Akaroa Cruise Port

Port of Akaroa: An Overview

Sailing up the strait into the Port of Akaroa in New Zealand is a not-to-be-missed experience, with green towering hills topped with craggy rock from a long extinct volcano. It reminded us of a smaller version of the Norwegian Fjords -- simply stunning.

Akaroa is a Maori word that means 'long harbour'. The tiny town is a former French settlement that oozes Gallic charm, from its French street names to its pretty painted timber cottages that house an abundance of galleries, local crafts, coffee shops and restaurants.

Home to about 700 locals, Akaroa blossoms to a bustling 1,500 over the summer season.

There is something to suit all the family. Swimming with dolphins, sailing, fabulous nature walks, penguin encounters, motorbike tours and historical walks are just a few of the activities on offer.

If you are not one for tours just enjoy the quaint village, as you can happily explore Akoroa in an hour or so. Once that's done you are free to grab a coffee or glass of local wine, sit back and take in the picture-perfect vista of sparking harbour waters surrounded by green rolling hills.

Hanging Around

Take a self-guided historical walking tour of Akaroa and immerse yourself in the rich history of the town. Audio guides are available from the Akaroa Adventure and Information Centre (80 Rue Lavaud) and cost around NZD$10 (AU$8.95).

For those looking for a spot of adventure, the Akaroa Adventure and Information Centre has a great array of activities on offer: hire a kayak and take to the harbour in search of the local pod of Hector's Dolphins. Try out paddle boarding, hire an electric skateboard or a bike and take to the hills. The Akaroa Adventure Centre is open from 9am – 7pm in summer and 10am – 4pm in winter.

Don't Miss

Giant's House: Just a short stroll from the centre of Akaroa you will find The Giant's House, a wonderful place to spend a leisurely hour exploring the historical house and pretty terraced gardens dotted with stunning mosaics and sculptures. The house itself is jaw-dropping gorgeous, resembling a bigger-than-life doll's house filled to the brim with original artworks. You can enjoy lunch or just a coffee and cake at the garden cafe as you soak up artistic feast surrounding you. (12.30 p.m. to 4 p.m.; 68 Rue Balguerie; 03 304 7501)

Hector's Dolphin: Akaroa harbour is home to the world's smallest and rarest dolphin in the world -- the Hector's Dolphin. There are only about 50 of these cute little creatures left in the world, so don't miss the chance to swim in the wild with them. The three-hour Swim with the Dolphins Cruise includes wetsuit, refreshments, mask and snorkel. This is a popular activity so make sure you book ahead. Black Cat Cruises (main wharf, Akaroa; www.blackcat.co.nz ; 03 304 7641)

Christchurch: The city of Christchurch is about a 75-kilometre drive away and worth a trip. Between 2010 and 2011, two earthquakes devastated the town, and you can still view the restoration work that is bringing the city back to its former glory. There is a shuttle bus that leaves from Akaroa at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The bus trip takes about an hour and a half and costs about NZD$45 (AU$40) for a return trip for an adult (children NZD$30, AU$27). The shuttle leaves Christchurch at 3 p.m. sharp. The Akaroa French Connection Shuttle leaves from the main wharf. (Tickets can be purchased at the main wharf or via www.akaroa.com.)

Pohatu Penguin Habitat: Kids will love a 4WD tour to the Pohatu Penguin Habitat where they can get up close and personal with the largest Little Penguin colony in New Zealand. The best time to view these cute critters is from late August to the end of January. (Pre-book this tour via your cruise ship or online at www.phohatu.co.nz; 021 246 9556; pickup is from main wharf.)

Vintage Car Tours: Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula have some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and there is no better way to see it than in style in a spectacular vintage car. Imagine yourself touring around stunning bays stopping for photo opportunities with your friends in an open-top Ford Tourer. Vintage car tours start at around NZD$60 (AU$53.70) for 30 minutes for two people. Tours can be extended and the car can take up to four passengers. (Pickup is at the taxi stand opposite main wharf; 027 4322041; www.akaroa.com/tours/vintage-car-tours.)

The Akaroa Cooking School: Cook up a storm at The Akaroa Cooking School and hone your culinary skills with expert advice from their chefs. Cooking classes are intimate in size to ensure that everyone gets some hands-on tutoring from the chef. Best of all is the fact you get to eat what you cook and the best local wines accompany the courses. (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 81 Beach Rd.; 021 166 3737; check availability of classes on www.akaroacooking.co.nz)

Getting Around

Akaroa is a very small town and one that you can easily explore on foot. In fact, it takes only about 20 minutes to walk from the bottom of the town to the top.

Lunching

You certainly won't go hungry in this little town. Whether you are looking for a top-notch bistro, great fish and chips, gourmet sandwiches or even Thai cuisine, this town has it all. Locally sourced seasonal produce takes pride of place on menus -- whether it's your upmarket bistro or street cafe. And best of all are the spectacular water views.

The Little Bistro: If you are yearning for a spot of fine dining try The Little Bistro on the esplanade. The menu is small but delicious. Entrees from NZD$9.50 (AU$8.50); mains from NZD$30 (AU$27); and desserts start at NZD$15 (AU$13). (open Tuesday to Saturday from 5.30p.m.; 33 Rue Lavaud; 03 304 7314)

The Hill Top Tavern: For great pub grub and a spectacular hilltop view over the bay, head to The Hill Top Tavern. Burgers and woodfired pizza are the must-have here. This tavern is about a 20-minute taxi ride from the town but it is certainly worth it. Pizza starts at around NZD$23 (AU$20.50); burgers NZD$21 (AU$18.79). (open Wednesday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; 5207 Christchurch Akaroa Rd, Little River; 03 325 1005; www.thehilltop.co.nz)

Peninsula General Store: Looking for a good coffee and delicious homemade treat? Pop into the Peninsula General Store. This cute store has plenty of shelves packed full of organic and gluten-free produces and is a great place to peruse while you wait for your order. And yes, you will find this little store on the main drag, too. (open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 40 E. Rue Lavaud; 03 304 8800; www.penisulageneralstore.co.nz)

Where You're Docked

Akaroa is a tender port and it is a just a few minutes' walk to the town centre.

Watch Out For

Akaroa's pesky seagulls can be a real pain if you are trying to enjoy your fish and chips on the waterfront. Expect to lose a few chips.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the New Zealand dollar. Check http://www.xe.com/ for the most current exchange rates. The Bank of New Zealand has an ATM at 73 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa.

Best Souvenir

You will find exquisite New Zealand blue pearl jewellery in the galleries in Akaroa. There is also a wonderful range of local artwork to be snapped up.

For More Information

On the Web: Akaroa District

Cruise Critic Message Boards: Australia & New Zealand

IndependentTraveler.com: Australia & New Zealand Travel Guide

--By Brian Crisp, Cruise Critic contributor

  • Akaroa: Golden Princess
    Dodifra
    Akaroa is a tender port and is pretty French designed village with many cafes and restaurants and beautiful gardens full of flowers in the streets of the village. The Duke of Marlborough pub is a very popular spot for a drink or terrace dining. ... Read more
  • Akaroa: Emerald Princess
    bally_gal
    We stayed at Akaroa before so this time we just walked up the main street to the other end looking at all the shops. Bought some possum/merino socks in a tiny store - were $6 a pair cheaper here than in Wellington!! ... Read more
  • Akaroa: Arcadia
    IHappy diner
    We found the port of Lisbon easy to navigate and were fascinated by the old trams whizzing through the streets. Good shopping and lbrilliant scenery. ... Read more
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