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View of Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula
View of Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula | © Sandra Vallaure / Flickr
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Top 10 Things To See and Do in Akaroa & Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 30 April 2018
Drive out of Christchurch into the picturesque Banks Peninsula and you’ll be welcomed by an array of wonderful attractions. Whether you’re spending the day exploring the township of Akaroa or you’re venturing further out, here are 10 local gems everyone visiting this stretch of New Zealand’s Canterbury region should experience for themselves.

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.

Hector’s dolphin in Akaroa Harbour
Hector’s dolphin in Akaroa Harbour | © Harald Selke / Flickr

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.

White-flippered penguins at the Pohatu Marine Reserve
White-flippered penguins at the Pohatu Marine Reserve | © Andrea Schaffer / Flickr

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.

View of Akaroa & Banks Peninsula
View of Akaroa & Banks Peninsula | © Sandra Vallaure / Flickr

The Giant's House

Art Gallery
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Mosaic sculptures at The Giant's House, Akaroa, New Zealand
Mosaic sculptures at The Giant's House, Akaroa, New Zealand | © Bernard Spragg / Flickr
The Giant’s House is a historic homestead which has been transformed into an artsy escape. It is located just a few minutes’ walk from Akaroa’s town centre and in its past life was the residence of the first bank manager in the area. These days, The Giant’s House features its own bed and breakfast, a cafe, a contemporary art gallery and a terraced garden filled with beautiful adornments like sculptures and mosaics.
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Mon - Sun:
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Accessibility & Audience:

Kid Friendly, Family Friendly

Services & Activities:

Entrance Fee, Independent

Atmosphere:

Outdoors, Touristy, Local, Indoors

Akaroa Lighthouse

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.

Akaroa Lighthouse
Akaroa Lighthouse | © Bernard Spragg / Flickr

Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum

History Museum
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Okains Bay Museum
Okains Bay Museum | © Tony Hisgett / Flickr
The Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum sets out to offer a ‘big-picture ‘ view of New Zealand’s past, from the country’s indigenous ancestry to its colonial settlement history. The museum is located in the Banks Peninsula within a 30-minute drive from Akaroa, and originally started out as a private collection of Maori treasures. Some of its key exhibits include a working Blacksmith’s shop, a war canoe that dates back to 1867 and a rare Akaroa hei tiki pounamu necklace that made its way back from England after the museum’s founder managed to track down and recover it.
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