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BUG New Zealand travel guidebook

Destination guides > Pacific Islands > New Zealand > Canterbury > Akaroa & the Banks Peninsula

Akaroa & the Banks Peninsula

Formed from the remains of two now extinct volcanoes, the Banks Peninsula today offers the visitor outstanding natural beauty and abundant marine life. It is a great getaway, with scenic bays and harbours, steep green slopes covered in wildflowers and unique wildlife. The Banks Peninsula Track is a great hiking trail that can be completed in several days, staying in mountain huts. There are also opportunities for sailing, kayaking and surfing, and it is a good place to swim with Hector’s dolphins, the world’s rarest. Okains Bay has a good sandy beach, and is growing in popularity due to its great surf and village atmosphere. Around the peninsula are colonies of seals and nesting penguins.

Akaroa was established by French settlers just after the British colonisation of New Zealand, and the town still has a distinctly French charm. There are great cafés and boutiques along its quaint streets, nice colonial architecture and restaurants serving French cuisine. Even the street names are French. The Akaroa Harbour is spectacular, and is a great place to take a cruise. There are also lavender fields, wineries and specialty cheese shops in and around Akaroa.

Practical information

Akaroa Visitor Information Centre

80 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 8600
Website www.akaroa.com
Open 9am-5pm daily

Le Bon Email

57 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 7782
Website www.bon-accord.co.nz

Turenne Dairy, Coffee Shop & Internet

74 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 7005

Coming & going

Astro Coachlines (tel 0800 800 575) and Akaroa Shuttle (tel 0800 500 929) go to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. They both depart from the information centre on Cathedral Square.

Hostel accommodation

Bon Accord Backpackers

57 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 7782

Chez La Mer Backpackers

50 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 7024

Dolphin Backpackers

108 Rue Jolie, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 7136

Le Bons Bay Backpackers

Off Summit Road, Le Bons Bay
Tel (03) 304 8582

Halfmoon Cottage

State Highway 75, Barrys Bay
Tel (03) 304 5050

Onuku Farm Hostel

Hamiltons Road, Onuku
Tel (03) 304 7066

No booking fee when you book this hostel online at bug.co.uk

Eating & drinking

Thanks to its French heritage, Akaroa has some wonderful French influenced cuisine, although the more upmarket places may be too hard on the budget. There are quite a few small bakeries that sell freshly baked bread and sandwiches, and many of them are cheap. You will also find a lot of street side cafés with great coffee and pastries. A good, cheap lunch can be found at the Turenne Café (74 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa) in the centre of town. There is a small supermarket on Rue Lavaud.

The Banks Peninsula’s best place to eat isn’t in Akaroa, but 14km away at Le Bons Bay Backpackers (off Summit Road, Le Bons Bay). If you’re staying at Le Bons Bay, you must eat in and enjoy their legendary evening meal, which costs only $14. It’s so good that many backpackers stay an extra couple of nights to enjoy more of the scrumptious food.

Sightseeing, museums & tourist attractions

Akaroa Museum

This small museum is set in three historic buildings and features exhibits on Akaroa’s unique history.

71 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Tel (03) 304 1013
Admission $4
Open summer 10.30am-4.30pm daily; winter 10.30am-4pm daily



There are several wildlife spotting cruises operating around the Banks Peninsula.

Black Cat (tel 0800 436 574) operates scenic cruises on Akaroa Harbour where you can see the region’s marine life. Black Cat cruises cost $55.

Le Bons Bay Nature Tours (tel (03) 304 8582) is a great value dolphin-spotting cruise run by Le Bons Bay Backpackers. It’s a more personal tour than the cruises that run out of Akaroa as it is just a small boat with a maximum of eight people and it travels to places other boats do not go. This cruise costs only $30.


There are several walking tracks on the Banks Peninsula, but the best is the Banks Peninsula Track (2-4 days), which goes from Akaroa to Onuku via several secluded bays.

Swimming with dolphins

The Hector’s dolphin is one of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphins. Black Cat (tel 0800 436 574) run trips on the harbour where you have the opportunity to swim with them. There are only 10 swimmers allowed on each trip, which means that there is a good chance of interacting with the dolphins. This trip gives you two hours on the harbour and costs $110.

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