Flowers are in bloom, lambs are on the Banks Peninsula Hills and this can only mean one thing, Spring is finally here!

This weekend we took a wonderful stroll along the Crater Rim Walkway which offers views from the beach village of Sumner, over to Canterbury’s famous Lyttelton Harbour and even Quail Island, Diamond Harbour and beyond.

The Tussock covered hills and rugged rocky outcrops overlooking a piercing blue ocean are a real contrast to the usual flat Canterbury plains. It was absolutely stunning and a New Zealand must do if you are planning a trip to Christchurch!

Take a look at our gallery of snaps, the beautiful landscape speaks for itself and is well worth a few hours of your time.

You may even spot Black Cat’s Diamond Harbour Ferry carrying passengers from Lyttelton across the crystal clear water, and as of October the Quail Island ferry will be back in action too. You will never be stuck for a Christchurch day trip with us!

If you are looking for things to do in Christchurch we would highly recommend this.

For a list of walking tracks check out the Christchurch County Council website.

You can also download this free handy walking map guide for the Eastern Section of the Port Hills. Port Hills Walks – Eastern Section

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It’s back by popular demand and the dates are set!

Due to the popularity in previous years, this years Banks Peninsula Walking festival takes in all four weekends in November. It’s not hard to see why when this is what the peninsula looks like….we’ve got our walking shoes at the ready!

Things to do in Akaroa

Banks Peninsula from above

Things to do in Akaroa

What is it?

Guided walks all are available all over Banks Peninsula, from short walks to adventurous hikes! The festival has them all covered so no matter what your age, or your shoe size everyone can take part!  You can cover tracks, reserves and private land. All of the guides are volunteers and offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise on the area. You may have a guide who is an expert in geology, botany or history, to enthusiasts for the arts, home chicken-rearing and local cafes!

The event is designed by local people who love to share their passion for this special place with people from the wider community. Participants will enjoy a refreshing walk and are guaranteed an enjoyable experience as they relax, meet new people and together absorb the stories and atmosphere of this fantastic land, right on the doorstep of Christchurch.

Things to do in AkaroaWhen is it?

Every weekend in November starting from the 8th – 30thThings to do in Akaroa

What do i need to do?

Bookings for all walks are essential. To register email, call 03 328 9093 or pop in at 20 Oxford Street

How much is it?

It’s only between $5 – $8 for a walk!

Things to do in Akaroa

Crater Rim Walkway

Useful Information

  • You must book onto a walk
  • Your walk leader will be be able to offer you a wealth of experience and information
  • All participants are responsible for their own safety. It is your responisbility to provide your own equipment, food, appropriate clothing and transport to and from the walks.
  • Children under 10 walk for free
  • Please arrive at least 10 minutes prior to the published departure time
  • For information about weather postponements/cancellations go or call 03 328 9093

Things to do in AkaroaThe organisers, Project Lyttelton are currently looking for voluntery guides, so if you would like to help out please contact

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Little Blue Penguins, found around the shores of Banks Peninsula and in several other places along the South Island’s coast, are the smallest penguins in the world.

Although the average Little Blue Penguin is not considered to be an endangered species, the White-flippered subspecies of Little Blue Penguin is.

Things to do in Akaroa

Endangered Little Blue Penguins

This White-flippered Penguin is only found in the Banks Peninsula area, making them a unique breed. Their population has been closely monitored for a number of years, and several conservation groups have made keeping the species alive a top priority. Despite the fact that these groups are doing a great job of protecting the species, there are still many threats to the White-flippered Penguin, as well as the Little Blue Penguin.

Here are the top five threats that you should be aware of if you want to help save these species:

1.)    Stoats and Ferrets

Since the colonisation of New Zealand brought the introduction of foreign species, many of our native animals have suffered a decline in population – and the Little Blue Penguin is no exception. When settlers brought stoats and ferrets along with them, these devastated the population of the penguins, wiping out some colonies along the coast.

2.)    Dogs

Although the threat of stoats and ferrets is better contained nowadays, thanks to the help of conservation groups, the Little Blue Penguin still faces the threat of the household dog. Recently, four Little Blue Penguins were killed by a dog in Little Kaiteriteri, encouraging the Department of Conservation to ask people to keep their pets under control. Ensuring your dog is on a leash when you take him or her for a walk on the beach could mean the difference between life and death for a Little Blue Penguin.

3.)    Fishing

Things to do in Akaroa

The White flippered penguin is an endangered species

Overfishing, trawling, and incorrect use of equipment are all threats to the Little Blue Penguin. Overfishing is a problem as it stretches resources, creating problems for the environment and feeding habits of the animals. Also, as happens with Hector’s Dolphins, Little Blue Penguins swim close to the surface and are known to get caught up in trawling and fishing nets. There have also been reports of penguins getting caught in crayfish pots. Needless to say being careful and vigilent out on the water is essential to making sure these penguins have the best chance of survival.

4.)    Pollution

Another human threat to the animal kingdom, the pollution of waters around the world has been leading to the decline of several species, and putting many more in danger. Chemicals and waste making it out to sea and shorelines have a profound effect on the penguins’ habitat. In February 2012, reporters found that people had been shoving rubbish down nesting burrows that the penguins use for breeding. Simply being a tidy Kiwi can make a huge difference for these little guys.

5.)    Climate Change

With climate change a hot button issue for people, it’s no surprise that it’s going to have an effect on our environment and the creatures that inhabit it too. Rising temperatures and the erosion of land are especially pertinent issues for the Little Blue Penguin. On the West Coast, severe coastal erosion poses a serious threat for their penguin colony. And other New Zealand species of penguin, such as the Southern Rockhopper, have seen populations decline by more than half in a period of warmer ocean temperatures. These are serious issues and for the survival of the Little Blue Penguin, as well as many other species the world over.

Things to do in Akaroa

little blue penguin enjoying life swimming in the pacific ocean

”It’s a rare and special experience to sight one of these special creatures, and we are lucky enough to have some great skippers who often spot them on our Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise”.

To find out more about how you can help out the Little Blue Penguin and our Banks Peninsula subspecies, the White-flippered Penguin, visit for more information, including links to conservation groups and tips about what to do when getting up close and personal with the little critters.

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If you were ever looking for a place to live out the death by chocolate trope, then this is it. Just a 20 minute drive from Christchurch, and en-route to Akaroa it’s an #nzmustdo!

Things to do in Akaroa

You may not even want to bother reading the rest...this photo says it all!

Nestled above the stunning seaside views of Governors Bay, and just a short walk from the Diamond Harbour jetty, She Chocolat is a must for anybody who claims to be a chocolate lover. Although, even those who don’t are sure to be converts after a visit.

Despite what you see in the gorgeous establishment now, it was a bit of a rough start to the business eight years ago. With a fire forcing the original She Café to rebuild just nine months after opening, things weren’t exactly going as planned. But the unfortunate event gave the original owners, Suzanne Johnson and Bernie Prior, an excuse to expand into the wonderful establishment they are today. Collaborating with Oonagh Browne and Declan Scott, She Chocolat is now open for weddings, functions, and live music events, as well as the ever-popular weekend breakfast, brunch or afternoon treat.

Things to do in Akaroa

World's best hot chocolate? We think so!

The vision of this collaboration stems from trying to inspire an experience through food. Johnson and Bernie originally want to create a….

“place of inspiration for the human spirit.”

And with inspirational quotes and sayings scattered amongst chocolate sculptures, fresh flowers and a quiet and peaceful water garden, they seem to have achieved just that. Although all this talk of inspiration may sound a little ‘new age-y’ to the more cynical among you, questioning the philosophy becomes irrelevant once you’ve sampled its delicious results.

Favourites from the shop include the wide selection of decadent truffles on display to the left as you walk in. Hazelnut milk chocolate or passionfruit are a couple of the great yet simple classics on offer.

Things to do in Akaroa

Warning: French Toast may cause mouth to drool

But if you’re feeling a little more daring, there’s no shortage of some more interesting flavours, with camembert, beetroot, and tequila all making surprise appearances in that cabinet. Or, for something a little more filling, yet just as delightful, a flourless brownie does the trick – rich and full of chocolatey goodness. They also offer a full breakfast and lunch menu for those who don’t believe that chocolate counts as a staple food group.

Things to do in Akaroa

Chocolate School with Oonagh

And if a visit to She Chocolat gets you addicted, the shop has a London Double Decker bus that visits markets throughout Christchurch right through the year.

Or, you can even sign up for one of their chocolate school cooking classes held on site.

For an indulgent weekend treat, load up the car with chocolate lovers and head over to

”one of the best things Governor’s Bay has to offer”.

Bon Appetit!

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After having to close for repairs and restoration after the February 2011 earthquake, in July last year, the Akaroa Museum opened its doors to the public once again and as of July 1st it is completely FREE TO ENTER.

It’s a great Akaroa activity that won’t take up too much of your time, and will send you away with some great facts on this historic French village.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa Museum

Located at 71 Rue Lavaud, the museum provides a fascinating history of Akaroa and its surrounding areas, and is a great reason to get your inner historian out and about in the harbour.

At the moment, Akaroa Museum is hosting an exhibition about the Maori heritage of the bay with a display entitled “Horomaka,” as well as letting the public meander through the fully restored Court House with its new mini theatre – perfect for viewing the local documentary,  “Akaroa – The Long Harbour.”

In short, Akaroa Museum is once again fully equipped to satisfy your local historical needs, or occupy a rainy afternoon in the bay.

For a taste of what to expect from your visit to Akaroa Museum, here are five of the best exhibitions they have showcased over recent years:

1.)    Akaroa on Holiday

Featuring artefacts that document Akaroa’s history and development as Canterbury’s premier tourist destination, the ‘Akaroa on Holiday’ exhibition took a look at past promotional efforts to get the town to where it is today.

Things to do in Akaroa

By the 1920's Akaroa was well established as a holiday destination and was actively promoting itself to tourists

With town now known for the campers, bach-owners, day-trippers, honeymooners and cruise ships that populate the harbour during summer months, it seems to have worked pretty well.

Did you know Black Cat Cruises were the first tourism operator in Akaroa to offer nature cruises out on the harbour?

2.)    Mystery and Delight at Every Turn

A series of black and white photographs taken by local Peter Beaven in the 1960s gave an incredible look at Akaroa frozen in time. With a focus on what the photographer saw as the things that gave Akaroa its charm and character, the snaps really highlight what is important about the architecture and feel of the seaside village.

3.)    Obscure and Obsolete Objects

Diving into the depths of the storeroom, the Akaroa Museum curators came up with a collection of weird and wacky objects, from curd-cutters to fly traps, to decorate the exhibition room in September 2003. Visitors had to guess what the objects were before finding out if their predictions were correct at the end of the exhibition.

4.)    Harley Davidsons

One for a bit of a tough guy crowd, back in February 2004 the Akaroa Museum put on an exhibition especially for the Harley Davidson enthusiasts making their way over the hill and into the harbour for a rally the town was hosting. The display included a 1928 Harley with a sidecar that had been used by the local butcher’s for deliveries back in the day.

