GuideA Weekend Summer Road Trip to Akaroa
This coastal town perched just an hour and twenty minutes southeast of Christchurch has all you could want out of a weekend getaway: great food, charming accommodation, and stunning scenery. Home of the small, rare Hector dolphin and New Zealand’s only French settlement, the town of Akaroa still imparts a refreshing and unique charm.
Friday: Head to Little River
On the road to Banks Peninsula, there’s a settlement worthy of exploring. With a renowned café, gallery, novel accommodation and hidden adventures, Little River is far more than a stop en route to Akaroa--it’s your first destination of the weekend.
4pm: Bid farewell to your laptop and coworkers!
Fuel up the car for an early start to the weekend, but first, don’t forget to stop at your local grocery for your favorite spread of breads, cheeses, and takeaways that are fit for a picnic. You’ll be putting it all to good use when you reach your destination around dinner time (don’t forget your picnic blankets).
5pm: Check into SiloStay for the night.
State Highway 75, 4243 Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River
Colonies of grain silos are a common sight on the Canterbury plains, but on a section of Bank’s Peninsula they have taken on a new life as self-contained accommodation. The tall, silver corrugated iron drums are unmissable.
SiloStay is a cluster of eight-grain tanks, each skirted in a spiral staircase and remodeled to include exterior balconies and windows. Inside, everything, including the kitchen sink, has been custom designed for the novel curved walls of the impressive three-storeyed structures. Dining tables, queen-sized beds and fully fitted out bathrooms sit atop polished macrocarpa floors, and a second spiral staircase leads from the first-floor living area to the bedroom, where guests can stargaze through the hand-operated peak-ring-cum-skylight.
5.30pm: Picnic in the Park
Heritage Park, Little River
By now you’re probably feeling peckish. Either quickly head on over to licensed Little River Cafe (which closes at 6pm!) to order a little takeaway or grab your grocery items and head to Heritage Park, a scenic spot off the main road, for an outdoor picnic. The park is the original location of the Little River Railway Line Turntable.
8pm: Nightcap at The Hilltop Tavern
5207 Christchurch Akaroa Road, RD1, Duvauchelle
If you’re looking for an evening nightcap, The Hilltop Tavern offers stunning scenic harbour views, delicious wood-fired pizzas, great music and good old rural Kiwi hospitality. There is a fine selection of craft beer and cider and a hearty menu of pub favourites.
Saturday Morning: Time to Explore!
9am: Breakfast and art
Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River, Christchurch
Grab a coffee and breakfast sandwich from the Little River Cafe before heading into the Little River Gallery, which showcases the best of local talent with monthly exhibitions, a sculpture garden and a high-quality gift shop. Housing only New Zealand-made art and crafts, the gallery is a true treasure trove for those seeking an authentic, local keepsake. High-end sculptures, paintings and prints are selected for display amongst jewelry, natural skincare, beeswax candles and soaps. There is also an array of books about the local landscapes, history, cuisine and culture, and friendly staff to tell you the story behind each piece.
11am: Visit Little River Craft Station
4235A Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River
Located in the Historic Railway Station Building, you’ll find knitwear, pottery, preserves, woodwork, jewellery, flowers, leatherwork, quilts, and more, available for purchase at this distinctive shop. All products are made by local crafts people in Little River and surrounding areas, and a portion of sold goods goes back into bettering the community.
12pm: Take a Self-Guided Food Tour
Pick up fresh fruit (and eggs!) from Coop Town
Make your way to Akaroa via Coop Town and stop at Checkin Orchard to collect some fresh fruit for the weekend. You may get lucky and score yourself some eggs too. Save your delicious finds for later, or promptly devour them on the car ride into town--we won’t judge.
Barrys Bay Cheese
5807 Christchurch Akaroa Road, Duvauchelle
This piece of cheesy paradise is a must visit while in this neck of the woods. For over 120 years Barrys Bay Cheese has been creating delicious, memorable cheeses on the hills of the Banks Peninsula. The Barrys Bay collection of cheeses includes real English cheddars, havarti and the ever-popular Peninsula Blue. They also make a range of Dutch style cheeses – of particular note is their aged cumin gouda which was awarded Champion Dutch Style Cheese at the 2018 NZ Cheese Awards. Stop in and stock up.
67 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
Not just the home of award-winning ham and sausages, the Akaroa Butchery and Delicatessen is also home to black pudding, condiments and sauces, spices, fresh bread and cheeses. Influenced by Italian and French styles, co-owner Fred sources the finest meat from a boutique abattoir in North Canterbury and makes his products in small batches, with no additives or nasties thrown in. Akaroa salmon is also sold here, along with famous house-made pies and pate.
The Peninsula General Store
40E Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
The Peninsula General Store is the perfect place to stop for a delicious quick and easy lunch. Here, organic, international and gourmet foods await. Cabinets are stocked with fresh made sandwiches and baking each day, always with gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan options available.
3:00pm: Walk it off
If you’re jonesing to work off the indulgent treats from your local food tour, head to the Stanley Park Reserve for a scenic one hour return walking track. Perched just above Akaroa Village, the trail offers beautiful vistas overlooking the water, with open grasslands along the way. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, rent a kayak or boat on the harbour to take in Akaroa village from a new vantage point.
Hoping for something a little more slow-paced?
Take a cultural trip down memory lane at the free Akaroa Museum, which focuses on the history of the Banks Peninsula, including textiles, art, photography, costumes, taonga and technology. The museum was established in 1964 in the historic Langlois-Eteveneaux cottage. Today, it includes four exhibition galleries and two additional heritage buildings, the Akaroa Court House and the Custom House.
4.30pm: Check-in at French Bay House
113 Rue Jolie, Akaroa
Now you're probably ready to check into your accommodation. French Bay House is a rather dreamy sleepover spot indeed.
A flourishing garden flanks French Bay House, one of the settlement’s original homesteads, while a wisteria-covered, sun-soaked porch swing seat completes the halcyon picture. Inside, four king-sized bedrooms with ensuites are named after local landmarks and are comfortably furnished giving each room its own unique feel. Think cosy throws, intricate artworks and luxe linen, while bathrooms are resplendent in tiles and stocked with organic toiletries.
Saturday night in Akaroa
6pm - 11pm: Eat and drink the night away
6pm: After freshening up or even squeezing in a little afternoon nap at the French Bay House, head for pre-dinner drinks at HarBar Beach Cafe and Bar.
8pm: Make your way to Ma Maison for a fresh seafood dinner overlooking Daly Wharf and Akaroa Harbour. A dining area complete with bi-fold doors and an open fire makes for the perfect Saturday night ambiance.
9.30pm: Fancy a nightcap? End your evening at The Wharf to watch the sunset over the harbour with a cocktail in hand. With an offering of 60 gins, cocktails, champagne and a selection of tap and craft beers, there’s a little something for everyone.
Sunday: One Last Hurrah
10am: Akaroa activities before heading home
After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at the French Bay House, head for a mid-morning coffee at Ronas cafe. It's really good. Then check out some next day activities offered before heading back to Christchurch. Between dolphin watching, boating, and wine tasting, you’ll find plenty of excuses to extend your vacation just a little bit longer.