Once a booming fishing town, Kaikoura now relies on tourism based on the marine life. Humpback whales, dusky dolphins and fur seals can be viewed from boats and sometimes from the shore. Crayfish are still a viable harvest; the town hall was designed to resemble a crayfish trap.
Evidence of the damage caused by the 2016 earthquake is described in detail in the local museum. Occurring at midnight, it sent shock waves northwards towards the North Island and out to the Pacific
The coastline was lifted up to 9 metres in some areas. State highway #1 and the rail line along much of the coast were destroyed by rockslides, cutting off the town. Provisions usually shipped by rail were no longer available. Travel connections to the rest of NZ now depended on boat and helicopter. Townsfolk and travellers had to be fed and housed. Tourists were stranded and were slowly evacuated by air or sea. The town become a parking lot for rental vehicles as RVs and cars were abandoned with keys in ignitions, until the road was restored and companies could claim their vehicles. Stories of the stress, uncertainty, hardship and ingenuity are recounted in first person interviews in video clips.
Even now, a couple of years later, reconstruction continues with crews working to stabilize the cliffs over the road and the shore line below. Rail service was reinstated in November between Christchurch and Picton.