5.)    Disasters, Mysteries and Sensations

As does every small town, Akaroa has had its fair share of trials and tribulations over the years. This exhibition paid homage to dramatic events such as raging epidemics, fatal fires, and mysterious disappearances that challenged the village and shaped its future.

For further information visit the Akaroa Museum website

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Every year, in the middle of a cold  Christchurch winter, Lyttelton residents bring a bit of brightness back to Banks Peninsula with the harbour’s Festival of Lights. This years it’s running from June 19th – 21st
The Highlight…….?  The ‘Matariki’ Street Party!
When: Friday June 20th, 5.30pm – FIREWORKS 7.30pm
Where: London Street, Lyttelton
What: A fantastic winter street party. Usually held to coincide with both the Matariki Maori New Year celebrations and the winter solstice, Lyttelton’s London Street transforms into a buzzing and beautiful scene. Light displays, sculptures and installations, music, dance and spoken word bring the community out of hibernation for this spectacle. Throw in a Friday night Street Party crammed with stalls amongst lanterns and light based artworks, followed with a spectacular fireworks display, and it’s easy to see why people in the know come out of the cold for this yearly event.
History: The Project Lyttelton team began the event in 2005 as something for the 3000 passengers on board a cruise ship moored in the port for the Lions Rugby Tour. But after seeing the spirit from the community in response to being part of the festival, they decided it was something that needed to stay. So each year the organisation collaborates with the council, libraries, and local businesses, working together to ensure there’s always something on for everyone. And this year is no exception.
Getting there: Take bus 28 or 35, carpool or use the free shuttle bus from the gondola (from 5:30pm). Parking is strictly limited. If you’re coming from Diamond Harbour the Ferry will be running it’s usual service all night. For the schedule click here
Tip: Bring your own reusable cup or buy one of ours at the festival tonight. If you’re a true foodie don’t miss the Mid-Winter Chirstmas Market tomorrow from 10am – 1pm!
You can be sure that the spectacle is worth the trip out to the harbour. There’s no better excuse for getting out in the winter weather to welcome in the Maori New Year and celebrate the winter solstice than heading over to the Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights.
Things to do in Akaroa

Lyttelton Harbour Lights up the sky at the Festival of Lights

Find out more about the Festival of Lights on their Facebook page:
or to find out what’s going on in Lyttelton, visit their website:
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What would you do if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury ? Come to Akaroa of course………

Imagine you were told you could write a wishlist of the best New Zealand activities Canterbury has to offer….and it would come true!

Well Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism recently ran a” Win your dream 72 hours in Canterbury” campaign  over in Australia asking entrants to describe how they would spend their 72 hours.  The prize; your dream 72 hours will come true!

The competition came to a close and the lucky winner has just spent this past weekend having the time of his life with his wife visiting Christchurch, Akaroa, the Waipara Wine Region AND Hanmer……..His winning itinerary you ask?


Location: Christchurch

  • After flying into Christchurch it was a trip straight to the i-site to book all of their tickets.
  • Then it was a visit to the re-start mall to take in what’s happening within the Christchurch CBD
    Things to do in Akaroa

    Re:Start Mall in Christchurch

  • Followed by a coffee and snack at the award winning C1 Espresso Cafe .
  • Then it was time to jump on the  Red Bus rebuild Tour
  • For lunch it was off to Madras Street for Pizza followed by some fun wheel action on the Segway Urban Wheels.
  • A leisurely afternoon was then spent punting on the Avon. An iconic and classic Christchurch activity, before settling in for the night at a hotel in Christchurch.


Location: Akaroa

Day 2 is ”all things French” as they headed off to Akaroa. En-route from Christchurch they stopped off for an early morning Gondola ride to take in the majestic views down Banks Peninsula

After taking the 90 minute scenic drive to Akaroa there was time for a stroll in the streets to enjoy the shops, galleries and a french inspired lunch

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Straight after lunch it was all aboard the Black Cat boat to enjoy an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. An opportunity to enjoy the marine and bird life whilst taking in the breathtaking views of the extinct volcanic harbour. The team at Black Cat were so pleased to host the winner and his guest. It’s wonderful to play a part in makeing a dream trip come true!

After two hours on the water with Black Cat it was back on land for a drive along the summit road. A spectacular peninsula drive with great New Zealand photography locations along the way!

All finished off with dinner at Vangionis


Location: Waipara Valley, Hamner Springs

Sad to leave Akaroa it was then on to a day of pure indulgence as they headed to the Waipara Valley and Hanmer Springs.

The 3 hour drive to Hanmer was broken up by visiting numerous wineries along the way in Waipara wine region and lunch at a local winery.

Things to do in Akaroa

Waipara Wine Region in Canterbury, New Zealand

Arriving in Hanmer called for one thing only – a stop off at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa followed by a body treatment for him and her – one word, Divine!

Late afternoon was then spent meandering through the shops and boutiques in Hanmer before choosing a spot for dinner and home to beautiful retreat for bed!

What a wonderful 3 days!!!

There is so much on offer in the Canterbury region we would find it hard to choose (apart from the Black Cat experience in Akaroa of course!) What would your dream itinerary be if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury? We recommend using the Christchurch and Canterbury Toursim website to help plan your trip!

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This week the Huffington Post, an American online newspaper, featured an article on ‘The Perfect English Countryside Escape… New Zealand’.

Where about’s in New Zealand you ask? Answer: Akaroa Harbour!

After forgiving them for forgetting that this is 100% pure new zealand in their articles title we can firmly say that the feature is a testament to the international appeal of our stunning and perfectly preserved peninsula and village.  Perhaps it’s why the worlds rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector’s, choose to call this place home???

We just wonder what they would make of Akaroa harbour if we were to take them out dolphin swimming with the Hector’s dolphins…or on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise…….

If The Huffington Post decide to travel over this way, an invitation awaits………

Things to do in Akaroa

The images from the article speak for themselves……

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa truly is the perfect getaway escape if you are planning a holiday in New Zealand. With the stunning landscape (a photographers dream destination), variety of accommodation and dining options, and of course things to do (cue Black Cat Cruises), what more could you ask for?

A link to the full article from The Huffington Press and pictures can be found here….

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Four simple words that could change some-ones day, week or even life….

We at Black Cat HQ wanted to share a blog post covering this topic, as unbeknown to us, a member of our staff in Akaroa had quietly bestowed a random act of kindness onto a complete stranger (that is until the office received the most heart warming thank you email…which we will get to in a moment).

So what is a ‘Random Act of Kindness‘? Well according to that great source Wikipedia it is quite simply

A selfless act performed by a person or people wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual person or people.’

Our skipper Julian did exactly just that and here is the email that followed……

Hi there

I just wanted to write to say thank you to the lovely captain and crew member of the Black Cat for making my mothers birthday very special.

My mother and her husband have gone through a lot over the last few year. They lost a daughter, then lost all their possessions in the Christchurch earthquakes, had to give away their beloved dog so they could get accommodation, fight insurance companies and EQC but they have got by and they know they are better off than a lot of other people in Christchurch.

So for my mothers 80th birthday my brothers and I all put in and bought her a voucher for two nights accommodation and meals in Akaroa. At the time I looked at your website to see about getting them on a cruise too but we just couldn’t come up with enough money to do it. My mother and her husband went to Akaroa last week and decided to go for a walk on the pier. It was while they were watching the Black Cat getting ready to go out that the Captain came over and talked to them. The next thing my mother knew she was going on the cruise herself and she absolutely loved it. She has talked non stop about how great it was and how nice the crew was and she still cannot believe that she was invited on the cruise. You really made her day and I wanted to let you know that, as I feel that she has gone through so much in the last few years, that for a complete stranger to do such a lovely act of kindness was amazing. To see my mum so happy was really special for me as my father just passed away recently and my mum means the world to me. So once again thank you so much for your kindness and generosity.

So why offer a selfless act? If you’re getting nothing in return why bother, right? Wrong! Random acts of kindness not only reward the receiver, they reward the person giving. There is so much pleasure to be found in putting a smile upon some-ones face…and as the email above pointed out, you never quite know what some-one has been through or may be going through. So thank you Julian for making not only this lady’s day, but for reminding us of the simplicity and ability we all have to make a person smile!

Now you may wonder why we would want to publicise what is deemed to be a selfless act. Quite frankly we want to share the story to encourage YOU to perform your very own random act of kindness! Even businesses are getting behind the action of doing kind, random deeds. Check out this fun video from Coca Cola, who wanted to spread some free happiness…..Coca-Cola Happiness Machine

And lastly before we leave you…

Did you know New Zealand is the only country in he world to have a dedicated Random Acts of Kindness day? (September, 1st FYI )

There’s a whole website about it which contains some great ideas.

But why wait until then….it’s the weekend, go spread some kindness!

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The ride to Akaroa from Christchurch is my ‘go to’ ride when I’m in need of a great day out on the bike and some good quality miles, and it’s been even more valuable in recent times giving the fact we have two young daughters at home, aged 17 and three months, so it’s provided the opportunity to combine a great ride with some quality family time too.

The great thing about riding to Akaroa is that not only does it provide some great climbing, fantastic views, fast descents and some good flat riding, meaning you get a range of cycling experiences, afterwards you get to hang out in Akaroa with the family and experience the charm of the historic village nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano.

There are loads a great accommodation options to stay overnight and Akaroa Harbour and the surrounding hills provides an enormous range of activities, including cruises on the harbour and the chance to swim with the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector’s Dolphin.

Riding over and staying with the family who drive over combines training with valuable family time, and then there’s always the option of riding back the following day.

With the iconic Le Race cycle event looming it’s a great time to combine an awesome training ride over to Akaroa, an afternoon out on the Harbour and then an evening in Akaroa.

Things to do in Akaroa

John competing in Le Race to Akaroa in 2006. 8 years on and he is still up for the challenge!

The ride over includes 1800 metres of climbing so you really do get a good solid work out. The Le Race course heads up Colombo Street and then climbs up Dyers Pass, right past where we live, up into the Port Hills above Christchurch passing first the Sign of the Takahe, then the Sign of the Kiwi at over 300 metres above sea level – also the first spot for the King and Queen of the Mountains competition on race day – before turning right and heading along the Summit Road.

Things to do in Akaroa

Le Race course

Things to do in Akaroa

Le Race in action - captured by Bruce Wilson

From high up on the Summit Road there are magnificent views across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps and eastwards to the sea up Lyttleton harbour.

The ride around the Summit Road really is quite special. With awesome views it never fails to impress me, and I know we can be guilty of taking it all for granted at times.

The road south along the Summit Road has a number of short power climbs and descents  before the first fast long downhill through to Gebbies Pass before turning right and heading towards Motukarara.

The downhill towards Gebbies Pass has several cattle stops, so taking it carefully is important, and after the recent heavy rain there is the odd section of debris on the road, but nothing too bad and you can be sure by race day on the 29th it will all be well tidied up.

Once on the flat you take the first left and head long Millers Road that takes you out to the main Christchurch to Akaroa Road. From here the road heads toward Little River and Cooptown, hugging first Lake Ellesmere and then the smaller Lake Forsyth. Little River is a great place to stop for a coffee and fuel up before tackling the six kilometre Hill Top climb.  There are a couple of nice cafes and an art gallery well worth a visit.

