Kaikoura Diving: A Weekend Camping Trip

With Kaikoura’s diving conditions forecast to be okay, and having recently purchased a new GoPro Hero, the time had come to go and get in the water! Some friends and I packed up and headed out of Christchurch on a Friday.

Our Jucy Camper at Kaikoura, near where we went diving

Kaikoura is my favourite place in the world. Being located just 2 and a half hours drive north of Christchurch, it’s the perfect driving distance for a weekend getaway. The only problem that you’ll have is that there’s so much to do in Kaikoura, you may have trouble fitting it into one weekend!

Camping at Kaikoura

We’d managed to get hold of one of the awesome pop-top campers from Jucy, and fuond a small place to park up at, in South Bay. If you’re planning a camping trip to Kaikoura, there are many campsites, both free and paid. Use your CamperMate app and you’ll see them scattered around Kaikoura.

Diving for Kaikoura Paua

Low tide on Saturday was at 6.20 am, and a few of the group wanted to get some Paua.

You aren’t allowed to take Paua with tanks (only snorkelling) so a low tide is the best time to catch them. If you’re interested in Paua, you might like to check out this video. Remember to only take what you absolutely need, and research the seasonal limits.

There was a bit of swell off Kaikoura, which tends to make shore diving difficult. Especially if you don’t have a rock to balance on while putting on your fins! However, once you get past where the waves are breaking, it’s pretty easy going.

Visibility was pretty average at about 2 metres. While Kaikoura is great and full of sea life, it’s quite exposed to the southerly swells and visibility is quite often limited when diving. However, with the amount of sea life there, sometimes I don’t want to be able to see too far into the depths!

Some murky footage of crayfish off Kaikoura!

After diving in and getting out to about an 8-metre depth, we started to see some of Kaikoura’s famous crayfish in their crevices. I was mostly intent on filming them for this trip rather than catching some for the table. There were also a few Tarakihi and Moki fish around.

Perhaps they knew I was only filming as they were coming much closer than normal!

One of the group wanted to have a dive in calmer waters, so after filling the tanks for $6 at the Caltex just north of the town, we headed around to Kaikoura’s South Bay.

South Bay, Kaikoura

Kaikoura’s South Bay is fairly safe for swimming and diving. It is also a paradise for campers during the day. It has a dumping station, recycling station, public toilets, and picnic tables. Overall, it is just an awesome area for chilling out!

South Bay, Kaikoura, during our diving trip
South Bay, Kaikoura

If you do visit South Bay, go and read about the history of the whaling station here, located at the toilets.

They used to spot them from the nearby clifftops, then deliver the sightings back to the men by way of smoke signals. It’s a little sad to think about this now, but back then, it was their livelihood.

These days, of course, whale watching is a big drawcard for Kaikoura tourism. The Hikurangi Trench runs just out from here. It’s very deep, and this is why there are so many whales.

Driving Along Kaikoura’s Southern Coast

ing is tiring stuff, and we started to run out of energy. Packing up the diving gear, we decided to stock up on groceries at the Kaikoura New World. Our next step: A cruise along the southern coast, as the sun was shining. The drive along the Southern Coast of Kaikoura has to be one of the most beautiful in the South Island. On one side, you have the huge mountains and on the other, you have the sea.

Driving along Kaikoura’s Southern Coast.

You have to be careful not to be distracted when you’re driving in such beauty! If you are thinking of a diving or swimming mission to Kaikoura, I would definitely recommend staying a few nights. There is so much to do both in the way of free and paid activities.

The locals are friendly and there’s plenty of places to eat out at. If you want a real experience, grab some fish and chips for tea from one of the shops on the southern end of the main street and take them to the beach (just across the bridge). 

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