Best Places to Go Kayaking in New Zealand

Kayaking can be both relaxing and thrilling, depending on where you are and how fast you paddle. It can provide a workout and slow down time. It can give you a whole new perspective on some of New Zealand’s most beautiful locations. You can hire kayaks practically anywhere, and many places have guided tours.

The Marlborough Sounds

The Marlborough Sounds are located at the top of the South Island. They’re famous for warm sunshine, balmy wines and turquoise waters. It’s the perfect place to kayak because the sea is calm and sheltered and the scenery is stunning, all emerald bush and dolphins and seals and penguins.

Lake McLaren

Just outside Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, it’s an absolute haven for picnickers boasting a lake festooned with trees, a spectacular waterfall, swimming holes and, when evening comes, glowworms. In fact, Waimarino Adventure Park and Kayak Tours does an evening kayak tour across Lake McLaren to see the glowworms in the dark. You paddle right under them!

Kaikoura

There are three reasons to go to Kaikoura: dolphins, whales and seals – and what better way to see them than by kayaking? Kaikoura is about two-and-a-half hours north of Christchurch. Not only is there an adbundance of marine wildlife that comes right up to your kayak, as you kayak there are snow-capped mountains in the background. Although it can get a bit cold kayaking in Kaikoura, the magical element of wildlife interaction definitely makes it worth your while.

Kaikoura

There are three reasons to go to Kaikoura: dolphins, whales and seals – and what better way to see them than by kayaking? Kaikoura is about two-and-a-half hours north of Christchurch. Not only is there an adbundance of marine wildlife that comes right up to your kayak, as you kayak there are snow-capped mountains in the background. Although it can get a bit cold kayaking in Kaikoura, the magical element of wildlife interaction definitely makes it worth your while.

Abel Tasman National Park

Just across Tasman Bay from the Marlborough Sounds, Abel Tasman National Park is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. With golden beaches and clear, blue sea, it would be a wonderful place to kayak even without the seal colony and the stunning Split Apple Rock. There are heaps of kayaking companies operating around the Abel Tasman, offering kayak rentals and tours ranging from a few hours to three days.

Cathedral Cove

We think Cathedral Cove is the best beach in New Zealand. You can kayak there from Hahei Beach in the Coromandel, or join a tour group. Cathedral Cove is named for one of its magnificent rock formations, a grand, arching cave that, when you look up from inside, resembles a cathedral. It’s spectacular scenery to paddle around, and it’s a marine reserve as well, so you get a whole array of pretty fish and, if you’re lucky, dolphins.

Mount Maunganui

The Bay of Plenty’s Mount Maunganui is a great place for kayaking around. On one side of the Mount is a golden surf beach; on the other is a sheltered harbour. It’s fun to paddle amongst the bigger boats in the harbour and around the base of the Mount, past some interesting rocks to your own private beach. Matakana Island looks superb in the background. New Zealand fur seals congregate around Mount Maunganui in the winter, and there are usually some stingrays drifting along below the surface. And you know what animals really like to eat stingrays? Killer whales. Imagine encountering a pod of orca while in a kayak!

The Avon River

Right in the heart of the city, the Avon River runs by the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, making for a beautifully peaceful paddle. You can hire kayaks from The Antigua Boat Sheds, which are over a hundred and thirty years old. It’s a wonderfully old-fashioned experience and, despite its air of sophistication, you can still have a lot of fun. If you want a nice, easy kayaking experience, this is for you.

Milford Sound

It can get quite cold and rainy there, but the water is like a dark mirror, reflecting an area of outstanding beauty. Towering waterfalls cascade into the sound, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Bottlenose dolphins break the surface and mist rises from the luscious rainforest. Kayaking is the best way to explore the sound. Unless you’re a really experienced kayaker, however, you should go as part of a tour group, as conditions on Milford Sound are very changeable.

The Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands immediately sounds like a picturesque place to kayak, and we're here to tell you that it is. As well as islands to circumnavigate, there are caves and archways of rock to explore, along with mangroves, lagoons and waterfalls. It’s probably the warmest place to go kayaking in New Zealand. There’s an abundance of wildlife to encounter, including dolphins and gannets. On top of being a great place to kayak, the Bay of Islands has a somewhat fascinating history.

Lake Taupo

Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake, formed when a supervolcano went off thousands of years ago. You can have an easy, gentle kayak on the lake itself, or you can experience the rapids of the various rivers than enter it. The whole area is actively volcanic, so there are natural hot pools around. Trout fishing is popular in Taupo, and there are kayak fishing tours available.

Top 10 Places to Go Kayaking in New Zealand

Article by Abigail Simpson

Image Credits
John Englart, CC BY-SA 2.0

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