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5 Amazing Local Secret Hidden Gems on the Christchurch to Akaroa Road.

The Christchurch to Akaroa Road is stunning trip, but worth taking your time and allowing longer than google suggests.

The Seventh Generation Principle

Christchurch to Akaroa by Bus

The Akaroa French Connection is the bus from Christchurch to Akaroa and operates a daily return, it departs Christchurch at 9am and Akaroa at 4pm, it is the only Akaroa bus service in operation and is like a tour in itself.

Christchurch to Akaroa by Car

How long does it take to drive from Christchurch to Akaroa – allow 2 hours google says 1.5 hours but the speed limits have been reduced to 80kmph and 60kmph for sections of the road.

And if you are a first time driver you will want to stop to enjoy the views and the amazing points of interest along the way.

Christchurch to Akaroa by Taxi

This is a little trickier, there are not many private shuttle or taxi firms that operate between the two.

Akaroa to Christchurch Road Speed Limits

New road speed limits from Akaroa to Little River at 60 km/ph and from Little River to Christchurch at 80 km/ph has made the road safer and nicer to travel as a tourist new to New Zealand roads. Allow a little longer than googlemaps suggests.

For things to do in Akaroa:

Inside Out Akaroa Giants House
Giants House Akaroa ‘The Happiest Garden on Earth’

For 5 Amazing Secret Local Stops Christchurch to Akaroa READ ON!

Akaroa is an AMAZING little French Town a Hidden Gem of New Zealand and a MUST VISIT! Don’t skip this beautiful place for the more famous (and more crowded)!

Here’s five simple things to do on the Christchurch to Akaroa highway that will have it feeling like a sense of discovery, rather than a long drive on a winding road.

Christchurch to Akaroa from a local:

Sea cliffs of Banks Peninsula Birdlings Flat beach
The stunning sea cliffs of Banks Peninsula from the Birdlings Flat beach.

Lake Ellesmere – Photostop

Number 1 on the Christchurch to Akaroa road is STOP for a photo (maybe like this aurora!) and to really take in the scale of Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, Canterbury’s largest lake and of international importance for bird life.

Birdlings Flat – Gemstone Hunting

Turn off Highway 75 – Christchurch to Akaroa road for a walk along the wild beach of Birdlings Flat. It’s worth spending half an hour just walking along looking at the Banks Peninsula sea cliffs rising up from the shingle beach, the wild (and dangerous) surf – no swimming here! Look for rock agates and get lost in letting your mind wander away over the sea (2 minutes from the main highway).

Little River Cafe – Famous for… Coffee!

Coffee! Stop at one of the two great Little River café’s, the Little River Diner is just as good, usually without the crazy cues and has a cute little garden out the back with a small bush walk for children, they’re fine with dogs and it’s off the road and safe too  4.3 Star rating (Little River Cafe is 4.4).

Do visit the Little River Gallery, it’s always a great place to look at the latest creative exhibition and lovely handmade gifts. It’s a place that always leaves me feeling that life is only ever going to get better, when there is this much energy in the world to create funky art.

Come to Akaroa for the next Akaroa French Festival!

Nature Walks – Spoilt for Choice

There are so many hidden gems on the road from Akaroa to Christchurch, not just the stunning views but the nature walks, don’t rush the trip or you will miss half of the fun!

On your next trip from Christchurch to Akaroa, choose the Montgomery Reserve or Ōnawe Peninsula for a nature day walk. Perhaps one this time, and the other the next? Montgomery is 2-hours return and can be quite a slug up a rocky path to the top, but the views are amazing, down over the Little River Valley that you have just enjoyed and all the way down Te Wairewa/Lake Forsyth to views of the Sothern Alps on a good day, and turning around, looking out over Akaroa Harbour! Worth the climb to the top!

Old Growth Forest Banks Peninsula
Stunning scenes at Montgomery Reserve.

Giant Totara Tree – Montgomery Reserve

But my favourite bit of the whole walk is the giant totara tree, a reminder of the giants of old that would have cloaked this landscape from top to bottom. Millers reported cutting down trees 50 feet in girth (that’s around), and that they had not seen trees as big elsewhere. It’s really worth taking a moment to look up at this old giant and ponder what it has seen in it’s 2000 years.

Yes, that’s right, it’s two thousand years old, or there abouts. Born at the start of our calendar system, before the Taupo eruption, before human arrival and that of land mammals. Can you imagine as you look up at those branches the birds that it has held, species now extinct, species of insect unknown. Moa walking at its feet, Haast eagle perching while searching for prey? Burrowing seabirds and petrel diving through the canopy and nesting under its roots? South Island kōkako, laughing owl, or kakapo?

This tree is only 10 minutes off the Christchurch to Akaroa highway, but I bet most of you have never been there, it’s time to pay homage. (Turn left at the ‘Hilltop’ summit and the DOC Reserve is tucked on the side of the road a few hundred meters along.)

Ōnawe Peninsula – Geology and History

Ōnawe Peninsula, is equally spectacular but a lack of interpretation panels leaves it to be a place largely of dog walking and enjoying the scenery, with a general knowledge that there was once a pa there until Te Rauparaha attacked.

But no, it was not the place where he came on the Brig Elizabeth with Captain Stuart, that was another place altogether in Akaroa Harbour, and a different year.

This was the final stand of Ngai Tahu, after years of warfare with the Kai Hugana feuds and the Te Rauapara raids. Ngai Tahu gathered here together in one last stand against its fierce northern enemy, in a very well-fortified pa in a new era of musket warfare, designed to be able to shoot out but not into the pa. And it withstood well, it was only through the shear cunning of Te Rauparaha and internal conflict that the gates feel, and with them almost all the occupants.

Please walk with respect and refrain from eating this is a sacred tapu site. Access is 2 minutes from the highway along Ōnawe Flat Road.

If you’re interested in geology, or natures art, Ōnawe’s volcanic rock structures are worth the visit alone.

Volcanic plug of Onawe, creates beautiful natural art.

After all this exploration of the Christchurch to Akaroa road it’s time to head to Akaroa to relax, sit back and with your new frame of mind enjoy a drink and watch one of Akaroa’s beautiful sunsets. And rest up there is SO much more to explore tomorrow, in living here a lifetime I still have new places to visit and stories to learn and share.

If you really want to refresh your mind and reconnect with nature, there is simply no better way than to take a Nature and History Tour with me. Let me share with you my deep and diverse knowledge and my absolute passion for storytelling, that will allow you to see the beauty of Akaroa harbour in a completely new way! Sit back and enjoy, no masks required!

Now that you have discovered how beautiful the Christchurch to Akaroa Highway is don’t miss The Best – Akaroa History Tour

Discover the scenic beauty, history, nature and culture of Akaroa in one complete comprehensive tour. Visit some of the most important historic sites such as Takapuneke, the site of the Brig Elizabeth Te Rauparaha massacre, Onuku Marae where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed and Britomart Monument, the place of the British declaration of sovereignty.

Experience fascinating natural sites like the Heritage Park that provides stunning views over Akaroa, the Wildside Project, a community-driven collaboration for predator control and the protection of native species, and the internationally renowned Hinewai Reserve. You will see, learn and experience the stories of our past, and leave with a sense of hope and inspiration for the future.

Marie Haley

I am your guide, Marie Haley, I was born and raised on Banks Peninsula. The seventh generation direct decedent of Akaroa’s very first French settler. I grew up on the family farm following in the footsteps of my Grandfather, and his Grandfather before.