Akaroa, a coastal town sitting right in the heart of an ancient volcano, is a gem found on the east coast of New Zealand’s beautiful South Island. The town is surrounded by a sparkling, turquoise bay on one side and rolling, green hills on the other.
As an immensely popular tourist destination for people looking to escape Christchurch, the town has developed into a haven for travellers with numerous amazing things to do in Akaroa.
Things to Do in Akaroa
For such a small place, Akaroa is packed full of amazing activities. Some of the best attractions in Akaroa revolve around wildlife, including penguins, dolphins, birds and even alpacas. Whilst other attractions make the most of the bars, restaurants, cafes and wineries.
We reckon Akaroa has a bit of everything, all within a neat little package placed in a stunning location.
1. Play With Alpacas at Shamarra
We found visiting Shamarra Alpacas to be a wondrous and fulfilling afternoon, despite it being arguably one of the best family activities in Akaroa.
Shamarra Alpacas is an alpaca farm located near Duvauchelle and Akaroa town, with commanding views out over the Akaroa harbour. They offer tours which give visitors the opportunity to play with, feed and hang out with a small family of super cute alpacas.
The alpacas are very photogenic and friendly and we can’t think of many better ways to spend a few hours.
2. Go Sea Kayaking in Pohatu Marine Reserve
Expect to meet and greet fur seals, exotic birds and little penguins! The best way to fully experience the marine reserve is to book a tour that includes transport and can get you out on the water.
This great value tour by Pohatu Penguins does just that, offering an informative experience and plenty of opportunities to see and photograph the penguins. If you’re not keen on kayaking, you can skip it with this 2 or 4 hour 4WD tour, also offered by Pohatu Penguins.
3. Tour Akaroa Lighthouse
One of our favourite free things to do in Akaroa is to pay a visit to the Akaroa Lighthouse. This cute lighthouse is an amazing, historical building built way back in the 19th century.
It’s easy to visit thanks to being relocated to its current spot right in the heart of Akaroa town. Just take the short Akaroa lighthouse walk that wanders along the coast.If you visit during certain times you can even go inside for a small fee.
4. Visit The Giant’s House Akaroa
The Giant’s House, dubbed the ‘happiest garden on earth’, is a creative and artistic garden and house just a few minutes’ walk from downtown Akaroa.
Although the Giant’s House seems like a kids activity, it really is closer to an art gallery with numerous, meticulously crafted works of art all over the property. Each one warrants a visit itself. The price for entry is $22.50 which we consider to be on the high end, but it’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into creating this place so we feel it’s worth it.
5. Try Out the Walks in Akaroa
The Akaroa region offers a number of breathtaking views and tackling the multitude of hikes and walks in Akaroa is a great way to dive into nature and find these stunning vistas.
The Banks Track is the ultimate 2-3 day hike taking you across private land to some of the best viewpoints in the country. There are a lot of much shorter walks ranging from 15-minutes to a full day that also offer great views.
6. Explore the Akaroa Shops
The main township of Akaroa is small and cute, with just enough boutique shops for you to explore and satiate your desire for shopping.
Make sure to wander through the town and explore the shops selling a range of products including clothing, souvenirs, gems, crystals, homewares and more.
7. Eat at the Restaurants in Akaroa
Akaroa has a great dining scene with good restaurants lining the waterfront. You’ll have no trouble finding local cafes, restaurants, bistros, bars and more.
Our favourite places to eat in Akaroa tend to be located around the French and Children’s Bay side of town. Harbar Beachbar is an awesome restaurant sitting right over the water with views out to sea and delicious pizzas. If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Akaroa, then we reckon this is it.
8. Go and See the Akaroa Dolphins
Akaroa is home to the world’s smallest (and cutest) dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin. No doubt, paying them a visit while you’re in Akaroa is a must-do, so make sure to book a cruise and head on out to say hi.
Cruises can be booked in person from the shops in town, or you can conveniently book online with Black Cat Cruises.
9. Walk to the Garden of Tane Lookout
The Garden of Tane Walk is the most accessible walk in Akaroa thanks to its convenient location in town. The garden feels a bit like a secret garden that you remember playing in as kids.
Allow yourself 1-2 hours to explore and make sure to head to the end of the track for a view out over the harbour. For the effort, this is one incredible walk and well worth doing.
10. Walk the Children’s Bay Walkway
The Children’s Bay Walkway is a short and easy little walk starting in Children’s Bay just a short drive from Akaroa town. Ironically, this is an uphill walk which means some children may struggle a bit with the walk but overall it’s not hard.
