Day Trip from Christchurch to Akaroa

We have lived all over Banks Peninsula and we used to day trip to Akaroa regularly. Akaroa is the largest settlement on Banks Peninsula in New Zealand. Banks Peninsula is of volcanic origin and includes two large harbours: Akaroa and Lyttelton harbours plus numerous other smaller bays and coves around the coastline. The peninsula received its name for botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed on the Endeavour with Captain James Cook.banks peninsula nz

Akaroa is 86km from Christchurch and the scenic drive will take you approximately 90 minutes.  If you are without transport you can catch the Akaroa shuttle from outside the Canterbury Museum on Rolleston Avenue. The shuttle must be pre-booked as seats are limited. Shuttle leaves at 8.30am with a return from Akaroa at 3.45pm (of course you could choose to stay in Akaroa and return a different day). Cost is $50 return ($35 one way) adults and $40 return ($30 one way) children (under 18 years old). You can take your bike for an additional $12 and can also arrange a free pickup from central city accommodation. Contact for more information.

Banks_Peninsula_New_Zealand aerial view

Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

There are a number of places you might want to stop on your way to Akaroa. En route you will pass through Tai Tapu which has a lovely general store/cafe and a couple of locally owned shops. Perhaps grab a ‘coffee to go’ for the drive.

The Blue Duck Cafe

The Blue Duck cafe is located at 1683 Christchurch Akaora Road approximately 25 minutes out from Christchurch.  Their all-day breakfast menu made on site with quality ingredients is truly divine – you absolutely must try the home-made sour dough bread! A full lunch menu plus kids menu and toasted sandwiches are also available as well as sweet treats from the counter. The coffee was so good! Opening hours: Mon to Thurs 10am to 3.00pm,  Fri  9.30am to 8.30pm and Saturday and Sunday 9am to 4pm.

Little River

A regular stop for many travellers as it is just before the winding roads and hills start is Little River which is just 30 minutes from Akaroa. Public toilets are available, a local post office and a great cafe/art gallery. Last time we stopped by there were some really great large art installations in the outdoor seating area out the back. The children were fascinated by the pair of Daleks fashioned from reclaimed metal and plastic. They even had sensors on the front which they tried to outwit by sneaking up behind them. Morning tea was not bad either. Great coffee and menu with many items to choose from at the counter. The local general store is on site too just in case you ran out of nappies or cookies.

daleks little river

Dalek art at Little River cafe

Summit Road or Coastal route?

Once you reach the peak out of Little River you can pause at the Hill Top Tavern – bear in mind if you stop for coffee and cake at each place mentioned so far you won’t make it to Akaroa in time for lunch! At Hill Top junction you can choose to take the Summit Road to Akaroa passing the numerous bays or you can go down the hill and continue along the coast through Duvauchelle. Either way it is a good idea to do the loop on your day trip, weather permitting. The Summit Road is subject to snow in winter and as there can be loose livestock on the road it is wise to drive carefully. The views are well worth the drive as they are stunning and a great photo opportunity. Just be careful to pull over safely at one of the stopping bays if you wish to take photos. I hope you get a beautiful Canterbury day with a clear view of the stunning scenery!

summit road banks peninsula

View from a section of the Summit Road, Banks Peninsula


Akaroa is a small town with a rich history. Initially settled by the French in 1840, Akaroa has retained a strong sense of its French heritage with may local place names and streets in French. Although the resident population is close to only 600 people, tourists can increase this to around 15,000 in the peak holiday season! Akaroa is a delightful mixture of new and original homesteads with quaint streets to explore. Many businesses are concentrated along the waterfront which is lined with cafes, restaurants and shops filled with local crafts, artwork, antiques and jewellery. There is a strong sense of community on the Peninsula with Akaroa being the main service centre for local residents of the surrounding bays. Respectful tourists are always welcome – be mindful of water shortages in the summer when demand is high and supplies low.

Things To Do in Akaroa

  • sample the delights of the many cafes and restaurants
  • eat fesh Fish’n’Chips by the water
  • taste the world famous Akaroa salmon
  • take a cruise on the harbour
  • hire a paddle boat or kayak and explore from the beach
  • browse the myriad shops, stores and museums
  • buy fresh fish from the jetty
  • choose a treat from the Blue Pearl
  • swim with the rare Hector’s dolphins
  • take a cooking class
  • visit the Giant’s House mosaic and sculpture garden
  • try one of the many local walks
  • sample the delights of the local weekend Farmer’s market
  • explore the streets of Akaroa
  • walk along the shoreline
  • sit, relax and watch the harbour

Do you think a day trip is long enough to sample the delights of Akaroa? Probably not, so it is good that there are numerous accommodation options from backpacker budget hostels to boutique lodges in the area.
Check for accommodation in Akaroa

Blue Pearl

paua shell

Paua, abalone, New Zealand

New Zealand is home to Paua (abalone).  Paua is the only abalone known to produce blue pearls. These pearls form in the many stunning colours of the paua shell ranging from blues and greens through to pink and violet – just like the colours of the ocean! Shop for blue and black pearls, greenstone (New Zealand jade), carved whalebone and opals at the Blue Pearl gallery in Akaroa.

 Wildlife Cruises

Whenever we had visiting friends or family we would arrange to go out on a harbour cruise in either Lyttelton or Akaroa harbour. Highlight of wildlife tours are the Little Blue penguins, dolphins, seals and bird life. Occasionally you will get really lucky and see Orca or even a passing whale! The harbours and coastal waters are home to the Hector’s dolphin (the smallest oceanic dolphin). Total population is estimated to be 5000 to 7000 around New Zealand with approximately 900 of those making the waters around Banks Peninsula home. Black Cat Cruises are the main operator of local cruises. They also operate the Diamond Harbour Ferry (from Lyttelton to Diamond Harbour and across to Quail Island) and the popular swim with dolphins tours.

hectors dolphin

Hector’s Dolphins

There is so much to do in Akaroa and around Banks Peninsula that a day trip will never be enough you will have to visit again or stay longer. Wildlife, shopping, local produce, galleries, cafes, cruises and so much more…..

Plan a day trip to Akaroa and you will want to stay longer!