Akaroa Banks Peninsula

Visit Akaroa/Banks Peninsula, Christchurch, NZ

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  • Banks Peninsula has two main harbours: Lyttelton, Christchurch’s port town, and Akaroa, a historic settlement dating to the earliest days of New Zealand’s colonisation. Around the Peninsula are coves and bays that have small settlements.

    The Peninsula is 8-11 million years old, of volcanic origin; its two main harbours are its two main craters. Alluvial material washed from the Southern Alps to form the Canterbury Plains has connected the volcano to the mainland. A large, shallow freshwater lake, Lake Ellesmere, borders the southern edge of the Peninsula.

    Early European arrivals established whaling stations near Akaroa. Today, a marine mammal sanctuary surrounds most of it, mainly to protect the small, rare Hector’s Dolphin. Scenic cruises, wildlife cruises, fishing and diving are all popular activities.

    Accommodation in Akaroa & Banks Peninsula (NZ)

    Akaroa has a good number of accommodation providers. (The town’s population swells more than ten times during summer months). There are luxury hotels and lodges, motels and self-contained cottages, bed & breakfast establishments and holiday homes to rent.

    Akaroa also has holiday parks for camping, and backpacker accommodation.

    Accommodation can also be found elsewhere on the Peninsula, especially at the more popular bays, including Pigeon, Paua, Okains, Le Bons and Flea Bays. Diamond Harbour has a health resort.

    Transport around Akaroa & Banks Peninsula

    A number of coach shuttle services connect Akaroa and Christchurch, for day tours or overnight stays.

    A motorcycle and sidecar can be hired at Akaroa for exploring the area. Mountain bikes can also be hired.

    The journey by road from the city of Christchurch takes about 75 minutes. The journey from Lyttelton is of similar length, running alongside Lyttelton Harbour to join the route from Christchurch at Tai Tapu, before winding around the Peninsula to the south to ascend at Lake Forsyth near Little River.

    Tourist Activities around Akaroa & Banks Peninsula

    In 1839, French colonists purchased land at Akaroa and planned a settlement. This was forestalled by Britain’s proclamation of sovereignty under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. Nevertheless, there are French street names and some surviving colonial architecture of those times, including a customhouse built in the 1850s and a community hall built in 1879.

    Visitors to Akaroa can walk in old gardens that contain early cemeteries, including L’Aube Hill, the Gardens of Tane, Jubilee and Stanley Parks. Guided walks or audio-recorded guides are available. The Akaroa Museum displays more of this early history.

    Akaroa is known for its cookery school and its restaurants, which include French and Italian style bistros and trattoria. Local products that may be served include wines, olive oil, and cheeses from a factory on the harbour at Barry’s Bay, which has been operating since 1893. There is also a cinema café.

    Day-trips by shuttle bus or 4WD are available to visit local farms, including an alpaca farm. Wildlife tours by mountain bike, sea kayak or boat visit a range of locations, including a seal colony, where it is possible to swim with seals, and places where Hector’s Dolphins are found. Horse treks are also available in the area.

    Water based activities such as sailing, diving, fishing and surfing are always popular in the sheltered waters of the harbour. Diving is especially good at Flea Bay, where there is a marine reserve.

    The Akaroa area has a number of resident artists and craftspeople who sell work from galleries and gift shops in the town. A special feature of Akaroa is “blue pearls” farmed from New Zealand’s abalone shellfish, the Paua, which are incorporated into beautiful jewellery.

    Akaroa has a popular 18-hole golf course at which tournaments are held. Other events on Akaroa’s calendar include a cycle race, ocean swim race, regatta, and music and dance performances.

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    Akaroa Banks Peninsula