Wander Or Bust: Kaikoura, New Zealand

by Angela Maere

Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.

They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure.~ The internet is full of travel advice, but none from women just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.

Here's Angela Maere's Wander Or Bust guide to Kaikoura, New Zealand.

My Name: Angela Maere

What I Do: Travel YouTuber and tourism consultant

Where I Live: North Carolina, USA

Where I Went: Kaikoura, New Zealand

How Long I Stayed: 4 days, 3 nights (but 3 months in New Zealand)

My Spending Style: Tightly monitored. I always know where every dollar I spend goes and I rarely waste money on anything I don't need.

Where I Got My Recommendations: I’ve been to New Zealand once before and have met a few New Zealanders (otherwise known as Kiwis) during my travels around the world, and they recommended I not miss Kaikoura. I visited Kaikoura for one day over a year ago, fell in love with the place, and now I’m temporarily living here!

Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = $1.43 NZD

What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = $71.50 NZD

Preferred Payment Method: Credit cards without foreign transaction fees and cash.

Phone Bill: My phone is unlocked, so I paid $45 NZD ($31.06 USD) for a New Zealand SIM card and phone plan while in New Zealand.

Mode of Transport: Airplane

Price: $675 — one way.

Extra Costs: $0

Hitchhiking took some patience, a good attitude, and a little luck. If you're not looking to hitchhike, the bus leaving the airport costs $8 NZD ($11 USD) to get to the downtown Christchurch central bus station, and then an additional $4 (almost $5.75 USD) to bus outside of the city to a good hitchhiking spot. Ask the clerks at the bus station and they’ll direct you to the best bus line to take and best stop to get off at to hitchhike. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to hitchhike on the main highways in New Zealand, but everywhere else is fine.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Transport Total: $675

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Accommodation: Dusky Lodge & Backpackers

Location: Right off Beach Road, which is part of Highway 1, and only a 10-minute walk from the town center.

Price: $20/night

Extra Costs: $0

Would I Recommend It To Someone Else: Yes, but in high season (November-April), it might be difficult to get a room!

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Accommodation Total: $60

Breakfast-Lunch Cost: $9/day

I prefer to buy my own food and prepare my meals rather than eat out. The first day I arrived, I spent about $39 for three day’s worth of groceries. That calculates to about $4.33 per meal for three meals a day for three days.

Dinner Cost: $13/day

The average cost for a dinner out in Kaikoura probably runs around $13 for a main dish for one person. If you’re wanting to go for a crayfish meal, the cost will depend on availability for the day and size — costs ranges from $25 all the way up to $70.

Average Total Cost: $22/day

Tip Situation: Tipping is not required or expected in New Zealand, so that was one fewer thing for me to worry about!

Food Situation: Kaikoura is a seaside town that’s known across New Zealand for its seafood — particularly its crayfish! Kaikoura is a Maori (the Maori people are the native inhabitants of New Zealand) word that translates to “meal of crayfish.” People like to eat out here, and no one who comes here should miss out on this local delicacy.

Favorite Restaurant: The Pier Hotel

Although it was a bit higher priced and I stretched my budget, the food was great, and the location is wonderful — right on the waterfront. If you go for dinner, you might be lucky enough to see one of the famously stunning Kaikoura sunsets. Be sure to call in advance for dinner reservations.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Location: 1 Avoca Street, Kaikoura, 7300 Canterbury

Price: $25

Food Total: $70 — as I primarily bought and cooked my own food.

Nightlife Situation: Kaikoura is a small town, so if you’re looking for a wild night out, this probably isn’t the best place. However, if you’re looking to meet some friendly locals and grab a few beers with friends, then you’re right where you need to be. You won’t have to stress about where to go either — there are only three bars currently open in the town and they’re all within a five-minute walk of each other.

What People Wear Out: It's as casual as can be. Think: jeans and a cute top.

Average Cost Of A Pint: $9

Extra Cost To Know About: Not really.

Last Call: 12 a.m.

Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: $35

Cheapest Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: Slam Club

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Going Out Total: $30

What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It: Whale watching by plane was incredible — not only did I see an entire whale from the air, but I also saw stunning views of the Kaikoura Peninsula and the Kaikoura Seaward Mountain Ranges. The price is comparable to the boat tours but much more worth it.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Not Worth It: Kaikoura is famous for its largest local: the male sperm whale. They live in Kaikoura’s waters year-round and many tourists are eager to hop on a boat to go see them. While they’re certainly an incredible sight to see, I found it more enjoyable to see them by plane. The boat is overcrowded and overrated. From the air, you get the entire view of the whale, while by boat you just stop and wait for the tail to go down. If I had to pick one or the other, I’d go by plane, not by boat. Granted, it does make a great photo — as long as you’re not too seasick to take it.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome: Biking around the peninsula had to be one of my favorite things — you can rent a bike for as little as $15 at the local i-site tourism & information center and it’s a great way to see the area! Be sure to ask about places to bike and the Kowhai bike trail.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Favorite Thing I Did, Regardless Of Cost: Kaikoura has the best sunsets I’ve ever seen — and I’ve been to six continents and over a dozen countries. My favorite thing that I did in Kaikoura was watch the sun as it set behind the mountains and illuminated the powder-puff-clouded sky with shades of purple, blue, and pink.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

Hidden Gem I Found: The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway is a three-hour walk around the entire Kaikoura Peninsula that you don’t want to miss. The views are breathtaking all the way around and the walk isn’t strenuous. There are lookout points all along the way because you’ll want to stop and admire the pure natural beauty of this place.

Courtesy of: Angela Maere

The Photo I Took That Got The Most Attention:

Excursions/Extras Total: $300

General Shopping: $0

Souvenirs: $20

I’m not much of a shopper, so aside from groceries and excursions, I spent around $20 to buy a pair of gloves and a hat — seasons are opposite of the USA in New Zealand, so the country is currently at the end of the fall season and the beginning of winter.

Souvenirs/Shopping Total: $20

Best Kaikoura Hack: Make sure you stop by the Kaikoura i-site information center. They have a wealth of information and free resources, and can book you in on any local tours — some of them with a major discount!

Advice For Anyone Traveling Alone: Don’t be afraid to approach people! Kaikoura may be a small town, but it’s a friendly and thriving community with lots going on.

Total Trip Cost: $1,185

Worth It? Absolutely!