The Little Laundromat - 39 Beach Rd
If you find yourself in Kaikoura with dirty clothes; check out the Little Laundromat. The building is set back off the road a bit, so you need to look carefully. We sailed right by it a few times. It is open from 5AM to midnight, and soap is automatically dispensed (very handy).
Kaikoura’s Connection to the World
At the time of whaling you must imagine Kaikoura somehow like an island on the mainland. Due to the rugged coastline at the proximity of the Kaikoura Ranges to the sea it was very difficult to reach the place on the landway. Many dangerous river crossings were involved.
So most connection with the outside world was by sea then. This was dangerous as well, many shipwrecks dotted the rough coastline. The port of entry was near Fyffe House at Point Kean.
This was only closed in 1949 when road construction and the railway line were finished. The railway line from Christchurch to Picton – now the TranzCoastal track – opened in 1945. The construction of the road was a major effort as well. Lots of bridges had to be constructed, and 21 tunnels were drilled.
There are boat trips which go out to take you to see seabirds (not sure if it's a colony on an island or just a group of them).
But, even without taking one of these trips, we saw plenty of birds, so you can just go down to the pier and watch them, or down at the seals from the rocks you can see gulls, mollyhawks, small darting birds, and some kind of stilt - an unusual black and white water bird about half the size of a magpie (or less), but with a very long red beak, a bit like a knitting needle only smaller!
Good Food but Embarrassing Service
When we were at The Craypot in Kaikoura we had such bad service that we wondered if we should leave without having had our meal, instead my husband took notes and passed them on to the manager who apologised and assured us that 98% of the costumers were happy, but they would try to improve and make the remaining 2% of costumers happy, too.
It was peak season in January, and the restaurant was busy. But judge yourselves if this justifies this embarrassing service by obviously totally unexperienced and helpless seasonal staff:
Order only taken from 3 of 4 people at our table. We had to call the waitress back to give her the last order. Water glasses supplied were of different sizes, one was dirty and had to be returned. Unordered drinks were delivered to our table not once, but twice. A glass of wine was delivered instead of the bottle we had ordered - and then we got the wrong wine! After having enjoyed the good meal we had to chase up the bill and it took 10 minutes until it was delivered. Finally someone else's credit card was returned to us...
We also observed diners serving themselves with plates left on the bar due to the absence of waitresses. The party sitting next to us waited an hour for their main course and ended up leaving before it was delivered.
The manager confirmed that such waiting times can happen on a busy night. So better get fast-food if you are very hungry ;-)
The restaurant itself is very nice, the food is of good standard. Freshly caught crayfish is the speciality - but also very expensive. But very nice and good choice of fish.
Amazing Fish Soup
Within 3 hours, we encountered four sperm whales, fur seals, 100's of Dusky dolphins, albatrosses and more. I now understand why the tail of a whale seems so popular in photographs -this is all most people get to see! Not that I'm complaining.
The large boat we sailed aboard provided state of the art video footage with buckets of information about the whales and other marine life. I learnt that the sperm whales are constantly on the go, munching plankton and giant squid. They have the biggest brain of all animals (9kg!) and can grow up to 20 metres long, weighing 36-45 tonnes. After 90 minutes of diving 500m deep, they pop up for air. Staying on the surface for 20 minutes, periodically blowing water through their blowholes and digesting their squid before diving again: 'there goes the tail' (click, click go the cameras), leaving the 'whale footprint'; a smooth puddle briefly made by the weight of the whale.
At one point we saw 3 whales lined up in a row - there was obviously a communication between two of the whales, a fair way apart from each other (under water they produce clicks and pulses that carry up to 10 km) because one swam towards the other, and they floated side by side. I would love to have known what they were discussing, perhaps, "bloody tourists will they ever leave us alone?" Seeing both tails lift and slide in unison beneath the ocean waves really was something, and I am glad I filmed it with my eyes and not through the lens of a camera.
On the downside, there were too many people like me who wanted to see the whales! There were two big boats load of tourists, and a helicopter made a noisy appearance at one stage - reminding me of a crime scene or a celebrity wedding with all the paparazzi, poor whales must be getting a complex, but they fare much better than their forefathers, who got brutally hunted by our forefathers.
**BETWEEN DECEMBER AND MARCH IT IS WISE TO BOOK WELL AHEAD** We had our trip cancelled twice before sailing, so leave a couple of days spare.