The climb up to Hill Top gives you a sense of the ‘Tour de France’ hence the Le Race being referred to as a ‘slice of the Tour de France.’

Things to do in Akaroa

It's a workout!

Although the uphill efforts are much shorter than the famous European climbs, there is a sense of real alpine efforts and once at the top of Hill Top there are magnificent views across the peninsula including spotting Akaroa in the distance.

Things to do in Akaroa

That infamous view down to Akaroa and the bays

The main road dips to the right but most cyclists follow the route for Le Race, turning to the left to follow the Summit Road as it loops high above Akaroa Harbour off to the right and Pigeon, Okains and Le Bons Bays to the left.

This section is where the business is really done on race day, but on a nice day on a ‘training’ ride its one of the most spectacular sections of road to ride anywhere, and well worth taking a moment to ‘small the roses’ and appreciate what a magnificent part of the world it is.

Eventually the road drops down into Long Bay Road and into Akaroa itself, where a well earned coffee and lunch with the family await.

After lunch there’s the opportunity to explore the town or head out on the harbour to get up close and personal with the marine life, including the playful Hector’s dolphins, and then stay the night, like the Tui adverts, ‘well earned.’

John McKenzie

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Akaroa has had a number of great features on TV this summer. From Campbell Live covering the cruise ships to 60 minutes covering the Maui and Hector’s dolphins, it’s been all go!

The recent 60 minute feature on Maui’s and Hector’s dolphins was a really interesting watch, so if you haven’t yet seen it please do take the time to watch the video. We have shared it on our Black Cat Cruises You Tube channel and placed a direct link for you here….New Zealand’s native dolphins in the press.

The feature highlights the plight and dangers of our native dolphins. There is no question about it – they need protecting. The NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust’s 100m Campaign is one of the latest initiatives that’s setting out to do just that.

Run by marine wildlife advocates Dr. Liz Slooten, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, and Prof. Steve Dawson, with the help and support of many other marine mammal enthusiasts, the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust has been working to figure out how to make the ocean a safer place for our cetaceans for many years. Their latest venture sees them collaborating with the interesting and relatively new sport of free diving.

Things to do in Akaroa

William Trubridge World Free diving Champion

Free diving is an extreme sport where divers go as deep down into the ocean as they dare without any help from a breathing apparatus – so by simply holding their breath. In December 2010, Kiwi freediver William Trubridge was the first person to freedive to 100 metres – no small feat by any means.

But what does this have to do with the little ol’ Hectors Dolphins? At the moment, we have legislation in New Zealand that protects dolphins around our coast – but the sanctuaries only extend to a limited area, and a limited depth. After three summers of observing dolphins’ distributions off our shores, the NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust came to the conclusion that the current scope of our protected areas are nowhere near good enough to keep these creatures out of harm’s way.

Over their research, the trust found that dolphins are regularly sighted far from the protected waters – often in waters that go 100 metres deep. Because these areas are still open to gillnets, it puts dolphins at risk of being swept up in the bycatch of some fishing boat.

So when William Trubridge was training to go 100 metres below the surface, he called his mission “Project Hector”, so that he could bring about awareness around the issue. He, in conjunction with NZ Whale and Dolphin, are raising money for the cause. So far they have reached $2,300 out of a $10,000 target. NZ Whale and Dolphin thinks that if Trubridge can get to the bottom of a 100 metre deep part of ocean, gillnets should not be allowed there.

If we can extend marine wildlife sanctuaries to include all areas of sea that are 100 metres deep, then we could protect all of the foraging space where the dolphins source their food. This would be a huge help to restoring the still declining population of this rare animal.

For more information on this campaign, including maps of the area around Akaroa and Banks Peninsula that are affected, check out the link below:

You can also donate to the cause by visiting this page

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Wondering what to do for Valentine’s Day? Looking for a romantic getaway? Well we are here to help! Whether you plan to come to Akaroa for Valentine’s Day or simply for a weekend escape with your loved one, no stay in Akaroa would be complete without a sampling of the delicious local cuisine on offer.  So we have listed 5 of the best places to dine in Akaroa. With its French origins lending a taste of Europe to the seaside fare, Akaroa makes the perfect destination for a romantic evening of tantalising the taste buds. Try these great eateries for an authentic Akaroa eating experience. Remember, if you want a table for the 14th…book in advance!

Ma Maison

”Overlooking Dailey’s wharf and the Akaroa Harbour, Ma Maison is one of Akaroa’s hidden gems. The view speaks for itself!” Set right by the waters edge with its panoramic views and complete with a romantic open fire and terrace perfect for sipping champagne Ma Maison ticks all the right boxes.

Things to do in Akaroa

2 Rue Jolie, Akaroa  Tel: 03 304 7668

The Little Bistro

The Little Bistro serves hearty, locally sourced, seasonal meals in a fantastic atmosphere.

Things to do in Akaroa

Little Bistro restaurant Akaroa

A Canterbury focused wine list completes the picture to wash down what we’ve termed ‘rustic european’ inspired cuisine. If wine is not your thing, there are many craft beers, artisan sodas or even peninsula roasted coffee. With service that goes the extra mile, the best bentwood chair collection in town and an outlook over the green to the sea and volcanic hills of Akaroa,  join them for an unforgettable evening.

33 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa Tel: 03 304 7314

The Trading Rooms

With beautiful architecture and interior design inspired by the Kaikoura store from which it gets its name, the Trading Rooms Restaurant and Pantry is dedicated to providing a wonderful eating experience. Locally sourced and hand-picked ingredients comprise much of what you’ll find in the Trading Rooms’ pantry, much of which is turned into quaint jars of jams and preserves for you to take home. And as for the menu, the impressive array of local and international chefs have created a list of items to suit the season. Catering to the catch of the day from the harbour and coming up with exquisite dishes from seasonal fruits and vegetables, the Trading Rooms is definitely one to try for an authentic local dining adventure.

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A snap shot of The Trading Room's menu

1 Beach Road, Akaroa. Tel:(03) 304 7656

Bully Hayes

Easy going during the day and romantic at night, this fantastic seaside restaurant and bar gives you good reason to come back for breakfast, lunch and dinner right through the week. With several indoor and outdoor dining areas to choose from, as well as a play area for the kids, you can pick your setting to enjoy the range of delicious meals while knowing that the little ones are having a good time too.

Things to do in Akaroa

Bully Hayes restaurant Akaroa

Highlights from the breakfast menu include the Breakfast Omelette, with several variations to suit your taste, or if you’re feeling ravenous there’s Bully’s Fatty Boomba Breakfast, which could keep you going for days with its bacon, eggs, black pudding, hash browns and grilled tomatoes on toasted grain bread. Lunch and dinner offer an array of pasta, bread, salad, and soup dishes along with mains crafted from locally sourced ingredients and cooked to perfection.

57 Beach Rd, Akaroa Tel:03-304 7533

Akaroa Fish & Chips

It doesn’t get much more Kiwi than Fish & Chips, and Akaroa is famous for theirs. Akaroa Fish & Chips serves up good ol’ Kiwi tucker to Cantabrians and tourists who are after a taste of classic New Zealand cuisine. Fish of the day comes from the harbour itself, and a good giant burger will give you plenty of energy for exploring the bay. Although it may not be the healthiest or most fine dining-esque option along the water front, it’s definitely one that allows you to do your own thing and choose your own waterfront setting.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa, a romantic escape in New Zealand

The Morning After…

If you are spending the night in Akaroa L’escargot Rouge Deli is the perfect place to start the day, the following morning! L’escargot Rouge Deli serves delicious French Style breakfasts. ‘Le Parisien’ breakfast is a popular choice, including a baguette, croissant, pain au chocolat and a side of fresh fruit for a classic sampling of a French morning’s cuisine. Other quintessentially French dishes on offer are the Croque Monsieur, which is Brioche served with Dijon, ham, Swiss cheese and Mornay sauce, and can be upgraded to a Croque Madame with the addition of a poached egg on top. L’escargot Rouge also offers an extensive range of sweet and savoury bakery items to snack on throughout the day. You’ll be ready for a day of exploring Akaroa.

67 Beach Road, Akaroa

We’d love to hear what your favourite romantic Akaroa spots are…leave us a comment below Things to do in Akaroa

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Although it may lack the glitz and the glamour of a big city celebration, there’s nothing quite like bringing in the new year in Canterbury’s own little piece of paradise. Whether you’re spending the night with family, friends, or that special someone, Banks Peninsula has got you covered for the perfect way to welcome in 2014.

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Happy New Year

1.)    Sea Shanties – On the 31st the Hilltop Tavern welcomes in the New Year by bringing lovers of oceanic folk not only the Wellington Sea Shanty Society, but also the much-loved French sea shanty band, Croche Dedans. Bust out the peg legs and eye patches for a night full of some of the finest seaside songs the world has to offer, and see in 2014 overlooking the best views of the bays with a cold beer in hand.

Things to do in Akaroa

The Hill Top Tavern

2.)    Dinner and Bubbles The French Farm on Winery Road in Akaroa is putting on quite the spread to send off the year. With your ticket you’ll receive a four-course meal, live music from XFilesDuo, and the obligatory glass of bubbly against this gorgeous backdrop.

Things to do in Akaroa

The French Farm Winery

3.)    Golfing – Once you’ve recovered from the New Years night festivities, why not get out and about at Akaroa Golf Club? On the 2nd of January they hold their annual Men’s New Year Tournament, and on the 3rd it’s a ladies affair with the ‘Wine and Roses’ tournament out on the green.

4.)    Back to the Future – Just over the hill from Lyttelton, you can celebrate the New Year by pretending it’s an old one. The Watershed, situated next to the estuary, is putting on a 70s and 80s Retro Themed party. Grab a ticket, dig out that pantsuit or those bellbottoms, and party it up by the water.

5.)    Camping at Corsair – If you’re after a little getaway with some mates, book a spot and pitch a tent at Corsair bay. Perhaps the best place to watch the sunrise on a new year’s morning, the beautiful beach and gorgeous scenery are sure to make it a very happy new year indeed.

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corsair bay

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If you’re keen to get out and about in Banks Peninsula with the family this Christmas there is plenty for you to do. Between chilling in Lyttelton or Akaroa, swimming in the gorgeous bays, or taking a ferry out to Quail Island, you’ll never be short of something fun to do. But every adventurer needs to break for food. Luckily for you, Banks Peninsula offers plenty of places to pull up a rug and relax in the sun with a picnic basket – here are just a few favourites to choose from.

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Picnic the afternoon away in style.....

Quail Island Beach – After a walk around the former farm and leper colony, head down to the beach to set up your banquet. A great place to have a pre-lunch swim, or just rest your feet with a good book in the sand.

Things to do in Akaroa

Quail Island Picnic

Akaroa Domain –

Things to do in Akaroa


If you’re out and about in the French seaside town, there’s plenty of room down at the Akaroa Domain to throw down a blanket and enjoy those sammies. Bring a ball or the cricket set and while away the afternoon with games on the grass.

