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7 Best Akaroa Attractions Every Tourist Must See

Akaroa is a small town on the Banks Peninsula, in the South Island of New Zealand. It is known for its French heritage and for the dolphins that flock to the Akaroa Harbour, especially the rare Hector’s Dolphin. Cruise ships call at Akaroa during the season, and passengers disembark to enjoy the attractions of the town, which include harbour cruises to view the dolphins, penguins and fur seals.

7 Most Popular Attractions in Akaroa

1. Hinewai Reserve

  • Free
  • Hinewai, Akaroa, Long Bay Road, Long Bay, New Zealand
  • Opens daily

2. Garden of Tane

  • Free
  • Garden of Tane, Akaroa, New Zealand
  • Opens daily

3. Fishermans Bay Garden

  • Adult $15 Chil Free
  • Fishermans Bay Garden, Akaroa, Fishermans Bay Road, Long Bay, New Zealand
  • Open by Appointment Daily 10am-4pm

4. Saint Peter’s Anglican Church

  • Free
  • St Peter's Anglican Church, 10 Rue Balguerie, Akaroa, 7520, New Zealand
  • Daily 9am-5pm

5. The Giant’s House

  • Adult $20 Child $10
  • The Giants House, Rue Balguerie, Akaroa, New Zealand
  • Daily 12nn-4pm

6. Barrys Bay Cheese

  • Free
  • Barrys Bay Traditional Cheese, Christchurch Akaroa Road, Duvauchelle, New Zealand
  • Daily 9am-5pm

7. Akaroa Museum

  • Adult $4 Child $1
  • Akaroa Museum Te Whare Taonga, Rue Lavaud, Akaroa, Canterbury, New Zealand
  • Daily 10:30am-4pm

What attractions and activities are suitable for families with kids in Akaroa?

Kids will be fascinated with the dolphins that can be seen on any of the cruises from the Akaroa wharf. Fur seals and penguins will also appeal to children. Swimming can be an option depending upon weather.

Swimming with Wild Dolphins

You’re guaranteed to see wild dolphins on this small group tour. A guide will take you out to the waters to swim with the dolphins on this 2 hour experience. Snorkel gear will be included so don’t worry about packing any equipment.

Sunrise Kayaking Safari

Another fun experience for kids is to join a casual kayak tour around Akaroa habour. Your guide will show you places of interest along the coastline on this 3 hour trip.

The Giant’s House is one of Akaroa’s best advertised attractions, with a historic house, now open as Bed & Breakfast accommodation, and exhibiting gardens filled with artworks, mosaics and sculptures. The Café and Garden are open varying hours, depending on time of year and whether there is a Cruise ship in harbour, so check the hours before you visit. Your kids will love this place!

 

What is the weather like in Akaroa?

Summer temperatures in Akaroa area range from 16˚C (61F), to 30˚C (72F) while in winter expect a high of 13˚C (55F), dropping to a low of 2˚C (36F).

 

What food can be found in Akaroa?

With the French heritage that is such a big part of Akaroa’s culture, most eateries offer a taste of France on their menus. Salmon is also a popular ingredient in local cuisine with fish sourced locally. A Kiwiana classic is Fish and Chips that are sold in the town and are a must for international visitors, and may be enjoyed with both (Watties) Tomato Sauce or vinegar. Barry Point Cheese make a range of cheeses using local product and have a history making cheese in the area since 1895. They are the last of a number of original cheese makers that once worked on the Banks Peninsula.

 

Where can you see gardens in Akaroa?

Besides the Giant’s House, there are several other great gardens in Akaroa well worth a visit. Since 1874 the Garden of Tane has been there for the residents of Akaroa in one form or another, and today offers a number of attractive areas that feature the native plants of Aotearoa, such as Nikau and native Ferns.

Twenty minutes from Akaroa township is Fishermans Bay Gardens, where whimsy is mixed with both exotic and Native plantings. Features include Herbina, the corrugated iron cow, and an old Woolshed, where sheep were once shorn.

Hinewai Reserve is one of Nature’s Gardens- a reserve to the east of the town with 1250 acres of land being restored into Native bush.

 

Is there reliable public transport?

Akaroa is a small town with most attractions within walking distance. Shuttles are available when the cruise ships are in Harbour, while the Akaroa Shuttle (Red Bus) to Christchurch leaves at 9.45am. There is also an Intercity bus service (French Connection) that leaves Akaroa at 9.30 and 10.30 am. They cost $NZD45 return for an adult fare. There are no large commercial taxi firms in Akaroa, but a small local taxi service is available as are local drivers that may be hired. Contact the Information centre (I-site). Further transport options are covered on the local website.

 

How far is Akaroa by car to other parts of the South Island?

