Pictures: Whale of a day! Tourists on Kaikoura's top tourist attraction treated to sight of whale close to boat

Kaikoura's top tourist attraction is finally back in business post-quake after the first fee-paying tourists managed to get out onto the water this morning.

The commercial Whale Watch operation suffered a false start yesterday due to poor weather conditions, forcing the cancellation of the planned first day's trips.

The company says tourists on this morning's first trip were rewarded with sights including a sperm whale, New Zealand fur seals and various marine bird species, specifically the wandering albatross. It also reported sighting several dusky dolphins.

Kauahi Ngapora says the marina needs to be dredged as soon as possible if clearing the Inland Road and State Highway south is to be any good for tourism. Source: 1 NEWS

The Whale Watch operation was forced out of business after November's 7.8 earthquake which raised its docking berth by well over a metre, virtually stranding the company's four vessels, leaving only a three-hour daily tidal window to get the boats in and out of the harbour.

Last week a nearby slipway was dredged, allowing the operation the ability to now bring in a large trailer unit to get passengers on and off their boats.

Whale Watch will now be able to operate three tours daily, carrying up to 100 passengers.

The company is re-starting its operation with one boat instead of the usual four; three have been moved to Wellington to make space for a six-month long damming, dredging and digging project to restore the harbour depth to its original two metres.

This project, funded from a special $5 million dollar government earthquake grant, will begin in mid-January.