New Zealand Part 1: Christchurch and Akaroa

Akaroa Harbor

For our trip to New Zealand, I flew into Christchurch and met up with my parents, who were there on their own trip. We spent day exploring the Banks Peninsula, including an excellent boat trip from Akaroa. The next day, I flew Queenstown to meet up with Kyle.

This post is part of a series of posts on our trip to New Zealand’s South Island. Our full itinerary included:

  1. Christchurch and Akaroa (this post)
  2. Wanaka and Mount Aspiring National Park
  3. Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park
  4. Lake Tekapo, Ohau, Blue Pools, and back to Queenstown 
  5. Glow worms, Te Anau, and the Routeburn Track (Packing List)
  6. Milford Track (Packing List)

Note: when possible, booking through links in this post will earn us a commission. If you find this information helpful, please consider using them to make your reservations. 

After a long layover in Sydney, I arrived in Christchurch in the evening. My parents picked me up and we went to their rental, where I soon fell asleep.

Over breakfast in the morning, we made plans for the day. We decided on a drive around the Banks Peninsula, including a boat tour from Akoroa. Southeast from Christchurch, the Banks Peninsula is a 440 square mile peninsula with many deep harbors and bays. Despite its volcanic origins, the peninsula reminded me most of the California coast, near San Francisco.

We started by driving along State Highway 75, turning off on Summit Road for views. We followed Summit Road around the peninsula down into Akaroa. Once in Akaroa, we parked at the Akaroa recreation ground. From there, we walked into town. Along the way, we stopped at the Peninsula General Store for Kawatiri coffee.

We also stopped in at an art gallery and honey store. I enjoyed trying honey from different kinds of flowers, and I purchased some to enjoy with breakfasts on the rest of the trip.

After wandering a bit more, turned our attention to lunch. Akaroa had many well-reviewed restaurants, making it difficult to choose. We selected Ma Maison, where we could sit outside with views of the bay. Service was relaxed, but it fit our mood. The food was also pretty good.

Akaroa Dolphins

After lunch, we walked further along the harbor to check in for our boat trip. Check-in was easy, leaving us with some more time to wander the harbor.

Once aboard, we were greeted with our choice of beverage. The crew also introduced us to the dog, Buster, who we were advised to pay attention to because he could hear dolphins.

Soon after, we were underway. We proceeded up the bay, visiting sights and looking for dolphins. While dolphins proved elusive, we soon came across several little penguins feeding in the water. These penguins, also called little blue penguins, blue penguins, or kororā, are only a little more than a foot tall.

Further along the bay, we passed Elephant Rock and more penguins. Not finding dolphins along the shore, we moved further out into the bay. There, we saw albatrosses and terns, but again no dolphins.

The crew then decided to try our luck out beyond the bay. Here, the cliffs got taller, exposing various oranges, browns, and yellows of rock. While we did not see any dolphins here either, we saw more penguins and several fur seals swimming and lounging on the rocks. The crew was apologetic that we had not found dolphins, but we were enjoying ourselves. I felt lucky to see the penguins, albatrosses, and seals. The scenery was also stunning.

On our way back into the harbor, though, we spotted two dolphins coming at us like torpedos. After the passed us, we turned slightly, and suddenly there were dolphins everywhere. These dolphins–Hector’s dolphins–are the smallest, about 4-5 feet long, and rarest in the world. The crew kept us out a little longer than planned, so that we could enjoy this sighting. We watched them swim around the boat for a while before the dolphins and we went our separate ways.

Finally, we closed out the boat tour with homemade cookies on the last stretch back to the dock in Akaroa. This was a great tour, and I’d enthusiastically recommend booking with Akaroa Dolphins. Everyone we interacted with seemed to really care that we have a good time and to take pride in showing off their part of the word.

Back to Christchurch and Dinner

Walking back through Akaroa, we watched an ice cream shop worker shoe two ducks out of her shop,  across the street into a parking lot, and then set down some ice cream for them to eat.

From Akaroa, we took the direct route back to Christchurch. There, we cleaned up at the rental before walking into town for dinner. Along the walk, the extent to which Christchurch is still rebuilding from earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 was apparent.

For dinner, my parents had selected Little High Eatery, a market of eight different restaurants. Normally, I would have appreciated the variety, but my jet lag was catching up with me and so I also found it a little overwhelming. I eventually decided on ramen for dinner, which managed to both perk me up and make me sleepier.

After dinner, we walked back, and I soon was fast asleep. In the morning, we had a lazy breakfast before my parents drove me to the airport to fly to Queenstown. I’d originally planned on a bus, but the flight ended up being only slightly more expensive while getting me to Queenstown hours earlier. I decided the extra cost was worth the extra time to do groceries and explore Queenstown a bit.

You can read on to my arrival in Queenstown and the Wanaka portion of the trip, or read more about planning our hiking trip to New Zealand’s South Island.

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