Akaroa lies just southeast of Christchurch.

Located on New Zealand’s picturesque South Island, Akaroa is set on the breathtaking Banks Peninsula.

The area is a haven for nature lovers.

The ocean and surrounding farmland have some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the country.

Whether you’re a hiker at heart or have always wanted to swim with rare Hector’s dolphins, Akaroa is the place.

Continue reading for the 13 best things to do in Akaroa for nature lovers.

1. Pohatu Penguins

Did you know you can see penguins in New Zealand?

Akaroa is home to the white-flippered penguin, the largest Australiasian Little penguin colony on mainland NZ.

Only guided small groups can visit their sensitive habitat.

Breeding and molting seasons are the best time of year to view these adorable creatures, which is from mid-September until mid-February but they can be seen all year long except for March.

A true conservation trip, your tour will take you around the colony and learn about what needs to be done to protect the penguins and New Zealand wildlife.

Binoculars and telescopes are provided with Pohatu Penguin Tours so you can witness the penguins socialising and swimming.

Tour details

  • Duration: 2.5-3 hours
  • Departure Point: Wildside Booking office, Unit 2, 8 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa
  • What to Bring: Sturdy walking shoes, warm clothing

Official Site

2. Scenic Nature

Akaroa is an edenic paradise.

Rolling hills give way to turquoise blue waters.

A 4WD nature safari is the best way to experience all of Akaroa’s natural beauty.

Tours go through the Wild Side Conservation Area, and you’ll learn about the region’s unique flora and fauna, its history, as well as its penguin conservation program.

During the safari, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Akaroa Harbour and the forested hillsides.

As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the farm’s friendly sheep and later on, may even get to see white-flippered penguins as you help the guide monitor nesting sites.

Tour details

  • Duration: 2 or 4 hours
  • Departure Point: Wildside Booking office, Unit 2, 8 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa
  • What to Bring: Sturdy walking shoes, warm clothing and water.

Official Site

3. Kayaking in Pohatu Marine Reserve

As soon as you see the turquoise blue water of Akaroa Harbour, you’ll want to experience it first hand!

Luckily, the kayaking tour at Pohatu Penguins lets you do just that.

Glide around the outer coast of the Pohatu Marine Reserve on this sea kayaking adventure.

Marvel at dramatic cliffs, rock formations, deep sea caves, and reefs.

On calm conditions you’ll even be able to paddle your way to Flea Bay Island and its gorgeous island arch.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, penguins, seals, and all kinds of sea birds.

Tour details

  • Duration: 3.5-4 hours
  • Departure Times: 8:00 am or 12:00 pm
  • Departure Point: Wildside Booking office, Unit 2, 8 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa
  • Inclusions: Scenic 4WD drive, photos and commentary, fully qualified and experienced staff, all gear.

Official Site

4. Wild Dolphins

Check another experience off your bucket list by swimming with dolphins in Akaroa.

Akaroa is home to the rare Hector’s dolphin, also known as the New Zealand Dolphin.

These small yet fast creatures love to play and swim in Akaroa Harbour.

On this Swimming with Wild Dolphins tour, prepare to set sail into the sheltered harbour.

Dolphin sightings are guaranteed and once you find a good spot, your captain will let you into the water.

Swim right next a rare dolphin breed wearing a wet suit and snorkelling gear.

Tour details

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Departure Times: 11:30 am or 1:30 pm
  • Departure Point: Akaroa’s main wharf
  • Inclusions: 3-hour dolphin swim, hot beverages, hot shower, wetsuit and mask

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5. Akaroa Harbour Cruise

Set sail into Akaroa Harbour!

Akaroa Harbour is one of the most beautiful coastal areas in New Zealand.

Only a short drive from Christchurch, this is the perfect day trip.

Nature and wildlife cruises are available.

All cruises will allow you to experience majestic scenery.

Remember to keep an eye out for Hector’s dolphins, white-flippered penguins, and all kinds of sea birds.

Tour details

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Inclusions: 2-hour cruise, on-board commentary, all taxes, tea or coffee

Nature Cruise Wildlife Cruise

6. Alpaca Farm

See adorable alpacas in Akaroa.

This South Island region is surrounded by countryside farms.

One type of farm you’ll find here is an alpaca farm!

This 3-hour sightseeing tour will take you to some key attractions in the area, finishing off with a visit to Shamarra Alpacas, a must-see working alpaca farm in Akaroa.

