A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Wellington vs. Kaikoura for Families, Food, Nightlife, and Beaches

Should you visit Wellington or Kaikoura?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Wellington or Kaikoura? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Wellington

Wellington is a compact, laid-back, and funky city. And you can't forget about the shopping, museums, and nightlife.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a unique, nature-oriented, and biologically diverse town. Visitors also love the beaches, hiking, and shopping.

Wellington and Kaikoura: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Good public transit
Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Things to Consider
  • Less museums and historical sights
  • Public transit not as usable


Is there more to do in Wellington or Kaikoura?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Wellington than Kaikoura, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Wellington is better known for its museums, nightlife, and shopping, while Kaikoura is more popular for its hiking. Wellington is well known for its waterfront promenade, quirky cafe culture, and relaxing beaches. Also, Wellington is famous for Zealandia Ecosanctuary. Kaikoura is well known for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes.

How is Wellington different from Kaikoura?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Kaikoura and Wellington. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Wellington or Kaikoura?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington is a popular place for its sights and museums. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for its museums and history.

Wellington offers a variety of museums and landmarks to choose from. As the capital city, you'll find a number of museums and sights around town. Check out the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Beehive, the Wellington Museum, and the City Gallery.

While most people don't head to Kaikoura specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There aren't many museums in the area, but it's worth learning more about the region's history with a visit to Kaikoura Museum.


Is the Food Better in Wellington or Kaikoura? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Both Wellington and Kaikoura offer a number of high quality restaurants to choose from.

Wellington has a huge number of terrific restaurants. There are waterfront restaurants and a vibrant cafe scene around town. You'll also find local markets and many diverse eateries that you can explore.

Dining out in Kaikoura is an experience not to be missed. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in this town! There are many local, freshly caught favorites such as cod, mussels, and crayfish (which is actually lobster). You'll find plenty of casual eateries, including an authentic American diner.

Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Nightlife?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington is a well-known place for nightlife and partying. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its evening party scene.

Wellington offers plenty to do in the evening. The best nightlife scene is found along Courtenay Place. There you'll find nightclubs, pubs, and cocktail bars. Cuba Street is another fun area with a bit more of a local vibe, and the waterfront is another great nightlife district in the city.

With a handful of venues, visitors can find a fairly lively vibe in Kaikoura. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Beaches?

Wellington
Kaikoura

For a relaxing beach holiday, both Wellington and Kaikoura are high quality choices.

Wellington is considered a top beach destination. There are nice beaches within walking distance of the city center. There are also beaches that are well worth the drive if you're looking to get a bit out of town. In the summer months, there are swimming beaches, and year around they have nice views and a good atmosphere.

Kaikoura is a very popular place to visit for its beaches. There are many black pebble beaches in the area, which are great for wildlife spotting, but not so good for swimming. Gooch's Beach is one of the most popular, and it's sandier than many of the other beaches. South Bay is another popular area to visit.


Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Hiking?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a very popular place for its hiking trails. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its hiking experiences.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Kaikoura. There are many coastal walks in the area that will take you through a variety of landscapes. This is also a great way to see the many diverse types of wildlife throughout the peninsula.

Many people include a hike when visiting Wellington. The area has rolling hills and beautiful coastlines that are filled with walking trails and scenic views. Some of the more popular trails in the area are the Red Rocks walk and the City-to-Sea walk.

Is the Shopping Better in Wellington or Kaikoura?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington is a well-known place for its shopping opportunities. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its shopping areas.

Wellington is a popular shopping destination with plenty of stores. For the city's best shopping, head to the "Golden Mile". This is the area defined by Lambton Quay, Willis Street, Manners Street and Courtenay Place. There are boutique designers and high end fashion outlets throughout the area. The city also has many great markets and local shopping areas.

Kaikoura has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Families?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a must-visit destination for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for its family-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Kaikoura is a very family-friendly destination. Kids who love animals will appreciate all of the wildlife in the area. This is one of the best places in the country to see dolphins, whales, and seals. There are world class whale watching trips as well as opportunities to swim with the dolphins and get close to the seals. There is also kayaking, a coastal train, and even sheep shearing. Minigolf is also a fun activity in the area.

