About 180,000 years ago periods of rapid uplift raised the layers of limestone and siltstone laid down on the sea-bed about 60 million years before to form the twisted and weathered outcrops that today make up the Kaikoura Peninsula. Originally an island, the peninsula has since been joined to the mainland by steep plains built up of debris swept down from the mountains in the Hapuka and Kowhai rivers.
In Maori lore the peninsula was the place where Maui braced his foot when he fished up the North Island and was named Te taumanu o te whaka a Maui ; the thwart of Maui's canoe. The name Kaikoura, meaning meal of crayfish, was given by Tamaki-te-rangi when he stopped over to eat here while chasing his runaway wives. It is likely that Kaikoura was first settled by the Waitaha followed by the Ngati Mamoe and then the Ngai Tahu tribes.
As Moa numbers declined crops and settlements became more important so they built lookouts and fortifications around their hilltop pa sites. Although they were only occupied for short times there are at least fifteen of these pa sites in and around Kaikoura with fierce battles occurring at some of them.
In 1843 Captain Robert Fyfe, reputed to be Kaikoura's earliest European settler, established "Waiopuka", the first shore whaling station near where his house, built in 1860, still stands on it's whale bone piles. Other whaling stations soon followed at South Bay but after 1850 whale numbers steadily declined and the exploitation of them became uneconomic. Today all marine mammals are protected in New Zealand and the whales are hunted with cameras instead of harpoons. Sheep and goats were introduced to the area by him in 1849 and in 1854 he was joined by his cousin George who leased an area north of Kaikoura known as the "Mount Fyffe Run" thus Mount Fyffe got it's name and farming began in the district.
Overland routes to Kaikoura were extremely difficult to travel with rough country and many river crossings. As a result most people and freight traveled by sea despite the often perilous coastline with it's changeable weather resulting in many shipwrecks. The remains of an old chimney near Fyffe House are all that is left of the former custom house, the official port of entry and the main link with the outside world for many years. With land access being improved by the construction of roads and bridges the old port was closed in 1949. The Christchurch to Picton Railway, a major accomplishment complete with 21 tunnels, was opened during 1945.
Like many rural areas of New Zealand, Kaikoura suffered from the economic downturn of the 1980's but is now on the road to recovery.
Tourism got a boost in 1989 when whale watching began. This has brought about an increased awareness of the areas varied and unique wildlife along with an amazing mixture of geological features providing scenery equal to or better than that seen anywhere.
Article from : http://www.virtual-kaikoura.com/history/history.htm
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