A wildlife cruise of the Akaroa Harbour
Getting a glimpse of the rare Hector’s dolphins, penguins and native fur seals in their natural habitat is one of the key things that attracts people to Akaroa Harbour. There are quite few tour options to choose from here. Black Cat Cruises is the oldest operator in the area and offers regular trips around the harbour as well as dolphin swim experiences; other companies you could check out include Akaroa Dolphins and Akaroa Sailing Cruises.
Kayaking in the Pohatu Marine Reserve
If you like being more hands-on with your wildlife encounters, a kayak trip around the Pohatu Marine Reserve will be right up your alley. The reserve is located on Flea Bay, along the southeastern end of the Banks Peninsula, and is home to white-flippered penguins, a small fleet of yellow-eyed penguins and a seal colony. Hector’s dolphins and orcas are also known to visit. If you don’t have your own kayak, Pohatu Penguins offers guided paddling tours around the reserve.
Walking and cycling
There are quite a few walking tracks around Akaroa & Banks Peninsula, ranging from short bush walks to scenic day hikes and overnight treks. The Akaroa Head Scenic Reserve walk consists of a narrow road that can only be accessed by four-wheel drive vehicles, but other than that, the 40-minute return loop is relatively simple. If you’re keen to do a bit of cycling, the Christchurch – Little River Rail Trail is relatively flat and will provide you with a different perspective of the pastures and river quarries that make up the Banks Peninsula. For a multi-day hiking expedition, take a look at Te Ara Pātaka/Summit Walkway. The backcountry path begins at Gebbies Pass and concludes at the Montgomery Reserve, crossing private farmland and various tussock-lined valleys in between.
The historic Akaroa Lighthouse is one of the town’s most iconic landmarks. While it currently resides on Cemetery Point, just a short walk from town, the lighthouse was originally erected on Akaroa Heads in 1880 where it operated for more than a century. The lighthouse was shifted to its present location in the 1980s — after an automated light replaced it — and is currently preserved by a roster of local volunteers. There’s a small entry fee for entering the lighthouse (the funds are invested right back into its upkeep), but seeing the historic relics from up close and getting to immerse yourself in the surrounding views is well worth it.