The Banks Peninsula lies just around 1 hour from Christchurch city centre. Formed by ancient volcanic eruptions the regions first settlers were Maori who recognised its potential for shelter and food. The sealers and whalers followed them and European colonists founded and settled Akaroa, Little River and Lyttelton and many of the Peninsula's other bays. Abounding with wildlife and history it's a great place to spend the day exploring.
The jewel is Akaroa which lies just over 70 kilometres from central Christchurch and the drive to this picturesque harbour town is a wonderful experience in itself as it can either take you via the port of Lyttelton and along the bays or over the Summit Road of the Port Hills.
The well-signposted tourist routes will guide you on a loop around the peninsula and through some spectacular and rugged farmland scenery. As you approach the small settlement of Duvauchelle you are greeted by New Zealand's oldest hotel.
The town of Akaroa has rather a French feel with many flags flying and cottages and streets with distinctly non-kiwi names. The reason being that 63 Frenchmen arrived here to settle the Banks Peninsular under the French Flag only to find the British had beaten them by 5 days. Their influence on architecture combined with a Victorian seaside feel make the town a delightful place to spend an afternoon. There are many activities such as nature cruises and swimming with dolphins.
Experience majestic scenery and stunning wildlife daily on a Black Cat Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. You’ll see the rare, native dolphin – the Hector’s or New Zealand Dolphin. There’s also the chance to spot the world’s smallest penguin, the White Flippered Little Blue Penguin, Fur Seals and other sea birds.
Other cruise highlights are some majestic volcanic cliffs (including the impressive Cathedral Cave) and signs of Akaroa’s fascinating past including early Maori, French and British settlements.
Akaroa Harbour formed as a result of an extinct volcanic crater being flooded by the Pacific Ocean. It's a beautiful place with sheer cliffs and the picturesque township of Akaroa at its heart. New Zealand's only native dolphin, Hectors dolphin, makes this sheltered harbour its home and its here you can take a 2 ½ tour to see and if you wish actually swim with these incredible creatures. Following a ½ hour briefing you depart on a 2 hour cruise of which around 1 hour is spent in the water with the dolphins. Black Cat Cruises has been operating since 1985 and their success rate at sighting dolphins is over 98%. Swimming with dolphins is not always possible either due to sea conditions, the dolphins' willingness to stay and play and other environmental reasons such as not swimming when there are babies around. They still manage to swim though on over 80% of their tours. All equipment is provided and all you need to bring along is your swimming costume and a towel.
Pohatu is the largest Australasian Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. Much work has gone into protecting the White-flippered Penguins from introduced predators. You’ll join a guided tour to view these birds in their natural habitat. This evening tour gives you the chance to observe the birds returning from hunting at sea and you’ll be involved in the monitoring programme of the nesting boxes to learn more about the conservation work. The best time for penguin viewing is the breeding season between the end of August and January.
Explore the outer coast of Pohatu Marine Reserve and marvel at it's towering sea cliffs. Sculpted through the ages by the sea into rock stacks, reefs, and deep sea caves. Visit Flea Bay Island and witness the impressive island arch, an exciting attraction in settled sea conditions.
Pohatu Marine Reserve also has diverse wildlife with many marine species such as Penguins, several seal colonies and is often visited by Hectors Dolphins and a great range of sea bird species.
Shamarra Alpaca farm, located on the western side of Akaroa Harbour, and only 20 minutes from Akaroa, is home to a herd of over 100 alpacas. On your farm tour, you’ll get up close with these magnificent animals. Feel their soft fleece, feed them a snack and even snap a selfie, while enjoying breathtaking panoramic views from the Akaroa Heads to the south, and all the way to Barry's Bay at the north end of the harbour. Afterwards, enjoy a beverage and some home baking while you browse the farm shop.
A cruise around Akaroa Harbour is the perfect way to view the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world, the Hector’s Dolphin, along with fascinating birdlife, New Zealand fur seals and white-flippered penguins. Their custom built catamaran accommodates a small number of guests so you are able to enjoy a more personal cruise experience around the spectacular seascape including sea caves, high cliffs and volcanic rock formations.
Akaroa is one of the best destinations for sea kayaking in New Zealand. The shores are protected conservation reserves full of native birds. If you love geology, bird watching or just connecting with nature this experience is a great choice for you!
Gently paddle along the coastline while your guide points out places of interest and any wildlife. There are many hidden treasures of the sea that your guides will find for you along the way such as sea cucumbers, starfish, sea slugs and many types of edible seaweed that ancient Maori Tribes included in their diets.
Take a comfort break on a remote beach for around 20 minutes, during this time you can explore, swim or simply soak up our pure New Zealand environment. Your guide will provide you with one of New Zealand’s world-famous cookie time cookies, straight from the factory in Christchurch! After the break, you will launch your kayaks back into the water and continue the tour, Akaroa is rich with Maori history and our waters were once teeming with whales and whalers, your guide will have a few stories to share with you!
The Akaroa Cooking School is where you learn how to cook using the finest quality, freshest, local and seasonal produce. They match each of the dishes with award winning local wines to showcase each dish, and to emphasise the abundance of amazing produce available right in Akaroa. The day is a completely indulgent experience of eating exquisite food, drinking fine wine, and learning the tips and techniques to recreate all of the dishes in your own home whilst having a lot of fun and laughter along the way. The Akaroa Cooking School believes that cooking should be a fun part of everyday life and that each meal should be savoured and shared.
Classes are small so that every guest feels that they have plenty of one on one time with the chef and you can ask as many questions as possible to get the most out of your day.
The chefs and owners grow much of the produce for the school themselves and the rest is gathered from local suppliers and artisan producers. Located in the gorgeous seaside town of Akaroa the school is right on the waterfront with spectacular views of the harbour and surrounding hills.