Kaikoura is a standard Troup Gable station, albeit a very late example. A large timber structure with a verandah to the platform, it differs little in style from stations built in the early 20th century. However, the treatment of the entrance suggests a "nod" to the prevailing Art Deco/Moderne style of the time. A box-like appendage with flanking entrances, it is attached to a gable perpendicular to the roofline at the midpoint of the building. This gable also extends to the platform elevation. The cladding in the gable ends is vertical board-and-batten, while the remainder of the building has shiplap weatherboards and asbestos sheeting on the roof. The windows are largely single-pane shutters arranged in various combinations.
Kaikoura was one of the stations required to service the uncompleted South Island main trunk line. In 1937 provisional designs of the station were completed. A large building, it was expected to accommodate a general office, booking lobby, ladies’ waiting room, a store room, men's toilet and a refreshment room. The following year a location close to Kaikoura township was chosen, but it was another six years before the station opened, on 2 March 1944. However, for some time prior to opening trains ran on the newly-laid sections of track. The booking office was divided in two in 1946, but principal changes to the station were in the yards, extended in the 1960s and 1970s to handle traffic generated by the rail ferries. The stockyards were sold by tender for removal in 1979. The station is the base for the local whale watch enterprise and a station for the TranzCoastal express.