Le Bons Bay Beach –

Things to do in Akaroa

Le Bons Bay

Another great location for a summer dip, Le Bons Bay Beach is a beautiful piece of kiwi paradise. Secluded from the hustle and bustle of the busier Banks Peninsula hangouts, a picnic here is perfect for those who are after a quiet getaway.

Cass Bay –

Things to do in Akaroa

Cass Bay Lyttelton

With walks, sand, and playgrounds galore, you’ll be sure to work up an appetite with a day at Cass. There are three beaches to choose from for splashing about for a bit, or get active and bring along the kayak for a scenic tour of the bay.

Orton Bradley Park

Things to do in Akaroa

Orton Bradley Park

For a taste of Banks Peninsula’s history and quintessential Kiwi greenery, take the family over to Orton Bradley in Charteris bay for the day. Known for its beautiful tracks that lead to stunning views over the harbour, packing a picnic basket and heading for this destination is a winner for any summer afternoon.

We would love to hear where your favourite picnic spots in Banks Peninsula are….leave and comment and share it with us……

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Things to do in AkaroaIt’s over, and, according to everyone who spoke to us, the conference was a resounding success. The first day of “plenary talks” – held in the Dunedin town hall – was excellent. Nine outstanding speakers, mostly international but some local, gave us an overview of conservation successes & failures, distilling the key reasons why. The star of the day was New Zealand’s ex-minister of fisheries Pete Hodgson.

Things to do in Akaroa

Pete Hodgson Dolphin Conservation Champion

Deservedly hailed as a hero of NZ conservation for being the first minister of fisheries to take dolphin conservation seriously, Pete gave a funny and inspiring account of how he put into place the protected area for Maui’s dolphin. His account of what science made the difference, and how science and politics often collide, but need more to co-operate, made everyone think hard.

This year we celebrated as after years of campaigning the proposed marine reserve for Akaroa was finally approved.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa Harbour map

The next four days of the conference were held on Otago University’s campus. With over 348 talks in four concurrent sessions, it was impossible to go to all the ones you wanted to. And there were some really fabulous presentations. So many that it’s hard to single out one or even just a few that were especially good. Terrific, innovative science presented really well by dedicated researchers. Hearing these, and talking to the presenters afterwards, asking questions and sharing ideas – perhaps over a glass of wine, is what conferences offer that is so different to reading each other’s scientific papers.

Two poster evenings, on Tuesday and Thursday, allowed conference goers to view 400 posters summarising research, mostly by students, from all over the globe. Many were excellent, showing that the future of marine mammal science is in good hands. The space available was too tight on the first evening, but a nimble reshuffle by the poster organisers made the second poster evening much more effective and enjoyable. Poster evenings are not passive – the poster author stays with their poster, so they can explain what they did and answer questions. It’s a great way to communicate science.

The last day’s presentations finished at 3pm, and everyone put on their glad rags for the conference dinner and dance. We’d hired Mojo, a band from Queenstown, to get everyone dancing. Things to do in AkaroaThey did a great job. When the advertised end-time arrived, they were not allowed to stop. It’s great to see very well-known scientists letting down their hair (those that still have hair) prancing around among the students – without too much fear of embarrassment.

All in all, it was a great occasion. Many said it was the best conference they’d ever been to. Also, for many conference goers it put New Zealand on the map. Most were first time visitors. Many said they would be back.

For our team, it was a lot of work to organise, but deeply satisfying. We’re looking forward to some decompression, however!


Marine Science Department

NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust

Steve Dawson PhD


Dept of Marine Science

University of Otago

310 Castle Street

(P.O. Box 56)

Dunedin 9016

New Zealand

Trustee, NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust

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Professor Steve Dawson

This past Saturday was not quite the big day, but it was the first of the big days. Several hundred marine mammal scientists, from all over world, assembled on Otago University’s campus in Dunedin for a set of pre-conference workshops.

The workshops cover a wide range of topics, some predictable – gatherings of scientists who work on particular species (e.g. right whales) or in a particular region (e.g. Hawaii), and others not. Firmly in the “not” category is “What can the Cloud do to save whales”. This was a group concerned about vessel collisions with whales, hoping to develop ways that real-time monitoring and internet technology can be applied to reduce the likelihood of collisions. One development is to have folks in the shipping industry log their sightings with a mobile app called “spotter” which uploads those to a constantly changing map of where whales are – so that area can be avoided by ship captains.

Other workshops focussed on impacts of tourism, bycatch in fishing, and assessing effects of coastal development. And that’s just Saturday, a further set of workshops run tomorrow.

The really big day is today, Monday. About 1200 people will be gathering in the Dunedin Town Hall to listen to a set of  “Keynote” addresses by world experts. Today sets the theme of the conference “Marine Mammal Conservation, Science making a difference” by having talks on conservation successes, frustrations and failures, with local and international case studies presented by scientists who are true conservation heroes. The idea is to map out ways to more effectively turn science findings into conservation action – to bridge the gap between science and politics.

It’s an exciting time. The biggest scientific conference ever held in Dunedin. Many, very smart people, working on the most interesting animals on the planet, together in one place. Very cool!

For us on the organising team, there’s some relief. First hurdle cleared. So far, no problems.

Steve Dawson


Steve Dawson PhD


Dept of Marine Science

Marine Science Department

NZ Whale and Dolphin Trust

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Our work and efforts to sustain and preserve New Zealand’s delicate marine wildlife extends beyond both Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula. As one of New Zealand’s leading eco-tourism operators we are extremely proud to sponsor the 20th International Biennial Marine Mammal Conference, being held in Dunedin this year.

We hereby extend to you, by way of our blog, an invitation to come along to this major international conference. Knowledge is power and what better way to be inspired and educated than by the world’s leading professionals. Over the next three weeks the Black Cat blog will be publishing guest blog posts from the conference so watch this space.

Things to do in Akaroa

Liz Slooten & a Hector's dolphin

Dr Liz Slooten, Chair of the Conference Organising Committee, Otago University has kindly written us an overview of what’s in store and how you can get involved…..

Organising an international conference for more than 1200 Marine Mammal scientists is an intimidating thing. But, what an opportunity to show off our marvelous dolphins, whales, seals and sealions!

The conference theme is Marine Mammal Conservation: Science making a difference.

The conference is five days long, from 9-13 December. It starts with a Plenary Day, with everyone together in the Dunedin Town Hall (one of the few places in Dunedin that will hold 1200 people).

Here, nine international experts will give talks about science-based solutions to global marine mammal conservation problems. The speakers will be emphasising local examples, including Hector’s dolphins,

Things to do in Akaroa

The worlds most endangered dolphin

New Zealand sealions and Australian sealions. To help us do a better job of getting science translated into conservation action, we have ex-Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson to give us the low-down on the interactions between scientists and politicians.

For the next four days, there will be four conference talks on at any one time, with the audience split over four large lecture theatres on Otago University’s Campus. About 1200 people will be giving and attending talks on almost every aspect of marine mammal science, from almost every corner of the globe.

There will also be two poster evenings, on Tuesday and Thursday night. We have 400 posters in total, with half displayed on the Tuesday and half on Thurday night. This also provides an excellent opportunity for wine and cheese, a bit of mingling, talking and brainstorming about all sorts of issues. This sort of social event is where the real business of the conference is conducted.

”You are warmly invited to come to the conference.”

It is open to the public. All you have to do is come to the Registration Desk in the Link Building at Otago University and sign up. The Link Building is on the corner of Cumberland and Albany Streets.

See: For more information about the conference (including registration fees)

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Point and shoot – how hard can it be? Despite the seemingly idiot-proof design of the modern camera these days, it can be harder than it looks. That blurry, dark, shot of half your thumb, or the washed out, blindingly bright one of what you thought was the sunset are endless sources of frustration for the amateur photographer and tourist alike. New Zealand is internationally famous for it’s picturesque landscapes. Akaroa and Banks Peninsula deliver many picture perfect locations so it’s a must visit destination for some of the best places to photograph in New Zealand. It’s also no secret that when it comes to landscape photography, getting your lens to reflect the beauty your eyes can see is quite the challenge.

Things to do in Akaroa

'Akaroa foggy morning' Black Cat photo competition 2013

Of course that’s not the story for everyone. The winners of our recent photography competitions know a thing or two about taking a pretty picture, and you can see the artworks their lenses have captured further down our blog. But for those of you who are aspiring to have a shot at next year’s prizes, here are a few tips on how to capture that perfect photo of Banks Peninsula’s breathtaking scenery.

Now, how complicated this gets depends on what kind of camera you’re using. If you’ve got the simple, good ol’ point and shoot, and it’s been bought in the past few years, chances are you’ll have a setting on there specifically designed to make taking a landscape shot a breeze. In this case, all you’ve got to do is make sure you have a steady hand – or even better yet, a tripod – make sure the shot is in focus, and then take the snap.

These days the cameras on mobile phones are producing some fantastic images, and with so many high quality filter apps everyone can be the next budding National Geographic photographer! Check out some awesome shots on Instagram by Jim Richardson. A National Geographic photographer who has been shooting around the globe with his i-phone.

But if you’ve mastered that aspect of the basics, going a little further with fairly inexpensive equipment isn’t as hard as it seems. If your camera has a manual or custom settings option, there are several things you want to think about before making that shutter click.

Step 1

Things to do in Akaroa

Framing a picture on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Firstly, arrange your frame. It’s important to scope out the composition and of what you want to capture before you start clicking. Use the rule of thirds as a general guideline for finding ways to balance out your shot, and play with the zoom to focus in on the best parts of the scene in front of you.

Step 2

Next, you’ll want to consider the lighting of the shot. How does it look to your eye? How does it look through the camera? Depending on the feel you want to give to an image, adjust the brightness and contrast using your camera’s settings to subdue colours or make them pop. Although these can be adjusted in post-production software, getting the shot as close to how you want it to look as possible at the scene makes life a lot easier in the editing phase. Try playing with the different tones and pick your favourite later on.

Step 3

Things to do in Akaroa

Sunrise in Lyttelton Harbour by Carolyn Nicholl

Also because of the high contrast and brightness while the sun is high in the sky, many photographers recommend picking your times for landscape shots carefully. If the sun is in danger of overexposing your pics, go for an early morning or late afternoon expedition – you’ll get some amazing hues at these times of the day too. Sometimes it’s worth the 5am wake up call for a beautiful sunrise.

Things to do in Akaroa

Black Cat Dolphin Swimmer Surprise Shot

Step 4

When it comes to action shots, especially on the water, you’ll want to have your camera’s shutter up to speed. If you have a sports mode setting, or the ability to set the shutter speed really high, this will assist in getting clearer, crisper shots of moving subjects. It’s best to go for these when there is ample natural lighting, or a scene where your flash will work, as because the shutter is so fast, there isn’t much time to let a lot of light into the lens. If you get your timing and lighting right, capturing that mid-air dolphin shot shouldn’t be too strenuous.

