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February 2022 Issue
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Hooked on sea kayaking

When sea kayaking, there’s always another corner to paddle around, another cave to enter or another beach to land on. Photo: Blake Hornblow

These amazing day trips will get you hooked on sea kayaking. By Blake Hornblow

Sea kayaking is a wonderful way to dis-cover New Zealand’s unique wild coastline. What’s better than being on the water at sunrise, paddling leisurely past rugged cliffs, islands and golden sand beaches?

New Zealand’s coastline stretches to around 15,000km and includes every type of seascape from the tallest sea cliff in the world in Milford Sound to the pristine golden sand beaches of Abel Tasman National Park, the Coromandel Peninsula and hidden bays in Northland. 

To wet your paddles, here is a selection of day trips that’ll get you hooked on sea kayaking.

1 Ōkārito Lagoon 

This is a truly wet and wild nature haven. With the Southern Alps as a backdrop, this beautifully calm estuary has numerous channels and rivers feeding into it. It’s a habitat for many rare and shy birds, including the white heron. The best way to explore the lagoon is to follow the Ōkārito Kayak Trail but check the tide times beforehand.

2 Akaroa Harbour

About an hour from Christchurch, an ancient volcanic crater is a wonderful paddling destination. Akaroa Harbour has sheltered turquoise water with nooks and crannies full of marine life. A good half-day trip is to paddle to the Akaroa Marine Reserve. Look out for Hector’s dolphins and little blue penguins. 

3 Milford Sound/Piopiotahi

Piopiotahi is one of New Zealand’s most iconic sea kayaking destinations. It’s a place where the immense landscape leaves you feeling small and insignificant. Somehow, the rainforest clings to the sides of sheer granite cliffs, 1000m tall. And, with an annual rainfall of 7m, Milford Sound is the place to go chasing waterfalls. The 150m Stirling Falls is a must-see. Several operators offer guided tours and kayak hire.

4 Abel Tasman National Park 

For good reason, sea kayaking is a popular activity in this national park. There is crystal clear water, golden sand beaches, regenerating native forest and granite cliffs. The area is protected by Farewell Spit and Golden Bay and generally has calm seas, so it’s safer for novices to test themselves and their gear. Starting from either Kaiteriteri or Mārahau, it’s possible to paddle to Adele Island. Water taxi operators can extend the range of your trip.

5 Tennyson Inlet

Tennyson Inlet in the Marlborough Sounds is a good destination for families. The hills of the inner sound are covered in native bush and a trip can be started from either Duncan or Penzance bays. Around Tawhitinui and Tarakaipā islands there will be diving sea birds and there are many sandy beaches on which to stretch your legs. You could also paddle into Godsiff/Matai Bay and have lunch at the hut.