How to Plan a Trip to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula
Just a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, over the volcanic hills of the Banks Peninsula, you’ll emerge at the oldest town in the Canterbury region. Akaroa has an intriguing history of French settlement which the town still wears with pride across its French street and shop names and fine cuisine. But the charming heritage buildings and French flair are only part of the story of Akaroa, as those who travel there often find themselves in awe of the contrasting colours of the turquoise harbour waters next to the rolling green hills and reserves. Within its waters, dolphins, seals and little blue penguins put on a show for those who embark on sailing tours, kayaking excursions and catamaran cruises.
So start planning your side-trip to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula with this complete travel guide to Akaroa.
Common Questions About Akaroa
Let’s kick off this Akaroa travel guide with the important stuff; the most common questions travellers have about visiting.
Where is Akaroa Located?
Akaroa is located midway down the east coast of the South Island, on the Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury region, New Zealand. It is southeast of Christchurch.
How Do You Get to Akaroa?
Akaroa is connected to Christchurch and the rest of the South Island via State Highway 75. The closest international airport is Christchurch International Airport (1h30mins drive), which also has frequent domestic flights from Auckland, Wellington, Queenstown and elsewhere. Akaroa is on the main national bus route, which you can find more information about in Bus Networks in New Zealand. Shuttles between Akaroa and Christchurch are available with Akaroa French Connection (find out more on Viator and Tripadvisor).
What is the Weather Like in Akaroa?
The daily average temperature is 11.8°C/53.2°F, while the yearly average rainfall is 985mm/38.8″. Find out more in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Why is Akaroa French?
The first Europeans to settle in Akaroa were the French in 1840. It has been suggested that it was the settlement here that speeded up Britain’s decision to annex New Zealand with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on February 6 1840.
How Was Akaroa Formed?
Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula have formed through volcanic activity some 6 to 11 million years ago. The Akaroa Harbour is a crater of a volcano that flooded when the sea level rose around 6,000 years ago.
What to Do in Akaroa
Akaroa is known for two things: its French flair and wildlife encounters. Any activities encompassing these is a must-do in Akaroa, whether it’s trying a French baguette at a local bakery or sailing the harbour on a wildlife cruise. Nevertheless, activities come in many forms on the Banks Peninsula giving you plenty to fill your trip to the brim!
The Top Experiences in Akaroa
Some of the highlights for activities include:
- Exploring the French settlement – pick up a baguette from the Sweet As Bakery or pâté from La Boucherie & Deli, and get a photo with the French artist Charles Meryon statue
- Join Pohatu Penguins for their penguin safari
- Set sail in the Akaroa Harbour with Fox II (see more info on Viator and Tripadvisor) in the crater of an ancient volcano
- Find rhinos on the Children’s Bay Walkway
- Try award-winning cheese at Barrys Bay Cheese
- Do night paddleboarding with NightSUP
- Cuddle fluffy alpacas at Shamarra Alpacas…
… And the list goes on! Seriously, check out the 15 Best Things to Do in Akaroa for more details on the above activities and much more.
Rainy Day Activities
It’s New Zealand, so you’re going to need a rainy day backup. With that in mind, you might like to try:
- Visit the Akaroa Museum or the Okains Bay Museum
- Tour the wineries of Meniscus Wines, The Akaroa Winery at Takamatua Valley Organic Vineyards and French Peak Wines
- Get inspired at the Orion Powerhouse Gallery…
… And much more, as listed in the 9 Things to Do in Akaroa on a Rainy Day.
Where to Stay in Akaroa
Aside from our top recommendations listed beside this complete travel guide to Akaroa, we’ve compiled the best accommodations based on price, suitability for families or couples, as well as more premium offerings. What’s more, each article is written by real people rather than robots! Bonus!
Akaroa for Budget Travellers
Even if you don’t have the budget to sail the Akaroa Harbour, just discovering this unique little town is well worth it for budget travellers. Visiting landmarks like the Akaroa Lighthouse and Akaroa Museum will give you some context to the Canterbury region’s oldest town and why it has a fascination for all things France. If you are desperate to get out on the water, however, freedom kayaking is one of your cheapest options where you might even get lucky encountering some dolphins. Otherwise, the surrounding hiking trails are an easy and free way to embrace nature and soak in those bay views. Plan an affordable getaway with The Guide to Akaroa on a Budget.
Things to Do on a Budget
- Check out the Akaroa Lighthouse
- Visit the Akaroa Museum
- Hike the hilltops, bush and beach in the Hinewai Reserve
- Hire a kayak to paddle in the Akaroa Harbour
- Discover the whimsical gardens of The Giant’s House.
For more details on each activity and more, check out the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Akaroa.
Budget Accommodation in Akaroa
Akaroa has seen more and more of its budget accommodation shutting its doors in recent years, leaving very little budget lodgings remaining. Nevertheless, the strongest have survived, such as a hostel farmstay and a couple of holiday parks, so be sure to book early to secure your place. Find out more in the 5 Best Budget Accommodations in Akaroa.
Akaroa for Luxury Travellers
It’s all about the stays in Akaroa, with the Banks Peninsula boasting some of the most luxurious villas and charming heritage-style B&Bs in the Canterbury region. With gorgeous accommodation nestled in secluded bays or gardens where waking up to a chorus of birdsong is the norm, it can be difficult to even leave your accommodation to explore the area! Those that do, however, enjoy the French flair of the town through wine tours or indulge in the stunning scenery of the Akaroa Harbour and its wildlife on nature cruises. Pick and choose from The Luxury Guide to Akaroa to plan your perfect getaway.