Step 5

It’s also important that you try your best to ensure the shot is in focus before you press that button. There’s nothing worse than going back through a batch of what would be beautiful shots just to find that something’s out of focus. Using the auto-focus setting is a great way to see that the focal point of your image is in fact just that, but if you’re more confident with your eye, play with the manual focus to blur out the background or foreground, and get a little more creative with your camera.

But finally, what matters most of all is that you get out there and give it a go. The more shots you take, the more comfortable you’ll become behind the lens, and the easier it’ll be to figure out what works, and what doesn’t. There’s plenty to see out there, and even more to capture.

Send us your photo’s…

Black Cat love to see and share your pictures from Banks Peninsula. If you have ever been on or are going on a Black Cat cruise within the next few weeks be sure to upload your favourite photo and share it. We will send an A4 print to you at your home address and your photo will go into a competition to win an Ipad mini! Check out the competition here.

Do you have any great photography tips? Share them with us below and we’ll give away a pair of Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise tickets to the one we think is best!

Tickets will be awarded by Dec 31st 2013.

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What are you doing this weekend? How about a trip to Quail Island…..

Situated in the middle of a volcanic crater flooded with the water that makes up Lyttelton Harbour, Quail Island is a great destination for a day trip with the whole family and a fantastic Christchurch attraction. Teeming with walks, beaches safe for swimming, and a rich and interesting history, the shores of Quail Island are a superb place to while away a summer’s day. Only 15 minutes from Lyttelton Harbour it’s possibly the shortest, but one of the finest New Zealand cruise trips you can do.
And just in-case that hasn’t already got you packing a picnic and digging out the togs, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about the island that should entice you to go exploring:

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1. Although a summer’s picnic is a perfect way to spend the day at Quail Island, there are several activities that the Department of Conservation, NZ Seaweek, and Black Cat Cruises plan throughout the year. Take part in the Kiwi Ranger experience with DoC, take a guided walk during Seaweek, or take part in Black Cat’s fantastic Easter Egg Hunt. All are great and popular ways of getting to know the island.

Things to do in Akaroa

Otamahua DOC Quail Island Badge

2. Quail Island is named after the now extinct native Quail, or korere, that lived on the island when Captain William Mein Smith first discovered it in 1842.
3. In the late early 1900s, the island was used as a place to exile those with diseases thought to be contagious. Early European settlers created a small leprosy colony in 1907, before the lepers were sent to Fiji in 1925. It was also used as a place of quarantine during the influenza epidemic of 1917.

Things to do in Akaroa

The only grave on Quail Island reminds us of when Quail Island housed a leper colony. But who does it belong to?

4.  Before they left for their fateful journey to the Antarctic, Scott and Shackleton used the island to prepare for the expedition. They would train their ponies and sled dogs on the slopes of Quail Island, hoping it would prepare them for the icy trip to follow.

Things to do in Akaroa

Antartic Expedition Dogs

5. The Māori name for the island is Ōtamahua, which means the place where children collect sea eggs. Although the island was never inhabited, it seems that it was visited often because it was a good resource for shellfish, flax, bird’s eggs and other foods.
6. There are two brief periods of farming history on the island. In 1851, the Ward brothers farmed the island, until two of the brothers drowned in the harbour. Later on, from 1934 – 1975, Quail Island was also leased out for farming, before being converted into the recreational reserve we know it as today.
7. Māori settlers in the area used a rocky outcrop off Quail Island, called King Billy Island, to shape and refine tools made from pounamu.

8. The introduction of European mammalian pests such as rabbits, mice, rats, stoats, and ferrets created problems for the native species originally inhabiting the island. However, in recent years they have been removed to ensure that the place is a safe haven for native birds such as tui and tomtit.

Things to do in Akaroa

New Zealand Tui

9. Iconic New Zealand children’s author, Margaret Mahy, got a lot of her inspiration from Quail Island. She lived in the surrounding Governor’s Bay, and television adaptations of her books, such as Kaitangata Twitch, were filmed in the area.

Things to do in Akaroa

Kaitangata Twitch

10. In recent years, conservation has become a big part of the island. The Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust, in conjunction with Christchurch’s Catholic Cathedral College, have worked to provide the rare white flippered little blue penguins in the area with breeding boxes in an effort to grow the population. The trust, and its supporters and volunteers are also focused on restoring the native vegetation on the island, trying to provide and preserve a safe home for the native birds and sea birds that inhabit it.

Things to do in Akaroa

Kiwi Conservation Club planting on Quail Island

So if you are looking for things to do in Christchurch, look no further. If you are visiting New Zealand for the first time or a kiwi local looking for a fun day out in Christchurch Quail Island won’t disappoint.To find out more about Quail Island, visit the Department of Conservation website, or better yet, take the Black Cat Ferry over and explore it first-hand. For prices and the schedule click here.

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Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa French Fest

Piper and Heidsieck French Fest 2013 is happening from the 11th to the 13th of October in Akaroa. Just in case the quaint seaside village itself wasn’t enough to entice you over for the weekend, here are five reasons you should head over the hill for this fantastic celebration of everything French.

Fête de Rue (Street Party)

The festival kicks off on Friday evening along Beach Road with a fantastic night of food and entertainment. Enjoy open air dining overlooking the sea at one of the main road’s many excellent restaurants, each offering a menu full of French cuisine. And to add to the excitement, roving performers and musicians will amuse and entertain diners, while the evening is topped off by a fireworks display.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa. C'est La Vie

The Landing & Parade

Theatrics and drama galore are ready to be found on Saturday morning. If you head over early to the shores French Bay you’ll get the chance to hear the story of Akaroa’s colonial history retold by the descendants of those who arrived on the Comte de Paris back in 1840. Educational and entertaining, this part of French Fest gives you some background to what the celebrations are really all about.

Things to do in Akaroa

Landing reenactment in Akaroa for French Fest

Festivale dans La Verte (Festival on the Green)

If you’d prefer a bit of a sleep on Saturday, come over the hill a little later for the Festivale dans La Verte. An official opening ceremony kicks the day off at 11.30, with a brass band parade and buskers to get the festivities going. Music and markets go throughout the day, and the local toy library’s puppet shows, face painting, and bouncy castle are bound to keep the kids busy too. And for the more competitive, there’s the chance to take out the title of the French Waiters Race, or try your hand at the classically French game of Péntanque.

French Fest Mardi Gras

When the sun starts to set the show really gets going on Saturday night. The parade leading into the Carnival Party at Jubilee Park will leave you dazzled and delighted. Bands, roving street performers, and even colourful can-can dancers will fill the streets and bring the night to life. And once darkness sets in at around 9pm, the Carnival Show gets going – something a little more risqué for a more mature audience.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa French Fest Performers

French Cricket

Finish of a fabulously French weekend with a day of fun and games at the French Cricket tournament on the Village Green. A mix of 20/20 and backyard cricket makes this light-hearted sport great for a day of sitting back and picnicking in the sun with the whole family. But don’t be fooled by the jovial nature of the game – once it gets down to the Grand Finals the teams get a little more than a little competitive in pursuit of the prestigious title and the trophy that comes with it.

Whether you’re there for a day, a night, or the whole festival, the Piper and Heidsieck French Fest has something fun and French for everyone to experience. See the full schedule below.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa French Fest Programme

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Beneath the picturesque surface of Akaroa there are many things you can do that you may not expect from the small seaside village. Here are a few you should try out the next time you’re over in the beautiful Banks Peninsula:

1. Getting in the Water

With the harbour on its doorstep, the fact that you can get in the water in Akaroa may not be all that surprising – but the array of exciting activities available is. During the warmer months of the year, going out into the harbour for a refreshing swim, hiring a kayak or pedal boat, or jumping off the wharf is the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon with the kids. For those who are a little more adventurous, book an Akaroa Sea Kayaking trip –  and get you up close and personal with what the water has to offer. Or if you want to up the ante, clip on a life-jacket and take a spin around the bay with Akaroa Jet Adventures.  And of course there is always the wonderful staff at Black Cat cruises to tour you around the harbour on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise and introduce you to the fascinating history, geography and wildlife of the region.

2. Perfect Your Culinary Skills

Situated by the waterfront with a gorgeous view of the bay, The Akaroa Cooking School is a great place to spend a day picking up a recipe or two. Named by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten places to learn to cook local cuisine in the world, you can be sure that you’ll be learning how to make something exciting with great produce. Using fresh, local ingredients – much of which is grown in their own garden – and keeping class sizes small so that everyone gets one on one time with the chef, The Akaroa Cooking School ensures quality for your day of cooking. And of course, a fantastic meal you can replicate at home.

3. Under the Stars

Away from the light pollution of the inner city, Akaroa provides the perfect backdrop for aspiring astronomy aficionados. On Friday and Saturday nights you can head over to Astronomic Delights at the nearby Heritage Park to gaze up at the stars through a 10 inch Newtonian telescope. With spectacular views, especially on a really clear night, it’s well worth the 10 minute drive out of the township – just remember to wrap up warm.

4. En Français

Every second year Akaroa celebrates its French cultural heritage with the Piper Heidsieck French Fest. As New Zealand’s only French settlement, this event gives you the unique chance to experience what that those who started out in this place had to offer. Market stalls, a parade, and a re-enactment of the French landing at the beach are just some of the famous and fun activities on offer. Add fabulous French cuisine and the streets lined with entertainment and music to the mix and you’ll see why this Akaroa event is a must-do. This year the French Fest will be held on October 11th – 13th and the Christchurch City Council will also be helping locals get into the spirit of things with a special Christchurch to Akaroa shuttle service running on the 12th. Check out our next blog post for more details…

5. Go For a Walk

Seeing the beauty of Akaroa’s natural landscape on foot, or walking up and over the surrounding hills is a great way to spend some time in Banks Peninsula. Go for a wander yourself on one of the marked tracks around the harbour, soaking up the beautiful views before lunch by the seaside. Or if you’re up for more of a challenge, check out the Banks Peninsula Track – a private track that includes volcanic coastline, native bush, waterfalls and sandy beaches. You can book a two day walk for a more fast-paced and high fitness adventure, or a four day trek for a more relaxed and leisurely pace through the hills. The spectacular views make trekking through the hills one of the most stunning experiences in the South Island.

For more information on Akaroa visit

We’d love to know what your favourite Akaroa activity is?  Tell us below and share your experiences of time spent here…

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Getting up close and personal with the Hector’s dolphins of Banks Peninsula has been an unforgettable experience for hundreds of people every year. For many, having the chance to swim with these endangered creatures is simply an amazing opportunity in itself. However, there is more to swimming with the dolphins than just the thrill of getting into the water with such a rare, friendly, and playful animal.

Dolphin Assisted Therapy

Over recent years, research into the benefits of swimming with dolphins has resulted in some interesting discoveries. Dolphin Assisted Therapy, as it is sometimes called, is where people with mental or physical disabilities undergo sessions where they swim and interact with dolphins in the hope that it will improve their ailments. This has become a fairly popular treatment for those with disabilities, as its benefits are said to include improving the immune system, self-control, awareness, and feelings of compassion and self-confidence. However, although successes have been achieved, there are mixed opinions about taking the animal out of its natural habitat.

