Kaikoura (/kaɪˈkɔrə/ ky-kor-ə; Māori Kaikōura [kaiˈkɔːʉɾa]) is a town on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. It is located on State Highway 1, 180 km north of Christchurch.
Kaikoura became the first local authority in the Southern Hemisphere to achieve recognition by the EarthCheck Community Standard.
According to the 2006 census, the permanent resident population is 2,172, a 3.3% increase since the 2001 census. The town is the governmental seat of the territorial authority of the Kaikoura District, which is politically a part of the Canterbury Region. The District has a land area of 2,046.41 km² (790.12 sq mi) and a 2006 census population of 3,621 inhabitants.
The Kaikoura Peninsula extends into the sea south of the town, and the resulting upwelling currents bring an abundance of marine life from the depths of the nearby Hikurangi Trench. The town owes its origin to this effect, since it developed as a centre for the whaling industry. The name Kaikoura means ‘meal of crayfish’ (kai – food/meal, kōura – crayfish) and the crayfish industry still plays a role in the economy of the region. However Kaikoura has now become a popular tourist destination, mainly for whale watching (the sperm whale watching is perhaps the best and most developed in the world) and swimming with or near dolphins. There is also a large and readily observed colony of southern fur seals at the eastern edge of the town. At low tide, better viewing of the seals can be had as the ocean gives way to a rocky base which is easily navigable by foot for quite some distance.
It is also one of the best reasonably accessible places in the world to see open ocean seabirds such as albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters, including the Hutton’s shearwater which nests high in Kaikoura’s mountains. A strategic plan for the future of the Kaikoura coast is being developed by Te Korowai o te Tai o Marokura, the Kaikoura Coastal Guardians.