Wellington is known to be a very family-friendly place to visit. There's the Wellington Zoo as well as Island Bay Marine Education Centre, both of which are great for animal-lovers. Waitangi Park is a nice park where kids can run around and play, and if you're looking for something indoors, head to the Space Place at Carter Observatory. If everyone needs some down time, there's always the beach with is fun to hang out at.


Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Couples?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a very popular place for its romantic activities. Also, Wellington is not quite as popular, but is fairly good for couples.

Kaikoura makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. The town is all about wildlife, so if whale watching trips, dolphin spotting, and experiencing amazing local wildlife is your thing, then this is your spot! There are also beautiful coastal sights with a dramatic mountain backdrop.

Wellington is a good city for couples to visit. The botanical gardens are beautiful to explore, and there is also a bird sanctuary in the area as well. Couple's will also enjoy the many nice restaurants and beautiful outdoor space around town.

Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington and Kaikoura are both high quality destinations for backpackers.

Many backpackers visit Wellington. Located on the south side of the North Island, many backpackers use this city as a gateway to the South Island. There are many hostels around town and other fellow backpackers to hang out with.

Kaikoura is a very popular city for backpackers and budget travelers. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Students?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington is a popular place for students. However, Kaikoura is not popular with students.

Wellington is a good city to visit for students. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the atmosphere is a nice setting for students.

Kaikoura is not popular with students.


Is Wellington or Kaikoura Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington is a well-known place for its public transit. However, Kaikoura is not a good town for times when you don't have a car.

Public transit in Wellington can get you to some places easily. There are city buses, trains, and ferries that are popular with tourists and locals alike.

Public transit is quite limited in Kaikoura. The town is very small and there is no real public transit in the area.

Is Wellington or Kaikoura a more walkable city?

Wellington
Kaikoura

Wellington is a well-known place for its high level of walkability. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its ease of walking around.

Wellington is a very walkable city. This is one of New Zealand's most walkable cities and it has a compact city center.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable city. There are many coastal walks in the area, which is a great way to soak up the beauty and see the wildlife. The town itself is small and most of the accommodation is along Beach Road, so it's relatively easy to reach places on foot.

For even more information, also check out Is Wellington Worth Visiting? and Is Kaikoura Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Kaikoura or Wellington?

How long in Wellington or Kaikoura?

It's fun to spend time in either Wellington or Kaikoura. Generally, people tend to spend more time in Kaikoura due to the larger number of activities and things to do. Usually, 2-3 days is a good amount of time for Wellington, and 2-4 days is enough time in Kaikoura.

Families should spend more time in Kaikoura than Wellington. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Kaikoura, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Wellington than Kaikoura if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Wellington.


  • How many days in Wellington or Kaikoura? Ideal Length of Stay
    Wellington 2-3 
    Kaikoura 2-4

One day in Wellington or Kaikoura?

The city of Wellington offers food and shopping. Most people come for the beaches. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

With shopping and nightlife around the nature-oriented town of Kaikoura, there's plenty to do. Anyone can find something fun to do here. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than one day exploring.


A weekend in Wellington or Kaikoura?

Wellington is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this city makes for a great vacation. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Wellington, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

With nightlife and food around the destination of Kaikoura, there's plenty to do. It's also a great beach destination, too. It offers something for everyone. Many people spend a weekend here. In a weekend, you should have a good grasp of this town.

Five days in Wellington or Kaikoura?

Wellington is a popular choice for travelers. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Kaikoura, a popular town, is full of activities for travelers. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. Most people find that five days is more than enough time to see everything. Your budget might influence how long you stay.

A week in Wellington or Kaikoura?

Wellington is a great place to explore. It's also a great beach destination, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This city offers something for everyone.

Kaikoura is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. One week is plenty of time to see everything, even with extra days to spare. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do.


