Banks Peninsula was once a rich mosaic of plant and bird species, which human interference all but destroyed. The few pockets which survive as public reserves give some idea of the diversity that once typified Banks Peninsula. Many of these reserves are easily accessible, being close to the Summit Road. All are worth visiting as most have short walks and great picnic spots.
Full information on Department of Conservation walks is available on their website.
St Lukes Anglican Church at Little Akaloa was built in 1906 to replace the 1874 church which was destroyed by fire after early use as a school.
Chief benefactor John Menzies, a lay reader, not only donated much of the money for the new church, he did much of the construction and decorative work. Menzies’ designs, using Maori motifs, are a feature of the church. This church is often used for weddings and cannot be recommended highly enough for a visit while you are in the area.
Take the Little Akaloa/Chorlton Road just up to the right from the camping ground. The drive througth to LIttle Akaloa offers great scenery and lots to see as well as being a great alternative route if you are heading back to Christchurch. About 30 minutes travel time to Little Akaloa.
Banks Peninsula was one of the first areas in New Zealand to commercially produce and export cheese and by the late 1890’s, there were at least 9 cheese factories producing butter, cheddar and other cheeses including Okains Bay. Today Barry’s Bay Cheese is the only one that remains. Along with the cheeses, they offer a wide range of wines, local preserves, honeys, oils, antipasto items and gifts to compliment their cheeses. The Cheese and Wine Shop is open 7 days 9a.m to 5p.m. During cheese making season between the months of October to May you can view cheese making every second day through the gallery window in the shop. Well worth a visit while staying on the Peninsula.
More info here
The best way to see the area and find out a little of the history and fauna and flora of this area is to take the Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run. Experience the magnificent natural beauty and isolation of the Eastern bays, valleys and coastline. Travel 120km, weaving in and out of 10 bays from sea level to the crater rim delivering mail to farms and settlements. The Mail run operates 6 days a week (Mon- Sat) and takes four and a half hours travelling amongst some of the most stunning scenery you’ll ever see! The tour includes a beachfront homemade morning tea, a visit to an historic Church and a short walk on beautiful Le Bons Bay beach. Plenty of photo opportunities and comfort stops. 9am departure from Akaroa. Tours operate all year round. Check out more information here.
The Okains Bay Store which opened in 1873 still serves the needs of the local community. Drop in for an ice cream or souvenir on your way down to the wonderful beach at Okains Bay.
Probably one of the most famous places to visit on Banks Penisula is the Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum. Started as the private collection of a local, Murray Thacker it offers a wide range of items including over 3000 Maori items as well as Colonial items from days gone by. A Blacksmith’s smithy, Colonial Cottage and a Printing Shop are also highlights of this amazing Museum. One of the highlights of the Museum is the Whakaata (meeting house) while across the road from the Museum is the Waka shed which features two large waka (war canoes) Many smaller waka are also on display. Just down the road are the Library and the original Schoolhouse looking just as it was when opened in 1872.
See the museum website for more information.
There are plenty of great opportunities for walking around Okains bay village. Walk up the main road, taking in the historic precinct and old buildings that are just as they were in the late 1800s and then cross the Millennium Bridge to return on the opposite side of the river, taking in all the native wildlife as you go.
Sail with the dolphins in the crater of an extinct volcano on New Zealand’s oldest gaffed rigged ketch Fox II and enjoy the wildlife of Akaroa Harbour up close. Relax and soak up the sun, sea and hills or take part as one of the crew. See Hectors dolphins, yellow-eyed and blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals, albatross and other sea birds. Be surrounded by giant volcanic sea cliffs, caves and rock formations along the journey. A guaranteed highlight of your trip that you will remember for the rest of your life.
• See ALL the wildlife of Akaroa Harbour • Crew or just relax • Learn about local history • Tour the harbour the eco-friendly way • Enjoy real Pacific Ocean sailing (not just Akaroa Harbour)
Find out more here
If you are looking for something more adventurous, try an unforgettable jet boating experience on the 20 seat, Twin V8, 600 Horsepower “PHAT TIME” . This 7.5 metre Cobra jet is the latest design, combining power and speed with built in comfort and exceptional safety features operating from October to April. Check it out here