The benefits of swimming with dolphins in the wild, with minimal interference in their natural day-to-day lives, can have a great outcome for both humans and the animals.

Things to do in Akaroa

Hector's Dolphins Jumping in Akaroa

The Science Bit

Firstly, for us humans, swimming in general is beneficial for our health. Getting active out in the open water is not only great exercise, but also a wonderfully refreshing experience. The salt water you are swimming in contains many magnificent minerals which are great for your health and you skin. Sodium keeps the immune system in check. Bromide relieves muscle pain and soreness.  Magnesium helps with a healthy nervous system. Not to mention the fact that an improvement in circulation and the state and elasticity of your skin are also benefits that have been attributed to swimming in seawater. And if this isn’t enough to convince you salt water also helps to detoxify the body and promote cellular regeneration.

With the summer approaching it’s simply great fun to get out there and cool off!


And then, of course, there are the dolphins. We get the thrill of seeing what it’s like for these fascinating creatures in their environment, and they reap the benefits that come with our interest in them. Aspects of keeping the species alive and well protected, such as community education, conservation initiatives and legislation, and encouraging an interest in nature and sustainability, are all bi-products of marine ecotourism and have wonderful outcomes for the dolphins.

If one looks at what people like Liz Slooten, Ron Bingham, and others associated with wildlife conservation in Banks Peninsula have done, it’s easy to see how this fun tourist activity can have a long-lasting, positive effect for our endangered species.

Things to do in Akaroa

Dolphin Swimming in Akaroa

Experience It

Swimming with the Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa really is a once in a lifetime experience as not only are the world’s rarest and smallest, they are also native to New Zealand and Akaroa is the only place you can book this experience.

If you’re keen to see the benefits of swimming with the dolphins for yourself, get out there with Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa. Last Sunday our boats hit the water again for the summer 2013/14 season.

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First dolphin swim boat of the season in Akaroa

You can find more information and make bookings here

Have you had an experience with dolphins you’d like to share? Tell us your story by commenting below. We’d love to hear them!

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Banks Peninsula is well known for its gorgeous scenery and breath taking views. But amongst the vast beauty found in the area, there lives a wide array of wildlife. Akaroa’s birds are just a few of many creatures you’ll find, but if you’re around in the warmer months, keep an eye out and there’s a good chance you’ll spot quite a few of them:

1. Little Blue Penguin: The blue penguin is the smallest penguin in the world, standing at only 25cm tall and weighing in at under a kilogram.

Things to do in Akaroa
Little Blue Penguin

2. Yellow-eyed Penguin: Another rare New Zealand penguin, the Māori name for this bird is ‘hoiho,’ which means ‘noise shouter.’

Things to do in Akaroa
Yellow Eyed Penguin

3. Black Shag: The Black Shag can often be seen feeding on fish in the harbour. This used to cause a stir amongst fishing enthusiasts who thought they were eating sport fish. However, the Black Shag does not have a significant impact on the fishing population, despite still being persecuted by some.

Things to do in Akaroa
Black Shag

4. Mollymawk: Part of the Albatross family and only found in the southern hempisphere these large birds are very vocal and can often be seen swooping around at the heads of Akaroa bay.

Things to do in Akaroa

5. Spotted Shag: Ledges of cliffs, overhanging the water of the sea below, are popular breeding and nesting areas for Spotted Shags. This makes Banks Peninsula an ideal area to spot one.

Things to do in Akaroa
Spotted Shags in Akaroa

6.White-faced Heron: The White-faced Heron is originally an Australian species, but introduced itself here in the 1940s and as a result is classified as a native bird of New Zealand.

Things to do in Akaroa
White Faced Heron in Akaroa

7. Pukeko: Known for running out in front of oncoming vehicles, although the Pukeko may appear to have mild suicidal tendencies, they are often seen there because the habitat is ideal for hunting and gathering food.

Things to do in Akaroa

8. Australasian Bittern: Shy and secretive birds during the day, the Australasian Bittern usually come out at night to mate and hunt for food.

Things to do in Akaroa
Australasian Bittern

9.New Zealand Falcon: Fearless, the New Zealand Falcon has a reputation for swooping down, finding its prey, and not letting go until it gets what it wants. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of these beautiful creatures.

Things to do in Akaroa
New Zealand Falcon

10. South Island Pied Oystercatcher: There are many species of Oystercatchers, so many that experts find it difficult to agree on a number. The South Island Pied species is a wary and restless creature with a shrill cry.

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Oystercatcher Akaroa

11. Caspian Tern: Another international bird, the Caspian Tern is also known as the ‘King of Sea-Swallows’ on account of it’s very large size.

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Terns in Akaroa

12.  Shining Cuckoo: This pretty little bird is about the size of a sparrow and gets its name from having an iridescent coat that shines greenish blue in the light.

Things to do in Akaroa


13.  Morepork: You wouldn’t expect it, but these small owls that lurk in the trees are carnivorous creatures, sometimes feeding on animals larger than themselves.

Things to do in Akaroa


14.  Kingfisher: The collective noun for a group of Kingfisher birds is a “concentration,” perhaps referring to its broad and steady build, strong enough to take down small mammals.

Things to do in Akaroa


15.  New Zealand Pipit: The pipit has quite drab colouring, but this is to provide camouflage, allowing them to blend in against the forest floor.

Things to do in Akaroa


16.  Fantail: Although the Fantail can suffer greatly through a harsh winter, they’ve developed strategies to survive, like having more than one brood in the right conditions, sleeping in late to avoid the cold morning frosts, and tucking away in bushes and haystacks to keep themselves warm.

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17.  Song Thrush: You can distinguish the Song Thrush from other birds by listening out for its cheerful and uplifting tunes. Some say their musical ability in terms of rhythm, tone, harmony, and melody can compete with that of humans.

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Song Thrush

18.  Bellbird: Another song bird, this little critter makes the sound of a single bell-like note, perfect to break a morning slumber.

Things to do in Akaroa


19.  Starling: The starling gets its name from the markings on its feathers that gleam like tiny white stars. However, this only happens in the summer months, glistening in the sun.

Things to do in Akaroa


20.Silvereye: Like the Tui and the Bellbird, the Silvereye has a brush-tipped tongue for drinking nectar.

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With a decline of the Hector’s Dolphins by 75% in the last 40 years, there’s no time like the present to get involved with trying to save our native species. Here are five people who have done great things to get the ball rolling:

1. Dr. Liz Slooten

An Associate Professor in the Zoology Department at the University of Otago, Dr. Liz Slooten is the leading expert on Hector’s Dolphins. Having conducted many years of research on these marine mammals, Slooten has done a lot to provide a good base of information to encourage the conservation of these creatures. The research started out with her and her colleague, Steve Dawson’s PhD project in 1984 and has blossomed from there. Together, and with the help of their PhD and Masters students, they are finding out more and more about what it takes to conserve this beautiful species. Slooten and Dawson’s frequent research trips that monitor the population, location, and reproduction of the dolphins are vital to understanding what we need to do to save these creatures. In 2004, the pair were awarded the Sir Charles Fleming Award for outstanding contribution to conservation science.

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Dr. Liz Slooten

2. Steve Dawson

Dawson is another Associate Professor who works with Slooten in Otago. For Dawson, the main concern for conservation of Hector’s Dolphins is making sure that those who can help get the word out there. On the WWF website, Dawson talks about his role in protecting the species:  “Conservation action is about changing people’s behaviour. In my view, scientists need to take a greater role in translating the science into action. They understand the animals best, and are least affected by vested interests.” With this kind of attitude, and the dedication both Dawson and Slooten share to finding out how we can save this species, it is easy to see how the two of them have helped us get to where we are with the conservation of Hector’s dolphins today.

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Dr. Steve Dawson

3. Ron Bingham

Ron Bingham, the founder of Black Cat Cruises, started the company in 1985. In doing so, his vision turned into New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator. The aim of the company was to show tourists what Akaroa harbour and Banks Peninsula have to offer in terms of scenery and wildlife. With the declining population of Hector’s Dolphins in the harbour, Black Cat began to work closely with marine biologists, Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson, to ensure that the research and campaigning needed to preserve this species was carried out. Now one of New Zealand’s leading tourism operations, Black Cat plays a big part in bringing about awareness of the plight of Hector’s Dolphins and encourages education about conservation for these creatures and other marine life in our waters.

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Captain Ron Bingham

4. Jim Anderton

Building on the work of previous politicians such as Helen Clark and Pete Hodgson, as Minister of Fisheries in 2008, Jim Anderton put together a package that ensured measures were taken to protect Hector’s and Maui Dolphins in New Zealand. The measures focussed on reducing the negative impact of in-shore fishing for New Zealand dolphins, and included regional bans, restrictions on set-netting, trawling and drift netting, and an increase in monitoring people’s interaction with dolphins where it may bring harm to the species. Although there is still a lot the government could be doing to ensure the species avoids extinction, the measures Anderton put in place, in combination with past efforts that created marine mammal sanctuaries, are undoubtedly a great step in the right direction for saving Hector’s Dolphins.

5. Will Rayment

Will Rayment is another Otago University lecturer who has taken an interest in our Hector’s Dolphins. He does research and lectures on marine ecology, conservation, and species-habitat relationships, amongst other things, using Hector’s Dolphins as the subject for these investigations. Rayment believes there is hope for the Hector’s Dolphin if we can ensure the small population we have is protected well enough: “I think they can recover if fishing impacts cease now. Survival of small populations is all about chance events. All we can do is control the direct human impacts. Even then it might be too late, but we have to have the attitude that there’s a possibility.” In addition to fostering interest in the conservation of this species through his academic work, he’s also often found behind the lens on research trips with Slooten and Dawson, capturing some iconic photographs of these creatures.

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Dr. Will Rayment

If you would like to help save New Zealand’s Hector’s Dolphins check out our previous post here…

If you have feedback or advice please do share it with us by commenting below…we would love to hear from you.

Until next time…

The Black Cat Team

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You may have recently seen in the news that the marine scientists from the University of Otago have been researching the habits of the Hector’s dolphin in the bay of Akaroa. Historically it’s been reported that the dolphins only enter into the harbour during the warmer summer months, when set nets are banned and the dolphins are free to safely swim around in the bay. However recent studies by the scientists have shown that the dolphins are present in the harbour during the winter months when set nets are in use. This highlights a threat to our native dolphin and the scientists are now calling for a complete ban of the nets.

Hector’s Dolphins are officially listed as an endangered species, and although this status means that conservationists have been working to reduce the dangers for dolphins in New Zealand waters, there are still some imminent threats that could devastate the population if humans aren’t careful in the water.

Here are the top threats we should be aware of:

1. Fishing

Fishing using gillnets has been around for centuries, but nowadays they run the risk of catching a lot more than just fish.  When a dolphin gets entangled in a gill net, it cannot reach the surface to take a breath and then eventually suffocates. These nets are set in place out in the ocean, weighted down so that as fish try to swim through, their gills get caught in the net. Unfortunately, anything that is bigger than the holes of the net risks getting tangled in it. In addition to this, there is also a problem with the use of nylon nets, as if a net is lost, it remains in the ocean for a very long time, rather than falling apart as the old rope ones did. Combine these facts with the use of hydraulic motors to haul in these nets, and our native dolphins are more at risk of getting caught up in gillnets than ever.

