Tuesday, January 24, 2006

New Zealand Scenic Drive 2 – Highway 1 Blenheim to Kaikoura

This excellent coastal drive may not have the cliff-top vantage views of the famous Great Ocean Road (Australia). But its combination of expanse and colour stands out for anyone who enjoys endless miles of ocean blue and horizon. Throw in a waterfall, seal colonies, unsurpassed panoramas of mountain ranges set against flower-dotted coastlines and you have a real winner here. So stop along the way, enjoy the oceanic sprays and soak in the spectacular scenery.

20 minutes north of the Kaikoura township are the Ohau waterfall and seal colony.

The Ohau waterfall is not the huge and cascading type, but it is shrouded in thick vegetation and is hidden from the main road. It is not majestic, but if offers seclusion and solitude.

The seclusion of the Ohau Waterfall

The Ohau seal colony is less than 20 metres from the road. The seals can actually be seen from the road. There is no need to join a seal-watch tour; you can see them for free here. Pull up by the side of the road and come up close and personal with New Zealand fur seals. Be warned, however, that these seals can and WILL bite if you get too close and agitate them. Also the gulls here are noisy and suspicious of visitors to this rock outcrop.

Fur Seal at the Ohau Seal Colony

End your drive further south at Kaikoura Town. Visit the information centre for updates about the tides if you intend on doing any coastal walk. Or drive all the way past the town towards the Fyffe Road car park, where you can walk to more seal colonies or do the Kaikoura Peninsula Cliff-top & Coastal Walk (highly recommended; see the views from here in my future post).

Sculptures along the Kaikoura Esplanade

View of Kaikoura from the start of the Peninsula Cliff-top Walk

Alternatively, bypass Kaikoura Town and head towards the beautiful South Bay Parade. Here, you can do we did - lay out your picnic mat and gaze at the unique opaqueness of the turquoise water.

South Bay Parade - a truly beautiful bay

The Kaikoura Range shrouded in mist

Kaikoura is big on whale- and dolphin-watching. But don't plan to arrive on Christmas Day. We did and found all the major operators closed for the holiday.