Christchurch Akaroa Trip

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Christchurch Akaroa

Brighton Beach Christchurch

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.

View from Summit Road

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.

See and Do

  • Buy Natural herbal soaps en route - watch out for the signs
  • Play a round of golf at Kaituna Golf Course
  • Visit Birdlings Flat and look for gemstones on the beach. If you prefer fishing, this is a good spot for surf casting - beware of undertows and do not drive on the shingle - you won't get out!!
  • Visit the Manaia natural habitat - off to the right just before Little River. A great place to view native birds
  • Visit the arts and crafts stores and galleries (and cafes) in Little River
  • Visit the Water Gardens just past Little River
  • Stop at the Hill Top Tavern and Bar for refreshments or just to take in the view
  • Play a round at the Golf Club in Duvauchelle

Eat and Drink

  • Visit the Wine shed, a left turning just before Tai Tapu. A great place for a meal and to taste the great wine
  • The Blue Duck Cafe, Motukarara - an interesting octagonal building and a good pit stop halfway to Akaroa
  • Stop for honey or vegetables at roadside stalls
  • Visit the fruit orchards in Kaituna Valley
  • visit the French Farm winery - right from the road to French Farm and Wainui
  • Stop at Barry's Bay cheese factory where you can buy cheese
  • Stop at the historic Duvauchelle Hotel - on the right as you drive into Duvauchelle - it has lots of character and there's good parking

Stop Awhile

  • Stop at Lake Ellermere (Te Waihora) and enjoy the tranquility
  • Stop at the rest area on Lake Forsyth - the rest area is at the far end of the lake with a picnic area. Before the picnic area the road runs close to the lake so there are not many places to stop.
  • Stay at the Little River campground - follow the Okuti Valley Rd for 4 km - only basic facilities but lots of walks and easy access to the Manaia Nature Reserve
  • Stay at the Camping Ground (with dump station) in Duvauchelle - it's near the beach with great views
  • There is also camping with dump station at Takamatua (Eastern bays)

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Akaroa

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.

See and Do

  • Browse in the arts and crafts shops
  • Visit the Pacific Pearl factory at the end of the main wharf
  • Take a harbour cruise or swim with the dolphins - there are 2 companies that do cruises but only one does the swimming with the dolphins. See Hector dolphins which are smallest dolphins in the world. Also see seals and the small yellow billed penguin. We went on the Black Cat catamaran which also does swimming with dolphins - click here
  • Visit the Pohatu Marine Reserve where you can view white penguins - you can take the road to the summit where there are spectacular views and you can stop and take it all in. We didn't go all the way to Pohatu - we had heard there were 4 wheel drive safari tours to the reserve and thought that probably meant the road was a bit difficult for a campervan - if you have the time, it might be worth taking a 4WD safari from Akaroa. This is a diversion which you get to by following Rue Jolie - you will need to return to Akaroa.

Eat and Drink

  • L'Escargot Rouge cafe on the waterfront in Akaroa - lovely homemade pies (lamb shank and kumara and smoked akaroa salmon and spinach -packed full of meat) and homemade fruit ice cream

Stop Awhile

  • Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park - on the left as you come down the hill into Akaroa. There are stunning views over the harbour. There is an adventure playground for the children and a swimming pool

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Akaroa to Christchurch via Tourist Drive (Summit Rd)

Le Bons Bay

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:

  • Little Akaloa - check out the quad bikes before you reach the beach. It's great fun especially if you don't mind getting muddy.
  • Le Bons Bay - very narrow road down to the beach about 10 km away. There is no camping on the beach although there is a public toilet. There is gravel road to Laverick's Bay from Le Bons bay. If you do go up, there are some great views of Le Bons Bay and out over the Pacific ocean but it is a very steep gravel road and better suited to 4 wheel drive vehicles than campervans - having driven to the top we elected to return rather than go down to Laverick's Bay as the road was so tricky and dangerous to manoevre in a campervan. We wouldn't drive that road again and we would strongly advise against you doing so unless you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle and you want an adrenaline rush!
  • Okains Bay - Visit the Maori and Colonial Museum. There is a camping ground at the end of Beach Rd. No dogs are allowed and there is no power. However, there are many relatively private camping spots in clearings in the trees beside the beach and there is a dump station.

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