Commercial trawlers are also a problem for our dolphins. Although independent observers have reported fewer dolphin deaths with trawlers, these observations don’t take into account the fact that there are a large number of trawling vessels in New Zealand waters, meaning that it could be happening  more than we think.

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One of an estimated 110 to 150 Hector's dolphins that die in commercial set nets every year ©: Martin Abel photo from

2. Pollution

There are several substances that can cause real damage to marine life if they are let to wreak havoc in our waters. In the past substances such as PCBs, which were used for things like coolant fluids in electrical equipment, and DDTs, which were found in insecticides, were commonplace in New Zealand. Although now banned, these chemicals were known to cause environmental damage. Chemicals such as these affect the health of Hector’s Dolphins, getting into their systems and causing disease. Dioxins, which have similar effects, are also released into the atmosphere through pollution from burning wood and metals, and can make their way into dolphin habitat. Scientists have also found the presence of organochlorines in Hector’s Dolphins, which are known to cause complications with breeding and reduce reproduction rates; however they are not in high enough levels to cause these problems yet. Keeping an eye on the levels of pollution in our waters, and what’s polluting them, is crucial in figuring out how we can avoid devastating Hector’s Dolphins in this way.

3. Boat Disturbance

Boats pose yet another hazard for dolphins related to human recreational activities. Hector’s Dolphins like to hang around close to shore, in bays and harbours, which is unfortunately the site of much boat activity. As dolphins prefer being near the surface of the water, if people aren’t careful they risk running them over with their propellers. This can be especially tragic, as the dolphins that the most likely to come close to a boat are newborn calves that swim near the surface of the water, and also swim relatively slowly. It pays to be wary of what’s in the water below you when in a dolphin habitat.

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A hector's calf killed by a boat propeller. Photo Al Hutt. from

4. Habitat Loss

The development of coastal areas and growing aquaculture activity poses another threat to Hector’s Dolphins. With coastal areas being built up, there is the potential for dolphins to have their habitat invaded by the presence of people. In many places throughout the world we have seen the devastating consequences to marine life caused by the development of cities and infrastructure, bringing things like pollution and erosion, and destroying the natural way the environment supports these animals. On our own coasts, we have seen how the development of aquaculture, in which coastal space is used for farming, can have negative environmental effects when it is not managed correctly. Although there has been legislation put in place to slow down the development of aquaculture industries in New Zealand in order to conserve our marine habitat, the government is now encouraging more aquaculture activity. Aquaculture, combined with the urban development of our coastline, is something we have to look out for to ensure that it is not putting our marine life, and especially our Hector’s Dolphins, in more danger than they are already in. Less than 1% of New Zealand’s mainland coastline is currently protected by marine reserves however we finally saw the introduction of the Akaroa marine reserve earlier this year which is a step in the right direction to protect the delicate marine biodiversity.


To find out about what you can do to help save our Hector’s Dolphins, check out our blogpost ‘5 Things You Can Do To Save Hector’s Dolphins’ and be sure to look out for our next post in two weeks time Five people who have made a difference to Hector’s dolphins’ for some further inspiration.

If you would like to make a donation to the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust to help the conservation efforts simply click here

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Experience the charm, character and colour of our little town, Akaroa. No matter when or how you decide to venture over to the beautiful bays, there’s always a friendly and welcoming place to stay. Whether you’re after a cosy bach to while away the rest of the winter in or thinking of somewhere to put up your tent up in the summer months, Akaroa has a great selection of places to set up your base for a getaway to remember.

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa is full of charm, character and colour

Countryside Settings

Akaroa is also famous for its historic hideaways. If you’re after more of a quaint, country experience, take a look at some of the historic homesteads and cottages available for rent. With a selection of private rooms or self contained units on offer at well established places such as Wilderness House or Akaroa Cottages, there’s plenty to choose from for a quieter getaway. Over the hill there’s also the Shamarra Alpaca Farmstay, for those who want the comforts of modern accommodation with a taste of a working farm too. Bed and breakfasts in the area also give you a chance to meet the locals at the same time as enjoying the seclusion of the countryside setting.

Things to do in Akaroa

Shamarra Farm Stay Alpacas in Akaroa


If you’re after a place you can have all to yourself, while still being comfortably close to the streets along the shore, rent yourself a bach up in the Akaroa hills. Having your own place for a few weeks means settling in for the summer is a breeze, and there’s plenty of space for the boat. Booking in advance gives you a better chance of securing your own private getaway in those warmer months, but if you’re after a weekend retreat in the chillier part of the year, the process is a little less gruelling. And there’s nothing quite like wrapping up warm next to the fire, tucked away from the city’s bustle on a cold winter’s night.

Romantic Settings

The seaside village is also a popular place for couples to spend a romantic weekend together. And set against the French backdrop and glorious scenery there are a number of motels and apartments with waterfront views, perfect for a night with that someone special. Try L’hotel for a warm winter getaway – their downstairs bar and restaurant has an open fire, candlelight dinners and ambient music, setting a perfect scene for any couples weekend away. Or for a luxurious night or two for a special occasion, book a room with Waterfront Superior Suites, who’s beautiful interior design and stunning balcony views will be sure to make it an anniversary or honeymoon to remember.

Things to do in Akaroa

Romantic settings in Akaroa

Families and Backpackers

For the more budget conscious, or for those trekking their way around the country, Akaroa has a great selection of backpackers and family campgrounds that ensure you get more bang for your buck. Head up the hill to Akaroa’s Top Ten Holiday Park to pitch your tent, park your campervan, or perhaps crash in a cabin for your stay. Or if you’re a tourist on foot, take the chance to meet fellow travellers and book a bed at one of the backpackers or hostels closer to shore. Popular backpackers and hostels include Akaroa Dolphin, Bon Accord, and Chez la Mer, with most offering Wi-Fi so you can keep in touch with those back home.

Akaroa has plenty on offer to suit your accommodation needs, and with something for everyone’s budget, it’s not hard to enjoy more than just the one day in the beautiful seaside village, giving you plenty of time to explore everything it has to offer.

Vote & Win a luxury weekend in Akaroa!

For your chance to win a luxury weekend in Akaroa, which will include two nights accomodation at the exclusive retreat that is the Shamarra Farmstay, along with $300 in cash to wine and dine yourselves and an experience with Black Cat Cruises….simply vote on your favorite picture here. Remember The competition closes August 31st 2013 and the prize is for two people so tell your friends and don’t miss out!

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Entry: Akaroa foggy morning by Derek Watts

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Diamond Harbour Photo Contest

Last Friday saw the close of our Diamond Harbour Photo competition and the start of our new competition Vote & Win! (see below)

We had some fantastic entries to the Diamond Harbour contest so thank you to everyone who entered, voted and shared. In total we had 99 entries to the competition and after hundreds of votes were cast the winning photo was awarded to Emma Aldous. Congratulations Emma, a $300 mac pac voucher is now yours!

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The Winning shot by Emma Aldous

Spot Prizes

It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts

Everyone loves a winner but we decided to award an extra 5 spot prizes along the way. You see we are nice like that! The prizes included mac pac gift vouchers, metro cards and gift vouchers to Freemans in Lyttelton. Check out our complete gallery of winners here….

Vote & Win! A luxury weekend in Akaroa…

Our new competition ‘Vote & Win!’ is a photography competition with a difference. We have edited a collection of 40 photos from our past competitions. All you have to do is vote on a photo and then you will be in with a chance of winning a luxury weekend in Akaroa. It’s a simple as that!

As well as giving away a weekend in Akaroa the photo with the most votes will be awarded a $500 Black Cat Cruises voucher. To start voting and find out more click here.

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Things to do in Akaroa

A young Hector's dolphin in Akaroa

Hector’s Dolphins are an endangered species, and they need all the help they can get. Scientists estimate that there were between 21,000 and 29,000 Hector’s Dolphins in the 1970s. But due to the detrimental effects of trawling, net fishing and a changing habitat being invaded by people, the population has dwindled. Today, the numbers sit at an estimated 7270 – less than one third of the 1970s population.

Many of these dolphins can be found in the beautiful Akaroa Harbour.

But there is hope for our native dolphin. Here are five ways you can get involved in helping conserve these beautiful creatures.

Be Dolphin Friendly

First off, it’s best to make sure you’re doing everything you can if you’re out in the water or even just someone who likes a bit of seafood. If that sounds like you, there are several ways to ensure what you love doing doesn’t have bad effects for our Hector’s Dolphins:

- Avoid using set nets, especially when you see dolphins close by. You should also use a ‘no wake’ speed limit if you’re within 300 metres of dolphins.

- Don’t swim with, feed, or touch the dolphins unless you’re with a tourist operation. The only permitted Hector’s dolphin swimming operation in the world is from Akaroa (with Black Cat Cruises)

- Keep their habitat clean by taking any rubbish with you, and if you see any floating in the water, it’d be great if you pick it up too

- Be aware of your surroundings and make sure that others out on the water are able to see if there are dolphins around too

- When having a meal with seafood, make sure that what you’re eating was caught without using trawling or a gillnet

- And when going fishing yourself, dolphin-safe methods such as using a hook and line, fishing rod or craypot, are the way to go

Things to do in Akaroa

Akaroa is home to about 1000 Hectors dolphins

Get Educated

The key to conservation is education. There are great programmes around the country that go to primary schools and make sure that the children in the area are informed about the struggle of Hector’s Dolphins. But school isn’t the only way to get involved here – get informed by doing a little research. Here on this blog is a great place to start, or on sites from organisations like the Department of Conservation and WWF. Knowledge is power, and if you can spread the word to others about what we can do to save the dolphins, then we’re more likely to be able to help them out.

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by Lydia Uddstrom Feb 2013

Donate to the cause

Donate a little time, or if you have it, a little money to the plight of these dolphins. Take a few minutes to look up campaigns and organisations, see how you can volunteer, or even just how you can get their message out there, and you will have helped just by publicising the great work that goes into saving these creatures. Or if you have a bit of spare cash, look out for things like WWF’s Stop Their Extinction campaign, or the 100m Campaign. To get a feel for these sorts of things, go to and you’ll see a number of ways you can do something for this endangered species. Campaigns like these are concerned with bringing about awareness of the plight of Hector’s and often, the also highly endangered Maui dolphins. You can donate money to the cause, send the message to your friends, or even adopt a dolphin!

Get Political

A great way to incite action is to make your voice heard by those who need to hear it. Getting in contact with the Department of Conservation, your local body government, or charities running campaigns for the dolphins is a great way to encourage a dialogue about what’s happening to our marine mammals. Writing a letter, or getting on board with a public proposal to the Minister of Fisheries or Minister of Conservation is really useful for bringing up the issue of protecting dolphin habitat with those who have the authority to legislate change. Or, if you need a hand to start, go to the 100m Campaign ( campaigns-100m.php) and you’ll find a link to an MP’s email address, giving you the tools to let your voice be heard on the issue of fishing nets in New Zealand waters.