A trip to Christchurch is an easy drive taking about an hour and half, taking State Highway 75 via Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth. Another option is the more scenic, but rugged road from Lyttleton across the hills of Banks Peninsula. A trip to Dunedin will take about 5 ½ hours (414 km) while the drive north to the Ferry at Picton will take upwards of 6 hours (over 420 km- a windy road and subject to closure at times). Mt Hutt is another destination that is a suitable distance from Akaroa for a day trip, being 173 km, with fairly easy roads most of the way, so it will take about 2.5 to 3 hours travelling.

 

What type of accommodation is available in Akaroa for tourists and how much does it cost?

There is a wide range of accommodation in and near Akaroa; with prices ranging up to $NZD350. Budget travelers can get cabins at Holiday Parks for as cheaply as $65 for 2 people, while camping in a tent or car on an unpowered site will cost $25 per person, or $35 for a couple.

On the opposite end of the scale, a more expensive, and classier option is found at French Farm with Intrepid Pod Retreats, where rooms feature a kitchenette and private bathroom. Other options include Bed & Breakfasts or Motel units, Backpackers or Serviced Apartments, with a variety of standards, prices and offerings.

 

Are there annual events in Akaroa for tourists?

Akaroa has its own special event, a bi-annual celebration of the French Connection, held on odd numbered years in October. Admission is free and all are welcome. French culture rules for the whole three days, while entertainment and celebrations take over the whole of Akaroa.

It all begins with a street party on the Friday night. Events include a re-enactment of historical events, a parade, and Market Day, official Flag raising, and a Caberet (price extra). French themes prevail. Entertainment and music are part of the entire Fete, with local bands and roving musicians. Children’s activities are lively and inventive, spread throughout the weekend, and the heritage areas of the town all come alive with stalls and activities. The local Marae also offers an open day at this time, for those interested in the Maori culture of the area.

 

What are the Must See Attractions in Akaroa?

The most impressive things to see in Akaroa is the wildlife – the dolphins, penguins and fur seals.

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

The dolphins are Hectors Dolphin, which are a very rare species; the smallest dolphin in the world. Although they are endangered, these dolphins are extremely friendly and offer an unforgettable opportunity for visitors to interact with these charming wee mammals in their sea environment. Bookings are generally limited and must be made in advance.

The White-Flippered Penguins have a colony in Akaroa Harbour, and the cute Little Blue Penguins are also frequent visitors to these shores, as are the New Zealand Fur seal, so it is possible to see all these wonderful animals in their natural habitat at the same location.

 

Which Attractions are a Day Trip from Akaroa?

While you can always take a trip to Christchurch for the day when you are stationed in Akaroa, there is much to enjoy in the township and area of the Banks Peninsula itself.

Besides taking a boat trip out to see the wildlife, there are some great walks, hikes or biking trails through scenic countryside where a day or two can be spent in blissful peace, with glorious landscapes to enjoy and the tranquil sounds of nature to soothe your soul. Take a picnic and stroll through the Misty Peak Reserve to find the Newton’s Waterfall for a quiet afternoon. For a more active outing tackle the Summit Walkway, which if the whole journey is done, will take 2-3 days. Huts are available for overnight but must be booked in advance.

 

Are there any Shore Excursions for Travelers on Cruises?

Akaroa is a tourist town today and when a cruise ship comes in, the whole town is geared up to provide entertainment for the visitors.

A variety of transport is on offer for passengers, including tour buses that provide transport through to Christchurch, a selection of private hire vehicles like vintage cars, bikes and V8 Trikes all ready to fulfill your day’s expectations and provide you with a journey where ever you desire.

Boats in the form of sailing cruises and nature cruises are waiting to show off the delights of the Harbour and the wildlife, while several farm tours are also on offer for those who want to get close to the rural lifestyle.

To see available Akaroa shore excursions, check our list of tours. You will save a lot more money booking tours externally compared to booking with your cruise ship. Here are some shore tours we recommend:

Akaroa Shore Excursion: Christchurch Highlights City Tour

Get picked up directly from your cruise port and jump in an air-conditioned minivan to see the highlights of Christchurch. Places of interest include the City Tram, Punting on the Avon and Botanic Gardens.

Banks Peninsula, Christchurch City Tour and the International Antarctic Centre

Visit the International Antarctic Centre and see wild penguins and learn about life in Antarctica. Your guide will also show you the best attractions around Christchurch including  Museum and Art Centre, Avon River and the Bridge of Remembrance.

 

What Akaroa Attractions can you see on a budget?

Akaroa has a number of places to see on a budget. The Akaroa Museum is a great day out for a few dollars and offers collections on a wide range of topics from Maori Toanga (treasures), to objects from a settler’s life in colonial times; to retro items from everyday life in days that are fast becoming yesteryear. Three heritage buildings are available for exploring and artifacts from the wars are on display as well.

Other budget attractions include nature reserves and gardens such as the Hinewai Reserve and the Garden of Tane with free entry. Swimming and kayaking are also budget friendly activities and a great way to enjoy the best of Akaroa.

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