What makes it special is the sculptures of animals you’ll see along the way. If you’re bringing the kids (or you’re big kids at heart yourself), then get them to spot the giraffes and the rhino.
11. Picnic at Akaroa Beach
Akaroa beach, next to the war memorial park, is located right in the middle of town. In itself, it is what makes Akaroa town such a nice place to stay so it’s well worth popping down for a walk or a picnic.
In the summer, the water sparkles and the views out to sea are endless.
12. Grab a Coffee at Rona’s Akaroa Cafe
Rona’s Cafe is hands down our favourite cafe in Akaroa. It’s a small cafe with really lovely decor and amazing service. We only had the chance to pop in on our way back to Christchurch, but we can vouch that the food is delicious and the coffee is top notch.
They also sell a variety of wares including chilli sauces and some books which make for great gifts to bring back home.
13. Tastings at Akaroa Wineries
We’d never heard of a wine from Akaroa before, so we were somewhat surprised when we found Akaroa has wineries – and pretty good ones too.
If you like a good wine tasting, you have a few wineries to choose from. French Peak Wines, Meniscus Wines and the aptly named, Akaroa Winery, are all favourites with locals and tourists.
14. Try Some Cheese
We never go somewhere with cheese on our minds, but if we get there and they have great cheese…well, we’re not going to complain. Barry’s Bay Cheese is a famous cheese factory located right in Akaroa selling a great selection of artisan cheeses.
Not only this, but if you’re on a budget, this is the only place you can buy the offcuts or pieces of cheese that didn’t make the shelves – for a discount of course.
15. Pay Your Respects at the Banks Peninsula War Memorial & Grounds
This stunning beachside memorial and park is the perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.
It’s an impressive memorial that was laid in 1922 to remember those who fell during WW1, with further inscriptions added to memorialise local soldiers who died during the South African War and WW2.
16. Walk Along the Waterfront
The Akaroa waterfront is lovely with numerous bars, restaurants and shops lining the street. A pathway lines the ocean and makes for a pleasant walk through the entire town.
One of our favourite ways to spend an evening in Akaroa is with a stroll along the waterfront, stopping to grab some food at a waterfront restaurant, or grabbing some fish ‘n chips to eat on the beach.
17. Walk Around Hinewai Reserve
We mentioned there are plenty of amazing walks for outdoorsy people in Akaroa, and Hinewai Reserve is home to over 12km of them.
Make your way to the top of Stony Bay Peak at an elevation of 800m, this challenging hike will reward you with beautiful views. Remember to pack water and give yourself plenty of time, this is quite a difficult day hike.
18. Have Pizza and Beers at Harbar Beachbar and Kitchen
Our favourite restaurant for a date night in Akaroa, Harbar Beachbar and Kitchen, is located right on the water with views out to the harbour.
The pizzas here are delicious, the vibe is super cosy and the Three Boys beers on tap are decent. A must-visit in Akaroa.
19. Explore Akaroa Museum
Walking into Akaroa Museum you don’t expect much, however, the museum is bigger than it appears and punches well above its weight. You’ll be presented with heaps of interesting information around the settlement from numerous perspectives, all within the old courthouse building.
This is a great idea for activities on a rainy day. Entry is by gold coin donation.
20. Visit Newton Waterfall
Newton’s waterfall is a handy 10-minute walk found within the Misty Peaks Reserve near Akaroa Town. In all honesty, this isn’t an impressive waterfall, but it’s a short 10-minute walk through a nice bush and even tiny waterfalls are still waterfalls.
In Akaroa you’ll be spoilt for accommodation. Hotels are dotted throughout the town and along the waterfront. We’d recommend choosing one in the heart of town to make access to restaurants, bars and cafes easier.
For mid-range accommodation, there is a wide array of options. Apartment 65 offers clean, modern apartments with nice bathrooms in a great location. For the most luxurious accommodation, then Annandale Luxury Villa is about as good as it gets – but it’ll cost you your leg.
Mid-Range: Apartment 65 Akaroa
Luxury: Annandale Luxury Villa
Akaroa means long harbour as translated literally from Te Reo Maori. This is the South Island, Kai Tahu Maori, translation of Whangaroa which also means long harbour.
Christchurch to Akaroa
The drive from Christchurch to Akaroa takes about 90 minutes. The route goes through Christchurch, past Lake Ellesmere and over mountains before descending into the township.
Alternatively, there are options to take a bus or tour from Christchurch to Akaroa and the route is very scenic.