Family Activities in Akaroa
A fascinating little town with rich French and Maori history amidst volcanic hills and harbours, Akaroa offers a refreshing retreat from the nearby Christchurch. That’s not all that Akaroa is about though, as most families love discovering the thriving wildlife of the harbour, including the world’s smallest species of both penguins and dolphins. Farm animals like alpacas are some of the friendly locals you’ll find, ready to meet and hug on farm tours, while more unusual wildlife like “rhinos” can be found on the town’s walks. Find out more about what you could be getting up to with the family in this list of the best things to do in Akaroa with kids!
1. See Dolphins, Penguins, Seals and More on a Wildlife Cruise
Board one of the wildlife cruises or sailing trips from Akaroa so the whole family can experience the array of Hector’s dolphins, little blue penguins, seals, seabirds and more on the harbour’s sheltered and vibrant blue waters. An accessible option for families is a nature cruise with Black Cat Cruises (check them out of Viator and Tripadvisor). Ride their large catamaran which is stroller-accessible so even the youngest members of the family can enjoy watching dolphins leaping beside the boat. You’ll also get to see the harbour’s sea caves and cliffs formed by volcanic activity while learning all about their history through commentary from your skipper. Akaroa Dolphins (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) has a similar offering on a smaller catamaran tour (and is stroller-friendly), which includes refreshments. Should you want to combine your wildlife cruise with pretending you’re a pirate on a sailing ship, join Fox 2 Sailing Adventures (see more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) for their wildlife cruise in a vintage sailboat.
Location: Black Cat Cruises and Akaroa Dolphins depart from Akaroa Main Wharf. Fox 2 departs from Daly’s Wharf.
2. Find Rhinos and Other Surprises on the Children’s Bay Walkway
A must-do for families is the Children’s Bay Walkway, not because of its obvious name, but because of the more surprising “wildlife” you’ll meet along the way. Locally known as the “Rhino Walk”, you’ll see why as you steadily climb up a headland on this one-hour return walk or three-hour circuit. Enjoy beautiful vistas of the Akaroa Harbour and various bays, while looking out for metal sculptures in the long grass. See more like this in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Akaroa.
Location: Parking available at the Akaroa Recreation Ground, Rue Brittan, which provides access to the Children’s Bay Walkway along a 10-minute boardwalk.
3. Check Out the Akaroa Museum…
Should the rain catch you in Akaroa, or you simply want to incorporate some educational activities into your visit, check out the Akaroa Museum. Set across the historic Langlois-Eteveneaux cottage, Akaroa Court House and the Custom House, the museum features well-presented exhibitions about the early Maori, the transformation of the natural environment made by the early Polynesian and European settlers, why the town is a “French” town and much more. The museum is free to visit. See more like this in the 10 Things to Do in Akaroa on a Rainy Day.
Location: 71 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa town.
4. … Or the Okains Bay Museum
And if the Akaroa Museum wasn’t enough, there’s also another option in Okains Bay just a short and scenic drive from Akaroa. Okains Bay Museum houses historically significant Maori and early European artefacts. See waka (canoes) in the waka shed, meander from the blacksmiths to the gun room, and learn about the Banks Peninsula’s wildlife of the past and present. There’s a small admission fee for adults. Kids get in free.
Location: 1146 Okains Bay Road, Okains Bay, approximately 20km from Akaroa town centre.
5. Have a Beach Day
On a hot summer’s day, you might want to get off the beaten track and explore the Banks Peninsula’s beautiful beaches. Le Bons Bay and Okain’s Bay have stunning sandy beaches and areas for children to swim while the drives offer breathtaking vistas of the surrounding bays and rolling farmland.
Location: Le Bons Bay – Le Bons Bay Road, approximately 22km (14 miles) from Akaroa town. Okain’s Bay Beach – Okains Bay Road, approximately 22km (14 miles) from Akaroa town.
6. Enjoy a Penguin Safari with Pohatu Penguins
For a wildlife experience on dry land, how about meeting the world’s smallest species of penguins at New Zealand’s largest blue penguin colony? Join Pohatu Penguins for their family-friendly penguin safari, taking you to a private conservation area in a picturesque and remote bay to learn about protecting New Zealand’s birds, as well as spotting penguins and perhaps even seeing a chick feeding. On their evening tours, you’ll arrive at the family’s homestead to meet and feed the enthusiastic sheep before being given camouflage clothing to give you the best chances of spotting penguins. Next, you may get to see a penguin chick being fed as part of its rehabilitation before heading out to various hides overlooking nesting sites to see the little blue penguins waddling in from shore. Try to time your visit with September and Mid-February for the best penguin viewings.
Location: Tours depart from Wildside Booking Office, 2/8 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa town.
7. Stroke Fluffy Alpacas at Shamarra Alpacas
Fluffy, photogenic and seriously cute, the alpacas at the Shamarra Alpaca farm are sure to amaze the kids and even melt your heart too. Shamarra Alpacas Farm Tours gives you a brief introduction to alpacas and their quirky habits before meeting an alpaca in the barn for a safety briefing and to feel the silky softness of their wool. Then, it’s out to the paddocks to meet, feed and pet the herd and even experience the joy of seeing adorable baby alpacas! What’s more, the experience only lasts approximately one hour, making it suitable for even the shortest attention spans.
Location: 328 Wainui Main Road, Wainui, approximately 17km (11 miles) from Akaroa town.
8. Explore the Garden of Tane
If you have a free morning (or afternoon or evening, for that matter), take the kids to explore the lush Garden of Tane. Accessible from the town, the Garden of Tane features short stroller-friendly walks amidst native and exotic trees alive with birdsong. Along the way, you’ll discover historic cemeteries, picnic areas, views of the harbour, as well as a children’s playground.
Location: Corner of Rue Jolie and Aylmers Valley Road, Akaroa town.
9. Experience a World of Whimsy at The Giant’s House
For something a little different, check out the weird and wonderful whimsical world of The Giant’s House! Kids love exploring this exuberant garden of mosaic sculptures, water fountains and walkways around the grand historic homestead. You can easily spend a couple of hours discovering its secrets and relaxing at the on-site cafe with alfresco dining under the shade of the trees.
Location: 70 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa town.
10. Blast Around the Akaroa Harbour by Jet Boat
Ending where we began, more water adventures await on the Akaroa Harbour with Akaroa Jet Adventures. Yes, Akaroa is one of the many places in New Zealand to experience the thrills of this New Zealand invention with a jet-propulsion system. Akaroa, however, is also one of the limited places where you can experience a jet boat on the sea, complete with 360º spins! The 45-minute tour isn’t just about the thrills though, as you’ll embark on a journey to giant caves, salmon and paua farms and stop to see any wildlife you encounter along the way. See how it compares in the 17 Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
Location: 61B Beach Road, Akaroa town.