You’ll get to pet and pose for pictures with these fluffy creatures, as well as visit the gift shop and learn all about the animal.

En route to the farm, you’ll stop at the Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum and Barrys Bay Cheese, a local cheese factory.

Tour details

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Inclusions: Bottled water, WiFi, entry fees, air-conditioned vehicle

Book Tour Official Site

7. Garden of Tane

The Garden of Tane is a scenic bush reserve in Akaroa.

Just 5 minutes from Akaroa’s centre and you will be surrounded by canopied trees.

It is a great spot to take a leisurely stroll or go bird watching.

There are easy tracks all through the park that people of all ages will enjoy.

It also boasts an incredible view of Akaroa Harbour.

There is even a playground in the garden for the kids.


  • Opening Hours: Daily 24/7
  • Address: Rue Jolie, Akaroa 

Official Site

8. The Garden at French Farm

The Garden at French Farm is nestled in the historic French Farm Valley.

Set on the banks of the Te Waimangu Stream, this garden is full of native wildlife.

Expect to see beautiful trees, including kahikatea, totara, matai, and kowhai.

There is even a pokaka tree in the garden, which is considered a Notable Tree of New Zealand.

Beyond the magnificent trees, there are vibrant flowers of all kinds, including tulips, roses, and dahlias.

Take a stroll through the gardens or go on a bush walk – there are plenty of ways to spend time in nature at The Garden at French Farm.


  • Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
  • Address: 104 French Farm Valley Road RD 2 Akaroa

9. Akaroa Heritage Park

History and nature all in one!

The park is known for its trees.

Akaroa Heritage Park is home to over 1,000 native trees, with individuals planting new trees in the park every year.

The park was established in 1992 and boasts stunning views of the harbour down below.

It is the ideal spot for a morning hike or even a sunset picnic.

You’ll pass through rolling hills and working farms, so be sure to stop and say hi to the sheep.


  • Address: 280 Long Bay Rd, Akaroa

10. Akaroa Lighthouse

Witness Akaroa’s history first hand. 

The Akaroa Lighthouse dates back to the 1880s and is set on Akaroa Harbour.

Today, a team of volunteers man it year round.

Climb to the observation deck and be treated to stunning harbour views.

Or step inside and walk around the small lighthouse museum.

The lighthouse is easily accessible and costs $2.50 to enter.


  • Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm on Sundays only

11. The Giant’s House

Visit the most colourful house in all of Akaroa.

The house is called The Giant’s House after a child saw the home from the valley down below and stated it must belong to a giant because it was so big.

Today, it is part of Akaroa’s folklore and is visited by people of all ages year round.

Known for its colourful exterior, mosaic sculptures, and interactive activities, The Giant’s House is a beloved Akaroa attraction.

When you’re not looking at the many works of art, be sure to glance around you and take in property’s surrounding hills.

Be sure to stop by the contemporary art gallery and cafe on site during your visit.


  • Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm daily
  • Address: 70 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa

Official Site

12. Newton’s Waterfall

Newton’s Waterfall is one of the best hikes in the Akaroa region.

This waterfall is a true hidden gem and cannot be accessed by car.

However, it’s only a 20 minute walk from the nearest car park.

There is a bench near the waterfall’s base so you can relax and enjoy the view.

Or you can venture closer to the falls and take in the beauty for yourself.

If you’re brave enough, you may even want to take a short swim in the cool waters!


  • Address: 165 Aylmers Valley Rd, Akaroa

13. Electric Mountain Bike & Kayaking in Akaroa

One of the best ways to see Akaroa’s landscape completely is on both water and land.

Start off early in the morning kayaking in Akaroa and follow a nature guide to see the amazing sunrise reflect off the water.

You’ll also see the lush green hills surrounding this small town, perfect for Instagram photos!

After kayaking, take a short lunch break, before exploring the area on electric bikes.

Your guide will show you all the best areas and outlooks in Akaroa where you can capture the best scenery.

With the electric bikes, you won’t even break a sweat as you ride up the green hills of Akaroa.

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As you can probably tell, Akaroa’s natural beauty is one of its biggest draws.

From the rolling hills to the magnificent harbour, getting out in nature is one of the best ways to make the most of your visit.

Between kayaking, swimming with dolphins, strolling through gardens, and cruising around the harbour, we hope this list has provided some inspiration for your upcoming adventure.

Find more Things to do in Akaroa

For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!