Introducing Akaroa & Banks Peninsula
Gorgeous Banks Peninsula (Horomaka) was formed by two giant volcanic eruptions about eight million years ago. Harbours and bays radiate out from the peninsula’s centre, giving it an unusual cogwheel shape. The historic town of Akaroa, 80km from Christchurch, is a highlight, as is the absurdly beautiful drive along Summit Rd around the edge of one of the original craters. It's also worth exploring the little bays that dot the peninsula's perimeter.
The waters around Banks Peninsula are home to the smallest and one of the rarest dolphin species, the Hector’s dolphin, found only in NZ waters. A range of tours depart from Akaroa to spot these and other critters, including white-flippered penguins, orcas and seals.
Akaroa (‘Long Harbour’ in Maori) was the site of the country’s first French settlement and descendants of the original French pioneers still reside here. It’s a charming town that strives to re-create the feel of a French provincial village, down to the names of its streets and houses. Generally it's a sleepy place but the peace is periodically shattered by hordes descending from gargantuan cruise ships. The ships used to dock in Lyttelton Harbour but since the earthquakes Akaroa has been a popular substitute. Even when Lyttelton's back on its feet, the ships will be reluctant to leave.