The Banks Peninsula is a side of Christchurch that too many visitors miss out on. This mostly-undeveloped, circular peninsula juts out from Christchurch like a swollen thumb, yet despite its obvious prominence on a map, a large majority of Christchurch visitors make the mistake of never exploring the area.
The lone exception is the town of Akaroa which is one of the most popular day trips from Christchurch. This charming outpost of French heritage is located a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, and the boutique shops and rose-lined cottages gaze out towards a protected harbor. The harbor itself is the flooded caldera of the volcano which formed the peninsula, and the calm waters are a popular place for boating and swimming with dolphins. Along the drive to Akaroa you weave through pastures and farmlands, and a handful of wineries and gourmet food stops are sprinkled along the highway.
While the road to Akaroa is fairly well-trodden, the myriad hiking trails of the Banks Peninsula are often second-fiddle to the island’s Great Walks. Unlike the popular hiking tracks, however, it’s still possible to have the Banks Peninsula walking trails completely all to yourself. Walk along trails that gaze out over the harbor and look down towards Akaroa, or strap up the laces for a multi-day trek that explores the isolated shoreline. Rugged, remote, and refreshingly rural, the Banks Peninsula combines adventure with emptiness and invites you to take life slowly.