Things to do in Akaroa

by Brad Garrett, taken from the deck of the Black Cat January 2013

Get Social Media Savvy

With the glorious wonder that is the internet, and of course a little know how, there is no end to what you can do to bring about awareness of the fact that Hector’s Dolphins need our help. Join the social media pages of organisations like Black Cat Cruises in Akaroa and Lyttelton, WWF, or the Whale and Dolphin Trust and not only can you stay informed about the latest developments, activities, and campaign events, but you can share this information with your friends too. There are also other exciting ways to get involved online, like with and their ‘Let’s Face It’ campaign for the last 55 Maui dolphins, where people upload photographs of themselves for a visual petition. With following these campaigns, it’s easy to get inspired to create your own buzz – make a poster, start a blog, or post on a page to get the word out there and raise awareness of the plight of Hector’s Dolphins yourself!

Getting involved is the first step to getting Hector’s Dolphins the help they need. Look out for next week’s blog post about those who have already made a dent in the fight for a safe and well New Zealand Dolphin population.

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Things to do in AkaroaThings to do in AkaroaHector’s Dolphins, (or Cephalorhynchus Hectori , for those of you with an affinity for Latin) are the friendly creatures that grace the waters near New Zealand shores. Native to Aotearoa, and commonly found along the coast of Banks Peninsula, these dolphins have sparked excitement in local scientists for the past 30 or so years, and now we know more about them than ever. Here are ten things about Hector’s Dolphins you may not have known:

10. Under the Radar

The way Hector’s Dolphins communicate is often inaudible to the human ear. Except for the occasional squeal or cry, their sounds just don’t register to us. They communicate through short, high frequency clicks which last about 1/7000th of a second and are usually at about 120 kHz – 6 times higher than the human ear can hear. These are emitted as pulses in the water, and they become more frequent when they get closer to a target.

9. Lone Wolves Making Packs

From research, it seems that although Hector’s Dolphins are inclined to stick together in groups, they don’t really have strong family ties or set packs that they are always associated with. Although mothers stick with their children to show them the ropes as they grow up, and the occasional dolphin has a ‘best friend’ or two, relationships between males and females are far from monogamous and researchers usually find that the same dolphins are not often seen together.

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8. Age-Telling Teeth

We now know that Hector’s Dolphins on average live into their early twenties. How? Their teeth. When they are born, they start out with hollow cone-like teeth and every year, two more layers will grow up into them to fill out the cone – one in summer, and one in winter. Scientists count the layers, like rings on a tree, to find the age of a dolphin.

7. Massive brains

Hector’s Dolphins have one of the largest brain-to-body weight ratios in the animal kingdom, and the largest amongst dolphins. With 1.7% of their body weight residing in their brain, it’s really no wonder they have a reputation for being intelligent. The average human ratio is 1.9%, which doesn’t seem to be particularly far ahead. And not only are they catching up to us in size, but in the way we value our smarts too; the areas of the dolphin brain associated with reason and creativity are surprisingly well developed.
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6. Dolphins just play for fun

Unlike many creatures in the animal kingdom that learn to fight or hunt through play amongst their group, Hector’s Dolphins just play for the fun of it. They’re really friendly around humans, and you’ll often see them surfing in the wake of a passing boat, or tossing around a twig, some seaweed, or leaves near the surface of the water. When they’re enjoying themselves, they blow bubbles under the water to show their excitement. Many scientists believe that the fact that they seem to play just for the pleasure of it is a sign of their intelligence.

5. Punks and Sharkbait

Since New Zealand scientists started studying Hector’s Dolphins in the ‘80s, they’ve gotten to know quite a few characters. Identifying features and repeat visits mean that they’re quite familiar with dolphins like Biggus Nickus, whose name was inspired by the nick in his dorsal fin (and the Monty Python film, Life of Brian). Others include Punk, who had a calf every two years from 2000-2008, and Sharkbait, who researchers met when he had a fresh wound on his back from an attack.

4. No Tagging

In 2004, the Department of Conservation tagged three Hector’s Dolphins in the Banks Peninsula area. This was met with much outrage from scientists, conservationalists, and dolphin enthusiasts alike. As Hector’s Dolphins are so friendly and so willing to come up to researchers time and time again, key scientists, Professors Slooten and Dawson want to keep them free from tags. They believe that it is unethical to tag animals if it means putting them through stress for research that can be done through other means. Tagging can also change the behaviour of an animal due to human intervention, which would skew observational findings. And of course, scientists have the ability to monitor the dolphins through the photographic records they keep, so they can learn about Hector’s Dolphins without causing them unnecessary harm. Therefore the scientists like to keep a tag-free policy when it comes to Hector’s Dolphins.

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3. A Different Dorsal

It’s easy to tell the difference between your standard dolphins from other waters and New Zealand’s own Hector’s Dolphin. Aside from the fact that Hector’s Dolphins are predominantly grey and quite small in comparison to their international counterparts, they have a very rounded dorsal fin. Other species you may spot in New Zealand waters that aren’t natives will have a sickle or triangular shaped fin, meaning it’s pretty easy for a Hector’s Dolphin to stand out from the crowd. In fact, they are sometimes known as the ‘Mickey Mouse Dolphin’ – it’s easy to see why.

Things to do in Akaroa

2. Hungry Dolphins

Being warm-blooded creatures in a very cool environment, it’s important that dolphins eat as much as they can to keep their energy levels up with the activity they do. A typical male Hector’s Dolphin will eat about 11% of his body weight in fish each day as long as he can get hold of it. That’s the equivalent of an average adult male eating 37 Big Macs in one day!

1. Hector’s Dolphins are tiny

Relative to the size of other sea dwelling mammals, the native New Zealand dolphin is quite small. Going by length, Hector’s Dolphins are the smallest in the world – the average Hector’s Dolphin is the size of a five year old child, whereas the average Bottlenose is the length of a small family car! However, there’s a little competition for the title, because by weight, the Franciscana dolphin of South America is ten kilograms lighter than a fully grown Hector’s Dolphin.

Things to do in Akaroa

Cyclists high on the Summit Road above Akaroa Harbour during the iconic race, Le Race. Photo credit; Tailwind Events

Banks Peninsula offers a huge variety of options to cruise on the bike, both for road and mountain biking. The area starting life as a volcanic island and the Peninsula’s two major volcanos’ have now sunk 2500 meters over a very long period of time, providing the wonderful harbours of Akaroa and Lyttelton.

Over time alluvium from the Southern Alps extended from the mainland shoreline to link up with the once isolated volcanoes, providing the flat areas that surround the peninsula.

There are numerous ways of attacking climbs throughout Banks Peninsula, but we’d thought we look at a unique ride that starts in Christchurch and finishes in Akaroa with a boat trip thrown in along the way.

Heading along Colombo Street towards the Port Hills of Banks Peninsula you eventually arrive at the bottom of Dyers Pass, just under the first two kilometres of this portion of the road up Dyers Pass is filled with thousands of very keen cycling fans in early January each year for the Calder Stewart New Zealand elite cycling champs. In late March each year the climb all the way to the top sorts things out early for the iconic 100 kilometre Christchurch to Akaroa Le Race cycle race, being held this year on the 23rd of March.

The gradient is quite steep in places but after you past the Cup and Emperor’s New Clothes cafes and the iconic Sign of the Tahake it flattens out into a nice steady climb to about 300 metres above sea level at the Sign of the Kiwi which provides magnificent views across Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps and to the south across Lyttelton Harbour.

From here it’s downhill towards Governors Bay and then a left turn towards Lyttelton. This is really nice rolling terrain which is quite quiet as the road beyond Lyttelton has been closed since the earthquakes so much of the traffic uses the Lyttelton tunnel rather than this piece of road.

Looking out across the harbour there are great views of Quail Island, named after the now extinct native Quail (koreke) by Captain William Mein Smith. The island has a fascinating history; it was originally used as a quarantine station and as a small leprosy colony by the early European settlers.

From 1934 till 1975 the Island was leased out for farming and was then converted to a recreational reserve. Today the focus is on restoring native vegetation and the island is home to loads of native birds and the rare white flippered little blue penguins.

Recently the Kiwi Ranger programme started up on the island, a fun and interactive programme initiated by the Department of Conservation (DOC) that incorporates various sites, such as national parks, ecosanctuaries, heritage centres and reserves across the country. Black Cat Cruises run trips to the island and it’s a good chance to take a lunch and swimming togs for a great family day out.

Once into Lyttelton it’s down to the harbour and jumping on board (with your bike) Black Cat Cruise’s Diamond Harbour Ferry. Legend has it that Diamond Harbour got its name because one of the early settlers observed the sun reflecting on the water and thought it looked like a thousand shining diamonds. There’s no doubt that Diamond Harbour remains one of the sunniest and unspoilt destinations on Banks Peninsula and the ferry ride only takes five minutes across the harbour.

From Diamond Harbour, you ride east along some lovely rolling terrain until you descend into Purau and its very nice bay. Then it’s all uphill for a while with a long climb up the Purau Port Levy Road. Once at the top it’s a fast descent down into Port Levy – watch for the tight hairpin halfway down – and onto a gravel section made ‘infamous’ in the 90s by legendary road cyclist Brian Fowler who used to come the other way on long training rides during his tour winning days in the Tour of Southland.

It’s mostly hard packed gravel and mud which is just as well as it’s a steep five kilometre climb up to over 600 metres up Wild Cattle Hill. After riding through the barren hills scattered with sheep and some trees there is another descent of five kilometres and it’s finally back onto sealed road again at Pigeon Bay.

Pigeon Bay is usually a magnificent turquoise colour and a good spot for stopping to take in the views and get some food and drinks on board before another tough climb up the Pigeon Bay Road for six kilometres to the rim of the Akaroa crater and the Summit Road again.

Once again there are magnificent views, again in most directions; down into Duvauchelle Bay, back into Pigeon Bay and up Akaroa Harbour. Turning left and heading south along the Summit Road you are once again on the final quarter of the route used for Le Race, including a climb up to 700 metres and a head rush of a downhill down Long Bay Road into Akaroa, the South Island’s oldest colonial town and New Zealand’s sole French Settlement.

First stop is a good local cafe for food and coffee, then a chance to kick back and reflect on an awesome day out on the bike. While in Akaroa it would be a shame not to stay and check out the harbour the following day. Black Cat have been cruising the waters of Banks Peninsula for more than 26 years and is a must see Akaroa activity so finding their office in the Main Street or on the wharf is a good idea.

They know all there is to know about Akaroa Harbour and the diversity of marine wildlife, birdlife and its volcanic origins. You can swim with hector’s dolphins year round, or do an Akaroa Harbour Nature cruise. Black Cat Cruises helps create some of the most memorable experiences to be had on the water anywhere on New Zealand’s Canterbury coastline, and great way to round off two fantastic days on Bank Peninsula. If you are super keen you can always ride back to Christchurch via Hill Top and Little River on the main Christchurch to Akaroa Highway – its only another 85 kilometres.

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