Things to Do in Akaroa
Dolphins, seals, penguins, big hikes, small hikes and, errr, French stuff: there’s plenty of things to do in the town of Akaroa.
Situated on the Banks Peninsula, a mere 1h20min drive from the South Island’s largest city of Christchurch, Akaroa is a marine life hub with a French flair.
1. It’s New Zealand’s Sole French Settlement
Take the Akaroa Village Walks to explore New Zealand’s first and only French settlement. The small village breathes French culture, from shops to cuisine to architecture. In the short time the French settlers stayed here, they created an unmistakable piece of France on the other side of the world. Read more about the walks in our Akaroa backpacker guide.
2. There’s a French Festival
Keeping with the French theme, the city likes to embrace its heritage and promotes it once a year during the Akaroa French Festival. Every October, locals and tourists alike dive into a caricature of the French culture. “Fromage” and “vin” are served everywhere in a fun celebration of the town’s 19th-century history.
3. You Can Swim with Hector’s Dolphins…
The world’s rarest and smallest dolphin swims in the waters of the Banks Peninsula. There are many options for you to get on the water and get a close glimpse of this endangered species. When weather permits and outside of the breeding season, you will even have a chance to jump in the water with Black Cat Cruises and interact with the playful dolphins.
4. … And See a Seal Colony
Yes we know, we are mentioning seals for about the hundredth time on this website, but to hell with it! New Zealand fur seals are as playful as it gets and it is a treat to spend a few hours watching them behave in their natural habitat. Akaroa’s colony is no exception.
Location: The seal colony can be accessed over private farmland with a seal colony tour or with wildlife cruises, such as the Black Cat Nature Cruise, from the Akaroa wharf.
5. Hiking the Summit Walkway (2-3 Days One Way) is Pretty Cool!
The stunning ridgeline walk is tough but well worth it. Feast your eyes on the views capturing the whole peninsula, the ocean and as far as the Southern Alps. The multi-day hike has a number of huts along the way which should be booked in advance. Be aware of seasonal restrictions where the track is closed 8 August 15 October each year for lambing.
Location: You can park your car either at Hilltop or Gebbies Pass. Akaroa shuttle buses can be booked to take you to Hilltop.
6. Kayaking or SUPing in the Akaroa Harbour is Amazing
Well sheltered, the Akaroa Harbour is placid and quiet most of the time. It makes it a great place for those who would like to get closer to wildlife by sea kayak or SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard). Stealth your way to the native birds, penguins and dolphins without endangering them. Wake up early as full-day hires are always a better deal that a stiff hourly rate. Alternatively, jump on a guided kayaking tour or to get to the best wildlife spots.
7. It’s Fun to Explore the Hinewai Reserve
With over 12km (7 miles) of tracks, the reserve has a lot to offer to hikers. The main attraction of the volcanic reserve is the Stony Bay Peak, rising above the peninsula at 806m (2,644ft) high. Also known as Taraterehu, the peak offers 360-degree views of the peninsula and a great outlook of the small French settlement below.
Location: Read more about the walks at the reserve in our Akaroa Guide.
8. Getting Out on the Water Means You’ll See So Many Marine Birds!
Like many harbours in New Zealand, Akaroa is home to fishermen and marine birds competing for the plentiful fish shoals metres below the surface. Seagulls, albatross and more are common sights when walking on the shore or cruising in the harbour. Get your camera ready: they are moving fast!
9. It’s a Place Where You Can See a Rare White-flippered Penguin Colony
The largest mainland white-flippered penguin colony is situated in the Akaroa Harbour. This alone should make it a great reason to make your way to the settlement. But the white-flippered penguins are not alone in the Bank Peninsula. The ever-so-cute little blue penguins can be found in the area too, fishing at sea during the day and resting ashore when the sun sets.
Location: Besides luckily seeing the penguins, you must take a tour to visit their highly sensitive conservation area with Pohatu Penguins.
10. More Scenery Can be Enjoyed on the Misty Peaks Hike
The Misty Peak Reserve covers over 500 hectares (1,236 acres) and hides the Newton’s Waterfall that features on most pictures of the area. The easy 30-minute walk is convenient to reach from the town’s centre and is a great way to spend an afternoon away from the crowds.
Location: Access the walk via Aylmers Valley Road to Misty Parks Reserve car park (30-45 minutes if walking).
11. You Can See Adorable Alpacas with a View!
Finally, a more domesticated animal can be admired in Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula! Shamarra Alpaca offers tours of their scenic alpaca farm where you can learn all about these woolly animals’ quirky habits, stroke their super soft wool and feed them. It’s a fantastic experience for animal-lovers of all ages.
Location: 328 Wainui Main Road, approximately 17km (10 miles) from Akaroa town centre.