Luxury Experiences in Akaroa
- Take a scenic wildlife cruise of the Akaroa Harbour with Southern Wanderer, Black Cat Cruises (more info on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) or Akaroa Dolphins (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Ride the deserted roads of the Banks Peninsula on a private e-bike tour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Sample regional wines on a boutique winery-hopping tour
- Tour Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula on a V8 trike tour
- Dig deeper into the past, present and future of Akaroa on a guided tour with The Seventh Generation.
For more details on each experience and their locations, see the 6 Luxury Activities in Akaroa.
Luxury Accommodation in Akaroa
Tranquillity and being wrapped in nature are the staples of Akaroa’s premium accommodations. Whether you choose to stay in a modern five-star villa in its own secluded bay or opt for one of the luxury boutique bed and breakfasts in town, the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Akaroa will give you a stay to remember.
Akaroa for Families
Treat the kids and yourselves to a truly nature-themed trip to Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula. Wildlife cruises, penguin safaris and even an alpaca farm tour are all extremely family-friendly tour options that kids remember for a long time. In between the excitement, stick to your budget by taking on the Children’s Bay Walkway with fun animal sculptures to spot along the way. The go-to for accommodation in Akaroa is the gorgeous holiday homes, but there are budget options too. Find out more in The Guide to Akaroa for Families.
Family-Friendly Activities in Akaroa
- See dolphins, penguins, seals and more on a wildlife cruise with Fox II (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor), Black Cat Cruises (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook) or Akaroa Dolphins (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Find rhinos and other surprises on the Children’s Bay Walkway
- Enjoy a penguin safari with Pohatu Penguins
- Stroke a fluffy alpaca at Shamarra Alpacas
- Explore the Garden of Tane.
For more details on each experience and many others, including their locations, check out the 10 Things to Do in Akaroa with Kids.
Family Accommodation in Akaroa
Holiday homes are the most abundant style of family accommodation in Akaroa, giving you and your family a chance to unwind in your own private space. Nevertheless, motels and lodges offer more affordable options, while also providing essential amenities to make your stay simple. Check them out in the 10 Best Family Accommodations in Akaroa.
Akaroa for Couples
With its French quality and gorgeous coastal and hill landscapes, Akaroa certainly sets the scene for romance. This side trip from Christchurch is a worthy addition to any honeymoon or couples’ getaway itinerary around the South Island where couples can indulge in French cuisine, experience their heart melting at the sight of cute penguins and dolphins, and watch the stunning sunrise or sunset from the balcony of the town’s endearing accommodation. Plan your romantic getaway with The Honeymoon & Romantic Getaway Guide to Akaroa.
Romantic Activities in Akaroa
- Swim with the world’s smallest species of dolphins with Black Cat Cruises (check them out on Klook, Viator or Tripadvisor), EcoSEAker or Onuku Farm Hostel
- Paddle together in a sunrise kayak tour with Akaroa Guided Kayak Safari (on Viator or Tripadvisor)
- Set sail on the Akaroa Harbour (on Viator and Tripadvisor)
- Enjoy a romantic stroll on the beach
- Inspire yourselves at the Orion Powerhouse Gallery.
For more details on each experience and more, take a look a the 10 Romantic Things to Do in Akaroa for Couples.
Romantic Accommodation in Akaroa
From charming historical B&Bs to innovative stays in a silo, there’s a whole variety of accommodations in Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula. See some of the most charming options for couples in the 10 Best Romantic Accommodations in Akaroa.
Akaroa for Foodies
No matter how you like to travel, you can’t miss some of the foodie experiences in Akaroa. Being a town of French heritage, Akaroa boasts authentic French bakeries, wineries and even a cheese manufacturer. The Saturday morning farmers’ market is a highlight of the town with stalls often decorated in French flags. This is still New Zealand, though, so the fish and chips to eat on the waterfront are legendary! Plan for a trip orientated around food using The Food Guide to Akaroa: Places to Eat & Food Tours.
Food Tours and Activities in Akaroa
- Experience the Akaroa Farmers’ Market
- Tour the boutique wineries with The Bonjour Wine Tour
- Try award-winning cheeses at Barrys Bay Cheese
- Visit the Hikuika Permaculture Hazelnut Farm
- Dine of French cuisine and seafood at Akaroa’s restaurants.
For more details on each experience, see the 6 Best Foodie Experiences in Akaroa.
Where to Eat in Akaroa
- The Little Bistro (33 Rue Lavaud)
- Sweet As Bakery (63 Rue Lavaud)
- La Boucherie & Deli (67 Rue Lavaud)
- Ma Maison (6 Rue Balguerie)
- The Trading Rooms Restaurant (71 Beach Road)
- The Wharf (75 Beach Road)
- Peninsula General Store (40E Rue Lavaud)
- HarBar Beachfront Cafe (83 Rue Jolie)
Foodie Accommodation in Akaroa
Boutique lodges and B&Bs go above and beyond to provide epic breakfasts, commonly using ingredients from the garden and eggs from their own hens. Alternatively, you have some accommodations with a restaurant or self-catering accommodations. Take your pick from the 10 Best Accommodations in Akaroa for Foodies.
More About Akaroa
That’s it for our complete travel guide to Akaroa but by no means the end of our Akaroa advice! Check out the following articles to help plan more of your trip:
Finally, plan the rest of your South Island trip using the South Island in Two Weeks: Road Trip Itinerary or South Island in One Week: Road Trip Itinerary.