A great outing between Christchurch Akaroa is to go over on Banks Peninsula. Akaroa was a French settlement in the late 1980's and is a charming little township with loads to do.
Head out via Lincoln Rd or Halswell Rd - you will go via Tai Tapu (SH 75).
It's a good road with pretty scenery. Even in spring, there are beautiful autumn colours! The road is pretty flat until after Little River when the road starts to climb and is a very winding road with some hairpins. Although the road is narrow, there are a places to let other cars pass including a slow vehicle lane and several turns with wide hard shoulders you could pull into if you have a trail of vehicles behind you.
When you reach the summit at the Hill Top Tavern, you will be met with amazing views down over Akaroa Harbour - Akaroa means long harbour in Maori.
From the summit, you can follow the main road to Akaroa or take the Tourist Route which runs off to the left (see below for more details of this route). The Tourist Route runs along the summit so gives spectacular views but the road is narrower. From the summit road, you can wind down to the many bays that are dotted all around Banks Peninsula. If you have the time, it is a great way to spend the day and you may find a gem of a spot to stay the night.
As you descend you will come to Barry's Bay - you can take a detour to the right towards French Farm and Wainui. From Wainui you can look across the harbour to Akarao settlement. The road to Wainui is narrow but pretty as it heads along the coast to French Farm. We spent one night at a picnic area in French Farm and loved the peace and quiet and the outlook over the harbour. There was a dump station (a donation of $4.00 is expected) and toilet at French Farm.
From French Farm the road starts to climb and you travel inland a bit before coming back down to the coast at Tikao Bay just before Wainui. Wainui has a reasonable beach front and there is a YMCA camping ground.
If you follow the road from Barry's Bay towards Akaroa you will come to Duvauchelle where there is the historic Duvauchelle Hotel which has lots of character. From Duvauchelle, the road climbs again before you come into Robinson's Bay and then the road climbs again until you come to Takamatua. Takamatua bay is off to the right of the main Akaroa road. You can take a left turn to reach the Eastern bays, (Okains Bay, Little Akaloa and Le Bons Bay). The main road climbs again after Takamatua and when it descends again you are in Akaroa.
You will usually see boats in the harbour as you come down the hill. Akaroa was a French settlement and you will still see the original street names, such as Rue Lavaud and Rue Jolie. Akaroa is a quaint little village with many original buildings from French settlement times. You will also find award winning restaurants and an easy-going pace.
A great place to park is on the waterfront (if you need to park for more than 2 hours - eg. going on a cruise - there is a long term car park one street back from the waterfront on Rue Jolie). You can browse the many artisan studios and craft shops or wander out onto the wharf.
There is a Pacific Pearl factory at the end of the wharf - go in and learn about how these beautiful pearls are made from Paua - you might even be as lucky as we were and see an actual paua. I was surprised at how ugly the actual paua shellfish was especially considering how beautiful its shell is and how delicious it is to eat. The pearls are exquisite and you can buy jewellery at the factory as well.
Akaroa Village Inn has some luxury suites with spa baths and balconies overlooking the harbour if you fancy a bit of pampering and a break from your campervan.
If you have time, take the Tourist Route when you leave Akaroa so head off to the right along the summit road towards Okains Bay.
From the summit road you get views not only of Akaroa Harbour but also of the Pacific Coast. You may notice that there is a yellow-flowered plant covering much of the hillside. This is gorse - it was brought to New Zealand by the English settlers for hedging, but it went a bit wild and crazy in the New Zealand weather and now you see it everywhere.
The summit road is narrow and winding. Beware of livestock on the road as the road is surrounded by farmland. There are many places with great vistas where you can pull over to stop for refreshments. The most amazing thing is that you are just driving and then come over a rise to view the Pacific and then around another corner and you are looking over Akaroa Harbour.
You can take the roads down to the bays: