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The Scenic Drive from Christchurch to Akaroa

The Scenic Drive from Christchurch to Akaroa

One of the best day trips from Christchurch involves a scenic drive through Banks Peninsula to Akaroa, an old town with a strong French influence. I won’t be talking much about Akaroa here (I’ve written heaps about it already) – the drive there requires a post of its own! Keep reading to see some of the best places to stop on the drive between Christchurch and Akaroa.

Christchurch to Akaroa: Little River

The first part of the drive from Christchurch to Akaroa is pretty nondescript. It’s not until you get out of town and onto Banks Peninsula that things start to get interesting. The first stop for most people on this route is Little River. This tiny town has a unique accommodation option — have you ever wanted to sleep in a silo…?

READ MORE: 19 of the Best Things to Do in Christchurch

Christchurch to Akaroa -- Little River

Tumbledown Bay

From Little River I’d recommend heading up the hill to Tumbledown Bay and Te Oka Bay. It’s a bit of a detour, so skip it if you’re in a hurry, but I’m a big fan of the road down to those two bays — definitely some of the best views I’ve seen on Banks Peninsula. From there you can go back to Little River and continue or drive down via Wainui (which I didn’t know was an option, so I just went via Little River again).

Tumbledown Bay -- a detour on the drive from Christchurch to AkaroaTe Oka Bay, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand


From Little River the road winds up the hill, and once you’re at the top you’ll get stunning views of Banks Peninsula and the harbour. There’s a restaurant up there (Hilltop Tavern) – you can get nice views from the car park if you don’t feel like eating.

Viewpoint above Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Once down the hill you’ll soon reach Duvauchelle, a small town with an historic hotel. If you feel like stretching your legs you could do the Onawe Pa / Peninsula Walk, where you’ll see some great views (it should take around an hour). There are also some colourful boat houses in Duvauchelle and a big camping ground (which I’m sure gets busy in the summer).

Duvauchelle, on the scenic drive from Christchurch to Akaroa, New ZealandOnawe Pa Track, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Akaroa and Beyond

Akaroa is the town you’re probably heading to, but it doesn’t need to be the end of your scenic Banks Peninsula. A good little detour is to keep driving through Akaroa and up Lighthouse Road, where you’ll get some great views back towards Akaroa. The Misty Peaks Scenic Reserve is worth a look and you could carry on to Flea Bay, where you may see penguins!

READ MORE: 15 of the Best Things to Do in Akaroa

View above Akaroa, New Zealand

Summit Road

After visiting Akaroa it’s a good idea to take a different route home. I’d recommend driving up to Summit Road where there are several places to stop and take in the views, including a couple of walks. You could stop off at Akaroa Heritage Park, Otepatotu Scenic Reserve or take a detour to the Hinewai Reserve, Le Bons Bay, Okains Bay, Little Akaloa or Hickory Bay.

Scenic drive from Christchurch to Akaroa

There are heaps of options – I’ve been to the first three of those listed above and they were great – let me know if you’ve been to Hickory Bay or Little Akaloa! After all that you’ll either head down the hill to Duvauchelle or carry on around Summit Road until you meet back up with the main road (near Hilltop Tavern). You can also get back to Christchurch via Pigeon Bay Road (although I’ve heard it isn’t the best road) or via Gebbies Pass Road (again, let me know if you’ve done it and if you’d recommend it to our readers).

Are you planning a trip to Akaroa? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jon Algie

I'm a South Island local -- born in Timaru and raised in Dunedin. I left the island in 2006 and returned 10 years later. Having seen a good chunk of the world I realised how special this place is -- the most beautiful island in the world! Seven years (and almost 400 posts) later I'm still helping locals and tourists alike plan their trips around the South Island.