Picton man Rob Burn captured a telling photo of a collapsed shop front in Picton.
Twisted metal and bricks from the shop's façade spilled onto the footpath and road - with powerlines hanging loose and the roof cavity exposed.
"That seemed to be the only bit of damage I could see in town so far," he said.
"The town looks pretty good except for that facade."
The store, which sold clothing and craft goods, belonged to a young recently married couple, he said.
A coffee shop next door remained open, and was busy with locals and tourists.
"It was packed. People were quite pleased it wasn't worse but disappointed of course that there has been some loss of life and that Kaikoura is completely cut off."