spot them once you’re out of your car. The colony of seals seems to stretch across all sides of the peninsula. Many were resting on rocks or deep in sleep when I visited.
The seals would hear human voices and stick their heads up, and eventually lay back down after realizing we weren’t a threat. Obviously it’s important to give the animals some distance and not disturb them. New Zealand does an admirable job of respecting their native animals and they expect all tourists to do the same.
After a little more exploration of the area, we found a boardwalk that had sleeping seals on it.
I have to admit, I had one of those “awww” moments, seeing the animals in their natural habitat, uncaged, and left to nature. Every now and then a seal would ‘bark’, but they were mostly quiet and docile, despite the visitors.
The beauty of the area, even with a parking lot in the center of it, was stunning. Kaikoura is one of the few places in the world where the mountains meet the sea, which creates dramatic landscapes and picturesque scenes.
After walking out onto the rocky outcrop of the peninsula, the smell of fish became potent. There were a few tourists scurrying on the rocks, but there was also a sign prohibiting people from walking any further around the peninsula down at sea level. For safety reasons, people have to go up and hike the elevated peninsula walkway to get further around.
This part of the peninsula that’s just rock jutting into the water contains many tide pools. There was a variety of sea life such as snails, crabs, and plants living in the cracks and indentations of the stone.
After we finished exploring the area around the parking lot, we found the Peninsula Walkway and started up the ramp. This short, yet steep paved pathway takes you up to the top of the elevated part of the peninsula.
Once we were above sea level and atop the peninsula, we could see the rest of the Kaikoura seal colony in the more remote areas of this outcropping, far from the reach of humans. This was a beautiful overlook to gaze from. To see the mountains behind Kaikoura, the ocean as far as the eye could see, the wildlife…it was just glorious!
In addition to a few overlook areas, there were helpful placards up on top. Information was given about the area’s cultural history as well as its geologic history.
One of these placards explains that the Kaikoura Peninsula was once a sea floor that arose millions of years ago through massive movements of the earth. This peninsula was originally an island, and over time, river gravel from the Kaikoura mountain range filled the sea area and connected the island to the mainland, creating the peninsula. The continual uplift of land combined with the cutting action of the sea has created this unique landscape. Since New Zealand lies on the border of the Australian and the Pacific tectonic plates, uplift and earthquakes have occurred here over the millennia.
You can continue to follow the walkway, but it becomes more of a dirt path away from Point Kean. You can actually walk the entire peninsula and end up in South Bay. Since there are many options for hiking in this area, learn more about hiking the peninsula here.
Keep in mind, there is more to see at Point Kean than just fur seals; there are also many sea birds flying around. Albatross, the world’s largest seabirds, can be found here. Keep an eye on the water for dolphins and sperm whales as well; they are often seen swimming near Kaikoura. (Click here to read my post on whale watching in Kaikoura.)
One of the nicer things about this area is that there are clean, flush restrooms here. One potential problem is the lack of parking. The parking lot at Point Kean is not very big. As we were here in the winter, we didn’t have a problem finding a spot. If you visit during New Zealand’s summer or a popular touring season, prepare to visit either really early or much later in the day; otherwise you might spend time fighting for a parking spot instead of checking out the seals.
The people of New Zealand greatly value their lands as well as their wildlife. It’s imperative to be respectful of not only the resting seals, but also of their natural areas. The beauty of New Zealand lies in its simplicity, tranquility, and it being untouched by man in many places. It’s a place whose beauty is hard to beat!
For more information about the Peninsula Walkway and the Kaikoura sea colony, click here to visit the New Zealand Department of Conservation website or here to see the tourist brochure on the area.