Which place is cheaper, Kaikoura or Wellington?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Wellington is $107, while the average daily cost in Kaikoura is $141. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Wellington and Kaikoura in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Wellington $63
    Kaikoura $50
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Wellington $126
    Kaikoura $100
Compare Hotels in Wellington and Kaikoura

Looking for a hotel in Wellington or Kaikoura? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Wellington


Hotels in Kaikoura


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Wellington Hotel Prices and Kaikoura Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Wellington $12
    Kaikoura $18

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Wellington

Also for Wellington, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Private Transfer from Wellington Airport (WLG) to Wellington Port: $11
  • Departure Transfer: Wellington Central City Centre Hotels to Wellington Airport: $14
  • Arrival Transfer: Wellington Airport to Central Wellington City Centre Hotels: $14
  • Private Transfer from Wellington Port to Wellington Airport (WLG): $26
  • Private Transfer from Wellington hotels to Wellington Cruise Port: $26
  • Private Transfer from Wellington Cruise Port to Wellington Hotels: $26
  • Wellington Airport (WLG) to Wellington - Arrival Private Transfer: $29
  • Wellington to Wellington Airport(WLG)-Departure Private Transfer: $29
  • Wellington Airport(WLG) to Wellington-Round-Trip Private Transfer: $57
  • Wētā Workshop Experience with Guided Transfers: $58

Is it cheaper to fly into Wellington or Kaikoura?

Prices for flights to both Kaikoura and Wellington change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Wellington $31
    Kaikoura $39
Typical Food Prices in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some examples of average food and meal prices for travelers:


  • Dinner
    $9.28

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Wellington

For Wellington, here are some samples of tours and activities related to meals and dining experiences:

  • Walking Food Tour Of Wellington: $158
  • Full Day Wellington Food Tour: $252

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Wellington $17
    Kaikoura $158

Tours and Activities in Wellington

For Wellington, here are a few prices for actual activities, tours, and tickets provided by various companies:

  • Return Cable Car Ticket: $6.82
  • Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa: Gallipoli Early Entry Ticket: $9.30
  • Museum of NZ Te Papa Tongarewa Twilight Express Tour: $12
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Guided Tour: $12
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa: Mana Māori Tour: $12
  • Wellington Self-Guided Audio Tour: $14
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Mana Māori Tour: $14
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa: Small Group Guided Tour: $14
  • Wellington Self-Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Spaceship: $29
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Atlantis: $29
  • Private Group Puzzle-Solving Adventure Game: Temple: $29

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kaikoura are as follows:

  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $75
  • 1-Hour Private Heli-Picnic Mountain top tour in Kaikoura : $247
  • 40-minute Mt Fyffe Summit Heli Tour in Kaikoura : $231
  • Half Day Zipline Adventure in Kaikoura: $101
  • Kaikoura Swim with Dolphins Tour from Christchurch: $250
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch Day Tour from Christchurch: $222
  • 1-Hour Whale Watching Helicopter Tour: $651
  • Guided Family Kayaking Adventure: $93
  • Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour: $93
  • Seal-Watching Pedal Kayak Tour: $74
  • Whale Watching Cruise: $102
  • Wildlife Kayaking Tour at Sunset: $93

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Wellington $13
    Kaikoura -

Sample the Local Flavors in Wellington

Also in Wellington, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half Day Tour: $97
  • Wellington Craft Brewery Half-Day Guided Tour with Tastings: $99
  • 5 hour Martinborough shared Chefs Wine Tour with Gourmet lunch: $146
  • Martinborough Full Day Wine Tour: $177
  • Full Day Martinborough Wine Tour: $177
  • Martinborough High Tea and Wine Tour in Tesla SUVs: $222
  • Private Martinborough Wine Tour in an Electric Vehicle - Tesla Model Y: $295
  • Chefs Private Martinborough wine tour with Gourmet Lunch: $837


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Wellington and Kaikoura, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. And not only is Wellington much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Wellington would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Wellington and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Kaikoura would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Kaikoura than you might in Wellington.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Wellington Expensive? and Is Kaikoura Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Wellington or Kaikoura?

Wellington has a larger population, and is about 560 times larger than the population of Kaikoura. When comparing the sizes of Wellington and Kaikoura, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.