The Banks Peninsula is just one hour from Christchurch on New Zealand’s south island. To reach it you will take a magnificent winding road which will offer you magnificent panoramas on the peninsula.
The peninsula is surrounded by mountains of volcanic origin, eleven million years old; the tallest reach 1500m. These mountains are actually the flanks of two super volcanoes that emerged from the bottom of the ocean during giant eruptions. The glaciers subsequently dug the rock, which, at the end of the ice age allowed the sea to rush into the craters.
“Maori warriors call it Te Pātaka a Rākaihautu in honor of a legendary explorer. Protected from the wind by its relief, the bay where even palm trees grow has hot summers and mild winters. ”
To visit the peninsula we chose to stay in Akaroa, a small French village.
History (stolen on Wikipedia and other websites)
The peninsula was discovered by Captain Cook in 1770. His name was given to him in honor of the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks. The peninsula was once inhabited by the Maori of the Ngai Tahu tribe, whose population fell sharply during the attack by Te Rauparaha and his army.
In 1838, the French captain of the Le Cachalot, Jean Langlois, negotiated the purchase of the peninsula with a local Maori chief. On his return to France, Jean Langlois formed the Nanto-Bordelaise company which sent 57 settlers, accompanied by the captain of the ship L’Aube, Charles Lavaud, for a trip to New Zealand. When they arrived, they learned that the Bay of Islands was under English sovereignty. Suddenly, the French company sold its shares to New Zealand and the French who had just arrived decided to stay in Akaroa. Later in 1850, British settlers joined them.
1770, Banks Peninsula was named for Sir Joseph Banks, the naturalist.
The Peninsula was inhabited by Maori of the Ngai Tahu tribe, whose numbers were severely depleted in 1831 when Te Rauparaha and his warriors attacked the fortified pa on Onawe Peninsula.
In 1838 Jean Langlois, captain of the French whaling ship Cachalot, negotiated with a local Maori chief to buy Banks Peninsula.
On his return to France he formed the Nanto-Bordelaise Company which organized for 57 emigrants to leave on the Comte de Paris, accompanied by the warship L’Aube, captained by Charles Lavaud, for the voyage to New Zealand. When Lavaud arrived at the Bay of Islands he was told of the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi and consequent British sovereignty over New Zealand. H.M.S. Britomart was immediately sent to raise the British flag at Akaroa. The Nanto-Bordelaise Company sold its assets to the New Zealand Company in 1849, the French settlers having chosen to remain at Akaroa. They were joined by a larger group of British colonists in 1850.
Download the “Campermate” application. You will have free and paid campsites, showers, toilets and many other useful information for your stay.
The telephone company “Vodaphone” offers plans with unlimited internet and social media.
We rented a campervan to travel to New Zealand. We rented it from “escape” through “Frogs” but there are other agencies that rent.
The peninsula is around an hour’s drive from Christchurch. I recommend that you go through the scenic drive which lets you see breathtaking panoramas along the way!
In Akaroa you will move on foot because it is small.
We stayed by default (free camping was full) at Onoku Farm Hostel. It is located in the village of Onoku, just after Akaroa.
-Type of campsite: It is a large farm with a very beautiful view of the peninsula. They have space for campervans and campers. They have a few huts too.
-WC / Showers: Yes and hot.
-Kitchen: Yes but few utensils
-Price: $ 15 per person (campervan and campers)
-Internet: Yes but few
-Other: They have private hiking trails; they can arrange kayaking or dolphin watching trips for you.
There is a convenience store in Akaroa. Otherwise you will find plenty of restaurants and cafes. There is a girl who sells very good honey (fifty different kinds) on the main street. There is a French “bakery” (super expensive) and a French butcher, both on the main street.
Before arriving in Akaroa, stop to admire a first panorama of the peninsula at the Hilltop restaurant.
We haven’t gone on dolphin watching trips or kayaking, but be aware that it is possible; inquire at your accommodation or go directly to “ISite”. Here’s what we did:
The town is cute, there are a few churches and pretty buildings. Walk the streets and along the sea, you will see that the streets have French names like “Jolie Rue”. Stroll through the shops and small cafes.
You can walk to the lighthouse.
There is a French cemetery and an Anglican cemetery on the road. The French cemetery has unfortunately disappeared and has been replaced by a white monument. The Anglican cemetery has lots of graves that are a bit all over the place, probably because of earthquakes.
This village located 5km from Akaroa means “coming and going without staying long” in Maori. In the village you will find two churches, one opposite the other. The smallest dates from 1876; it is decorated with Maori motifs.
There are a multitude of possible hikes in the region. You can find out more on the DOC website, in ‘’ iSite ’’ and here: https://www.bankspeninsulawalks.co.nz/akaroa-walks/
Here is what we chose to do with our half day at Onoku / Akaora.
Starting point: Akaroa Heritage Park parking lot a few minutes drive from the center of Akaroa. You go out of town and just after the cricket club you have a road going up to the right.
Circuit: Once in the car park you take the Purple peak feeling. You will cross a meadow, then a forest then again a sort of meadow. You will have magnificent views of the peninsula. You can turn back or make a hook by the top. We followed the “Summit” sign. From up there you will have a breathtaking panorama of the bay, Akaroa and the peninsula. To go back down and return to the parking lot you can take the same path or take a path that leaves and descends to the right; it’s pretty and different.
Difficulty: The trail climbs from the parking lot and it is quite steep towards the summit but nothing insurmountable.
Duration: We took around 3 hours round trip.
For more hikes, I recommend the DOC site and Pierrick’s blog: