Our guide on what to do in Akaroa
Have a French holiday in New Zealand! Yes, you read that correctly. Tucked away in the Banks Peninsula in the South Island lies a darling little town called Akaroa, which was once settled by the French explorers. Their French influence is very much still a part of the Akaroa culture today, seen in the names of the streets and abundance of delicious wine, cheese and other French delicacies, you really will feel like you’re in Europe (minus the fact the Pacific Ocean is staring right at you!). To help you decide what to do in Akaroa, we’ve compiled a list of our top nine things to do. For where to stay in Akaroa take a look here!
See our top 9 must do’s on your trip to Akaroa…
1. Swim with the smallest dolphins in the world
As if you really need any more convincing, Akaroa is any dolphin lover’s dream come true. The smallest dolphin in the world, known as the Hector dolphin, calls the Banks Peninsula home and often hangs out in the Akaroa Harbour. Black Cat Cruises offer visitors the opportunity to swim with Hector dolphins daily and chances are you’ll get to see other amazing wildlife including Albatross and Blue Penguins!
2. Rent a kayak for the day
One of the best ways to explore Akaroa is by renting a kayak. True to the laid-back Kiwi style, there’s no formal shop in Akaroa to rent these; you simply walk up to the wharf, exchange your cash for a kayak and off you go! There are several bays in the Akaroa Harbour to check out and you can rent both single and double kayaks so your whole family can come along.
3. Take a cooking class
The French are known for their superb cooking, so it is no surprise Akaroa offers an amazing selection of cuisine and the chance to learn from some French cuisine master chefs! The Akaroa Cooking School are run by a husband and wife who offer intimate cooking classes like “Gourmet in a Day” and “A Day in France”. Are your taste buds salivating yet?
1. Favourite family activities in Akaroa?
Swim with the Dolpins or Akaroa Dolpin Cruise is a magical experience year round!
2. Best park or beach?
The local beach is great with a floating pontoon to play on.
3. What to do if it’s raining as a family?
The musuem is lots of fun or hang out at the movie theatre.
4. Best family friendly cafe or restaurant?
Bully Hayes has a toy area and excellent food. Ma Maison on the water front enjoys a stunning location and is next to a playground – perfect for so sitting in the sun and watching your children play. Maderia Pub on the main street has good bar food and toys for children.
5. Any other advice for families planning a trip?
Must visit Giants House! Prepare to be amazed at the award winning mosaic garden. Alos check out the fantastic skate park and mini golf on the main street coming into Akaroa.
4. Get the best fish and chips in the South Island
The Akaroa Fish & Chips shop offers the most delicious fish and chips and you’d be crazy to not go there at least once. There’s often a queue out the door, but the shop moves fast and you won’t be disappointed. We recommend getting takeaway and heading out to the Akaroa Wharf at sunset so you can dine al fresco with the ultimate Akaroa view!
5. Taste test at Barrys Bay Cheese
Calling all cheese lovers! A trip to Barrys Bay Cheese is one of the best local Akaroa experiences you can have. With all their milk coming from local grass-fed cows – you literally can’t get any fresher. They often have fresh samples for those who enter the shop and it’s near impossible to leave empty-handed.
6. Hang out with the alpacas
The alpacas at Shamarra are so fluffy it will be hard to contain yourself! These alpacas are super cute, sometimes diva-ish and always photogenic. There are over 160 alpacas on the farm, with their wool being used to make luxurious New Zealand made alpaca knitwear. You can only meet these fluffy little creatures through an organised tour of the farm, so make sure you book well in advance.
7. Explore the Banks Peninsula
One of the best ways to fully appreciate the beauty of Akaroa is by taking a scenic drive. The one road in and out of Akaroa will take you to the top of the hill, where a scenic drive has been designed to give you the most surreal views of both sides of the Peninsula. There are numerous other bays to check out, including Okains Bay and Tumbledown Bay – both perfect places to catch some waves or head off on a walk.
8. Get your French on at the Akaroa FrenchFest
Every October the Akaroa FrenchFest comes to town to celebrate the combining of both the Maori and French cultures – which formed the basis of this charming little town. There’s lots of street entertainment, a traditional Maori powhiri, a re-enactment of the first French settlers arriving into the Harbour and a French-themed market (say hello to unlimited crepes!).
9. Pit-stop in Little River
Unless you are arriving in Akaroa by helicopter, there is only one path to get to Akaroa – which means that you will pass through the adorable village called Little River. Enjoy a pit-stop at their café, which boasts a great barista team and a wonderful art gallery. We won’t be surprised if your pit-stop turns into something a bit longer!