Akaroa is a charming small town (population 600) on Banks Peninsula in Canterbury. It is set on sheltered harbour and is overlooked and surrounded by the remnants of a miocene volcano. It is the only settlement founded (1838) by the French in New Zealand and emphasises the "French connection" in its visitor material.
Akaroa is the terminus of SH75 coming from Christchurch, which winds over the hills of the peninsula with breathtaking views.
Akaroa is a tender port for cruise ships anchored in the harbour. Tenders bring passengers to the long shallow-water main wharf in the centre of town. The small town can be easily walked and explored in several hours. On cruise ship days, a free shuttle operates every 15 minutes from the Akaroa main wharf and goes to the centre of Akaroa (Akaroa Visitor Centre) and to the Recreation Ground (end of town). Stops are also possible to The Giants House.
Akaroa is currently the base point for excursions to Christchurch in the absence of the port Lyttleton, which was damaged in the 2011 earthquake. Christchurch city is 1.5 hours drive away. Shuttle Services: Akaroa Shuttle (Red Bus) and French Connection (Cityline) buses to Christchurch leave from the main wharf. It costs approx. NZD$50 return per adult.
Akaroa's harbour is home to an array of wildlife, most notably the rather tiny and rare Hector's dolphin. Cruises and dolphin swimming are popular attractions.
A popular drive is to Pohatu Marine Reserve, centred on nearby Flea Bay. The marine reserve is set aside to protect the natural marine environment. The drive takes about forty minutes, sometimes on steep and exposed shingle roads. The drive has excellent views back over Akaroa Harbour.