Visit this quiet town with a huge international reputation. Surf a ripping point break under the watchful eye of friendly fur seals sunning themselves on the reef. Look seaward and you may see flashes of silver signalling a passing dolphin pod, or the telltale blow of a surfacing sperm whale. For this is the whale-watch capital of New Zealand.

The outer reefs of Kaikoura Peninsula itself will guarantee a close encounter of the aquatic kind with inquisitive seals. However, the surf rides are fairly tame and short-lived. At Kahutara (19 kms south of Kaikoura) you’ll find real action on a right-hand point break at the river mouth. The point can hold 4 metre waves in a southerly swell, demonstrating nature at its wildest, and worst, particularly if you wipe out in a stand-up barrel. Oaro, 6 kms further south sometimes has good breaks over shifting sandbars.

The north coast also offers challenging rides at The Meatworks, just over the railway line at Hapuku settlement. This steep boulder beach has consistent breaks given moderate swells and high tides. At Mangamaunu (16 kms north of Kaikoura) there is a very good right-hand point break that you’ll be reluctant to leave. This classic wave peels along an extensive boulder reef that offers easy access. Catch a perfect set in the green water and you can cruise for 300 glorious metres into the beach.

Further wild, untamed stretches of surf coastline await you up at Blue Duck Stream, just north of Mangamaunu. You will find a good beach break here that can be surfed on all tides. Another beach break at Waipapa Bay (32 kms north of Kaikoura) is a popular venue.

Right-hand point breaks at Clarence and Kekerengu (56 kms north of Kaikoura) are worth a visit on your way to Blenheim and Picton. There’s a wealth of surf breaks along this scenic coast, so stop frequently and size up the waves. Be prepared for some pleasant surprises.