One way to get to Kaikoura is to take the Transcenic from Christchurch to Picton, which passes through Kaikoura. As a tourist from the States, I thought the Transcenic was a bargain, because the Christchurch-Kaikoura portion cost less than $20, if I remember right. The Transcenic is priced a lot less than the TransAlpine, which is the most popular train route in New Zealand, though I thought the Transcenic to be almost as beautiful. But instead of mountains, the Transcenic skirts the eastern coast of New Zealand. It takes you through stretches of sandy beaches, then sudden outcroppings of rocks, then a gorgeous coastline lays bare in front of you, then suddenly you would pass through dark tunnels. The trip from Christchurch to Kaikoura takes about 3 hours.