When planning a South Island family itinerary, you can’t go past Akaroa – a charming French-inspired town on the Banks Peninsula. Only an hour from Christchurch, Akaroa offers everything from cruises and swimming with dolphins to quirky, colourful art displays and Alpaca Tours. It’s the perfect place to slow down and make some fun, unforgettable family memories.
Shamarra Alpacas: Kick your Akaroa holiday off with a visit to Shamarra. Who doesn’t love cute, friendly alpacas? The friendly and knowledgeable staff at Shamarra Alpacas will teach you all about these animals in an hour-long tour, available in either English or Mandarin, where you will have the chance to interact with these amazing animals and take in the stunning views. Be sure to visit the shop to pick up some wonderfully warm winter knits. Tours are run every two hours from 10 am to 4pm, and the alpacas love getting up close for a selfie – perfect for a social media post!
Akaroa Lighthouse: This iconic Akaroa attraction provides an ideal location for photos with the family and provides a great view over the harbour. (Time: approx. half an hour).
Black Cat Cruises: Take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and swim with some of the rarest dolphins in the world when you book a cruise with Black Cat Cruises. This cruise has been featured in ‘Lonely Planet’ and has been described as a ‘must-do’ activity. See ancient lava flows and check out the local bird life while travelling on board a luxurious catamaran. This is an experience that your children will be talking about for years to come! (Duration: 3 hours)
Akaroa Museum: Learn more about the fascinating history of Akaroa and Banks Peninsula with a trip to Akaroa Museum. Exhibitions in the museum detail early European settlement in the area and its impact on the environment, going right through to New Zealand’s involvement in the First World War. The museum grounds also feature three heritage buildings dating back to the mid 19th-century. Visit times usually last 1-1.5 hours.
Hinewai Reserve: Walking through this vast reserve, you will see or hear a large variety of native birds, such as the tūī, kererū, pūkeko and paradise shelduck, or you might even see geckos and wetas. The reserve is also home to several tree species such as tōtara, kānuka and kōwhai. This is a great opportunity to view these animals in their native environment. There is an option for everyone with track walking times ranging from 10 minutes to several hours.
Pohatu Penguins: Choose from either a 2-hour or 4-hour safari and learn about New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. During this trip you will also get the chance to see nesting White-Flippered penguins. Alternatively, you can go sea-kayaking and explore Pohatu Marine Reserve, with its sea caves, towering cliffs, sea birds, and seals. Your tour will be led by experienced guides who will put your safety first. All necessary gear will be provided.
Akaroa Art Gallery (Orion Powerhouse): If you want to soak up a little culture on your final day in the area, check out Akaroa Art Gallery. Originally built as a powerhouse, the gallery features exhibitions of both national and international art.
Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum: Discover what life was like back in colonial times when you visit Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum. Here you may see a collection of antique guns, or view rare Maori art and carvings. The museum also hosts festivals during the summer with plenty of food, local music, dancing and arts and crafts. Visits typically last 1-1.5 hours, busy times are between 12 and 3pm.
The Giant’s House: Recognised as a ‘Garden of International Significance’ in 2018, this historic house features a collection of unusual, colourful sculptures and also serves as a bed and breakfast accommodation. You can also have a light lunch here while enjoying the beautiful garden surroundings. Kids love the unique sculptures and clever mosaic designs! Allow 1 – 1.5 hours.