Amazing Akaroa brims with marine life and incredible scenery
Found on the shores of a sheltered natural harbour shaped by an ancient volcano, Akaroa in New Zealand, is an idyllic small town with French and British heritage on the South Island’s east coast. The surrounding Banks Peninsula is not only a hub for outdoor activities amid beautiful, hilly scenery, but also contains protected coastal habitats for marine life, including penguins, seals and rare dolphins, which visitors can sometimes swim with. Growing in popularity as a holiday resort, Akaroa boasts numerous hotels, B&Bs and dining options. Furthermore, Akaroa is approximately 50 miles from Christchurch by road.
Out and about in Akaroa
Maori, French and British heritage combine with an unforgettable landscape amid the remnants of an extinct volcano to make seaside Akaroa an enthralling destination. Without straying too far from their chosen hotel, visitors can savour the rich local history just by walking along Akaroa’s quaint and pretty streets, which are lined with charming period cottages. Indeed, many properties and streets have retained Gallic names, like Rue Jolie, ever since French settlers arrived in Akaroa Harbour in 1840. Alongside independent shops and galleries, there are even eateries serving French cuisine among the town’s cosy cafes and rustic restaurants. The two main churches, which both feature stained glass windows, are also worth visiting. Attractive St Patrick’s Catholic Church is in Rue Lavaud, while the restored St Peter’s Anglican Church in Rue Balguerie possesses exposed timbers. There’s even more local history to uncover in Rue Lavaud at the Akaroa Museum, which details European settlement of the peninsula plus its natural and industrial history. Exhibits include historic buildings and costumes plus a short film about Akaroa. For an insight into the area’s Maori history, the Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum lies to the north-east of enchanting Akaroa. It contains Maori treasures and canoes known as waka plus a reconstructed traditional meeting house. With its mild climate, Akaroa boasts lush green spaces to explore or relax in. Waterside Stanley Park and Jubilee Park beside Akaroa Beach are ever-popular places to laze away an afternoon during holiday season, when the town’s population often swells significantly. Meanwhile, the Garden of Tane is a serene and scenic haven for exotic trees and birdsong, crisscrossed by gentle walking trails. Don’t miss a visit to the quirky Giant’s House where a local artist has decorated garden terraces with multi-coloured mosaics and sculptures.
Take a walk or a swim on the wild side
Human settlers weren’t alone in making a home in Akaroa, which means “Long Harbour” in the Maori language. The shimmering Pacific Ocean waters of the secluded harbour encircled and overlooked by the caldera of an ancient volcano also sustain pods of playful Hector’s dolphins, which are among the smallest and rarest in the world. From your Akaroa hotel, it’s easy to join organised boat trips, which transport visitors into the harbour where the fascinating mammals live in protected marine reserves. Some tour companies can arrange for travellers to swim with the dolphins for an even closer encounter. Those who venture out on the water, whether by sea kayak or boat, might also be rewarded with the sight of little blue penguins, fur seals or numerous species of birds, including the albatross. On the shoreline to the south of Akaroa lies mainland New Zealand’s largest colony of white-flippered penguins, which are endemic to Canterbury. Visits to see the vast colony of the little flightless birds at Flea Bay in the Pohatu Marine Reserve are commonly undertaken on organised 4WD tours. Another top wildlife attraction can be found on land near Akaroa in the shape of an alpaca farm, where visitors can meet the woolly South American creatures and buy knitwear products made from their fine wool.
Enjoy activities in the great outdoors
If you want to stay in shape on your holiday, Akaroa boasts an abundance of outdoor pursuits options. You don’t even need to break a sweat because simply driving the local roads offers up a feast of superb scenery. As the terminus of State Highway 75, Akaroa and its hotels are reached from Christchurch by a scenic and twisting road that skirts the peninsula with spectacular vistas at nearly every turn. The Summit Road offers another memorable driving route as it snakes its way along the rim of the caldera above Akaroa past viewpoints of secluded bays and beaches. Cycling on these routes plus other minor roads and trails along the peninsula’s northern coast is also possible. Kiwis love to immerse themselves in the raw natural beauty that surrounds them by walking, or tramping as the pastime is known locally. One of New Zealand’s best-loved tramping trails passes through Akaroa. Taking in rugged coastline, forests and pastures, the 22-mile Banks Peninsula Track typically takes about three days. Staying in pre-booked huts along the way, walkers will pass near the Flea Bay penguin colony and through the greenery of the Hinewai Reserve with its thriving native forest.
Sample local produce
Foodies can indulge their passion for edibles in Akaroa’s hinterland. At Barry’s Bay to the north-west, visitors can discover the last artisan cheese-maker on the peninsula and sample the handmade produce. There are also regular farmers’ markets to discover nearby. With vineyards covering patches of the surrounding hillsides, it’s also no surprise that there are various wineries near Akaroa, and many open for tours and tastings.
Interesting facts about Akaroa
Busiest monthhighest prices per month
Calmest monthlowest prices per month
Average price on weekdaysprices in the last 12 monthsNZ$196
Price per night on the weekendprices in the last 12 monthsNZ$210
Warmest temperaturein the last 5 yearsJanuary: 15°C
Coldest temperaturein the last 5 yearsJuly: 4°C
Warmest water temperaturein the last 5 yearsFebruary: 12°C
Coldest water temperaturein the last 5 yearsSeptember: 4°C
The best time to book a hotel in Akaroa
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Average temperatures in Akaroa