© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Biking the Bays of the Banks Peninsula

© NZPocketGuide.com

228 Days on the Road

There are a lot of hills on the Banks Peninsula. A lot. Even getting to Akaroa is described by the locals as “over the hill” only to be met with a peninsula full of… You guessed it: hills! But, with hills, of course, comes some stunning vantage points over the many bays and inlets that you really can’t miss!

Most people explore this little piece of paradise by car or pick a section of walking track, for us, we’re going to tackle those hills combining the best of seeing and doing: by e-bike!

In the true French Akaroa style, a company called “Bicyclette” pick us up with a trailer full of sharp-looking mountain e-bikes and takes us to the beginning of our route today. Kaz is going to be our guide, while Gail is designated driver, meeting us at the other end of this one-way route.

Meeting our Bicyclettes!

We head to Little Akaloa, but before reaching the bay, Gail pulls the car and trailer up for a quiet piece of road to practice using these e-bikes. Far from the bike you used to muck about on as a kid, these e-bikes have more advanced settings than probably most cars. Kaz is showing us how to use the little computer showing trip time, distance, speed, etc, as well as the controls for using the power assistance, more assistance, and “turbo” boost! Holy shit! This is the sort of thing you want to practice on first because that initial boost from your first pedal is a totally weird feeling. Once we have the hang of it, we know we’re going to have A LOT of fun on these machines.

The peaceful Little Akaloa

With bikes, helmets and an unusually-stylish high-visibility vest, we say: “See you on the other side to Gail,” and hit the road with Kaz. It becomes clear with just a few hundred metres peddle why we started this trip just outside Little Akaloa. Emerging into the peaceful bay surrounded by high grassy cliffs is just the first “wow” moment. Is it bad that we have literally been peddling for a couple of minutes and we already want to take photos? Damn you, New Zealand, damn you!

A taste of turbo

Although we are loving the views from this cute little bay, we can’t help but notice the road heading up the steep hill alongside us… Yep, Kaz confirms that’s where we’re heading. She leads the way. As soon as the steepness of the incline translates into powerful pushes with our legs, Kaz is advising we turn up the power-assist, go down a gear, (and enjoy the view). Magic!

Rising higher and higher above the bay, we get some awesome views on this super quiet side of the Banks Peninsula. Although there are asphalt roads around here, we fail to see many cars using them. (Yep, we are far from the bustling little town of Akaroa now).

A charming wee church

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Primly-positioned church and Maori carvings

In a bush-covered point at the top of the hill, Kaz directs us off to a gateway and we lead our bikes to an Anglican church with prime position of epic coastal views and surrounded by trees filled with birds. We’ve heard on previous trips around Akaroa how different cultures have lived here on the peninsula, the French part being most prominent, but this Anglican church is most definitely a merge of British and Maori. We have a peek inside the church, our eyes filled with the sight of intricate Maori carvings on every beam and wooden structure holding this place together. Even the pew benches and book holder have their own swirling design complete with paua shells. Being a Kiwi herself, Kaz tells us a little more about the carvings. And here, we thought this ride would be all about the scenery. Fools we were!

Learning more about land of the Banks Peninsula

Feeling a little more cultured, we continue up the not-so-gruelling-because-we-are-on-an-e-bike hills, making our way to Okains Bay. We take quiet single country roads only meeting the odd farmers’ truck or tourist along the way. Fields and fields of farmland surround us, and Kaz tells us more about the history of the landscape: the forests that once covered almost this entire peninsula and how many of today’s farmers are joining the conservation effort to regenerate the natural forest.

What goes up must come down!

So powering up these hills on “turbo” has thankfully been pretty easy, but what goes up must come down… We blast down the smooth asphalt, tears streaming from the wind. We like to believe they are tears of joy, if anything!

Beaching it at Okains Bay

During this 1-hour ride, we meet gorgeous vistas of many secluded bays and rolling farmland, but nothing quite takes our breath away than that initial glance of Okains Bay. Lines of white water are seen from kilometres away contrasting against the vibrant blue ocean rolling onto a wide black-sand beach.

Our final roll downhill brings us into the tiny settlement of Okains Bay. Of course, we can’t end our ride without going to this inviting beach! We would like to see it’s a treat for all the effort we put into biking up those hills but…

Ending the day the Frenchy way

Parked up behind the sand dunes is none other than Gail! Trailer at the ready, we load up the bikes and the Bicyclette babes drop us back in Akaroa where Robin has an appointment with a French bakery. The stereotypical Frenchy has to buy his baguettes where he can, people!

So we’re fast-catching up with doing as many awesome land activities in Akaroa as we have done on the water, proving that there’s so freakin’ much to do on the Banks Peninsula that it’s so worth driving “over the hill” to get here!

On that note, join us tomorrow where we delve more into that cultural side of the Banks Peninsula with a trip the Onuku Marae (Maori meeting grounds). See you then!

Just a snippet of the beautiful bays we rode around

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