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A seaside retreat just 90 minutes from Christchurch, Akaroa sits in an ancient volcano on the beautiful Banks Peninsula. Colonial architecture, dramatic bays and incredible wildlife await your discovery.

The scenery and wildlife of the peninsula is unique to this corner of the world.  A cruise from Akaroa’s magnificent harbour offers the chance to get close to resident, and friendly, Hector’s dolphins, one of the world’s rarest dolphins found only in New Zealand. Amongst the dramatic volcanic sea cliffs and spectacular ancient lava flows, the endangered yellow-eyed penguin and white-flippered (blue) penguin - the smallest penguin in the world – can be seen, while on the rocks near Seal Bay, New Zealand fur seals are often spotted basking in the sun. Amongst the variety of seabirds to look out for are Buller’s albatross and five different species of cormorant.

Formed by two volcanic cones, the peninsula was named for botanist Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour. Akaroa’s distinct French history is still evident today, in street names and colonial architecture. The village has interesting galleries and craft stores, cafes and artisan producers with a reputation for fine food.

Walking the Banks Peninsula track is a perfect way to explore the area’s more remote areas, including volcanic coastline, waterfalls, native bush and beaches. Starting and ending in Akaroa, walkers can choose to walk over two or four days, staying in huts along the way.

View suggested itinerary

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: Hector’s dolphin, New Zealand fur seal, yellow-eyed penguin, Buller’s albatross, white-flippered penguin
  • Where: South Island, New Zealand

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itinerary:

Kiwis & Whales Galore: South Island Self-drive

This self-drive of New Zealand’s South Island showcases dramatic scenery, from sandy beaches to picturesque snow-capped mountains. Highlights include cetacean-rich Kaikoura, the Otago Peninsula - home to the endangered yellow-eyed penguin - and Stewart Island for southern brown kiwis.

  • When to go: Sep-May
  • Duration inc. flights: 23 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,395 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Suggested accommodation is shown below. Please contact us for further recommendations.

Banks House Akaroa

Built in 1877 and listed as a notable historic house, Banks House Akaroa is a charming, boutique guesthouse with four uniquely appointed rooms. Beyond the beautiful garden lies the harbour, where boat cruises depart in search of New Zealand’s smallest cetacean, the Hector’s dolphin.