On the eastern shores of New Zealand's South Island, Akaroa is a popular tourist destination with a distinctly French flair, its history steeped in legend. It lies on the volcanic Banks Peninsula, which the Maori believe was formed when a hero named Maui piled mountains upon a giant who threatened to eat his children.
The same peninsula was purchased from the local Maori by a French whaler around 1838, and was later settled by both the French and the British, who had just signed the Treaty of Waitangi ensuring New Zealand's existence as a British colony.
With French-named streets leading to restaurants serving French cuisine and colonial architecture all around, Akaroa's heritage as the only French-founded community in New Zealand is unmistakable. Akaroa harbour is home to a diverse array of marine life, including rare Hector's dolphins, and visitors are lured by the area's secluded beaches and quaint boutiques.
One of the world's great scenic railways travels through 19 tunnels and across four bridges showcasing verdant open plains, lush beech forest, rugged river valleys and the towering Southern Alps.
Giving its name to the astounding alpine wilderness that is Arthur's Pass National Park, the highest pass over the Southern Alps is a popular destination via road and the Tranz Alpine Express railway.
International Antarctic Centre
An interactive Antarctic experience unfolds through fascinating exhibits, a polar room chilled to -5° C, an indoor storm with authentic blizzard conditions, a 4D audio visual experience and a penguin encounter.
This verdant breadbasket is spread out like a patchwork quilt of farmland in shimmering shades of green. And in the distance, the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps are a dazzling surprise.
Flowing in a southeastward direction the river rushes through a narrow canyon called the Waimakariri Gorge and then gently meanders across the Canterbury Plains on its journey to the Pacific Ocean.
The Giant's House
Originally know as Linton, "The Giant's House" is a unique part of the history of Akaroa - nestled in a secluded valley, it was built in 1880 for Akaroa's first bank manager. The grand house built of native timbers sits in sculpture mosaic garden that's colorful, exuberant, interactive, romantic, fun and full of surprises.
One of the smallest marine dolphins in the world and only found in New Zealand's water, Hector's dolphins grow no more than 1.5 m in length.
This quaint French and British-influenced village is nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. It offers colonial architecture, galleries, cafés and dramatic seaside views.
Special Child Pricing Available! Children age 12 and younger, savings up to 50%.
Local Connections: Little River Tour
2 hours | Akaroa | AK1-980
Spend a lovely two hours enjoying the picturesque scenery of the volcanic Banks Peninsula and the towns and villages along the way on this elegantly crafted tour designed by Princess Cruises and inspired by local expert Hollie Hollander. Your destination is the town of Little River, and the drive from Akaroa, the only French-founded community in New Zealand, traverses the countryside, which is dotted with the petite villages of Takamatua Bay, Robinsons Bay, Duvauchelle and Barrys Bay. Continue through Cooptown to Little River, once the end of a railway branch from Christchurch. Today, this artistic enclave is home to painters, writers and farmers, who sell their wares in the local shops and galleries. Upon arrival, enjoy free time to explore the Little River Craft Station and information center and the Little River Gallery and Café displaying artwork from some of New Zealand's preeminent artists. Your return drive includes a panoramic photo stop before returning to port.
Relax and see the sites of Akaroa and the spectacular Banks Peninsula area in style aboard a restored 1960s London Routemaster double-decker bus. This two-hour adventure orients you to this attractive town and leaves plenty of time for you to explore independently. You'll pass through Akaroa and around the bays, all the way up the hills to the Hilltop café, where you'll be greeted by gorgeous views looking back to Akaroa Harbour. Here you can take a moment to grab a snack (at your own expense). Your knowledgeable guide will impart the fascinating Maori, French and British history of this charming outpost near Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand while pointing out some of the local flora and fauna. Return with a camera full of pictures and some great ideas of what you'd like to explore more in depth on your own.
Thrills and chills await on this exciting jet boat experience that takes in the spectacular scenery of Akaroa Harbour and the beautiful and rugged landscape that surrounds its deep blue waters. Fast and furious speed make this exhilarating, 50-minute adventure a wet and wild good time. Climb aboard and put on your life vests. Then sit back and hold on! Off you go, powering to such locations as picturesque Nikau Palm Gully, Dan Rogers Bluff, and the towering Cathedral Cave, where little blue penguins and nesting cormorants can often be spotted. Although wildlife sightings are not guaranteed, you'll want to keep an eye out for dolphins and fur seals as well. Continue on to cross the pass to the marine salmon and Paua farms, following the route to Onawe Peninsula before skimming the surface of the water on an equally scenic route back to Akaroa village. Return to port with plenty of time to explore Akaroa independently.
Nature lovers will have a field day on this easy harbor cruise. Step aboard a comfortable catamaran in search of an array of intriguing marine wildlife. Set off across the tranquil waters for a 1.5-hour tour filled with unforgettable sights. Your skipper knows the best spots and times to get up close and personal with the harbor's most intriguing marine mammals. Sightings are not guaranteed, but watch for the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector dolphin, the New Zealand fur seal (kekeno in the Maori language), and charismatic creatures that gather during the summer months at local beaches or on rocky outcrops to give birth to their young. You'll delight to the antics of the white-flippered and little blue penguins that hunt for food in the shallow waters close to the shore. At the end of your sun-drenched adventure, return with a host of great photographs and a boatload of memories.
Take in the beauty of Akaroa Harbour on the Fox II, a classic gaff-rigged ketch with authentic rigging, two wooden masts, six genuine handmade tanbark sails, real copper fastenings and authentic wooden blocks. You won't see any winches or gears on this vessel; it is sailed in the traditional way. Set off across the tranquil waters for a three-hour tour filled with unforgettable sights. Your skipper knows the best spots and times to get up close and personal with the harbor's most intriguing marine mammals. Sightings are not guaranteed, but watch for the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector dolphin, the New Zealand fur seal (kekeno in the Maori language), as well as charismatic creatures that gather during the summer months at local beaches or on rocky outcrops to give birth to their young. You'll delight to the antics of the white-flippered and little blue penguins that hunt for food in the shallow waters close to the shore. At the end of your sun-drenched adventure, return with a host of great photographs and a boatload of memories.
Explore independently while enjoying the convenience of prearranged transportation. You set the pace and choose the places you want to visit with ample time to wander from one intriguing landmark to another. The earthquakes of late 2010 to early 2011 have left a unique mark on the city center, which gives a fascinating insight into post-earthquake recovery. Places of interest include the Canterbury Museum, housed in a stone building, with just over 25,000 specimens on display; punting on the Avon River; the Botanic Gardens, hosting the finest collection of exotic plants found anywhere in New Zealand; Hagley Park; and the Cashel Street Re:Start Mall shopping precinct with the iconic Ballantynes department store. At the designated time and place, meet the motorcoach and return to the ship. This excursion is non-guided and does not include lunch and entrance fees. Local currency will be required for some attractions and lunch.
Welcome to beautiful Paua Bay Farm, a traditional New Zealand hill country property that has been in the family for five generations. Your 2.5-hour tour begins with a picturesque motorcoach ride to the property, where your owner-hosts provide an overview of the farm's history and describe the daily activities that keep the farm running. There are lots of delights in store, including watching sheepdogs in action and taking an active part in separating the flock. Observe a sheep-shearing demonstration and enjoy an explanation of wool handling, including a display of all the different types of wool produced. A leisurely stroll through the beautiful and colorful garden with mature native trees and bushes is followed by a delicious farm-style tea service of homemade scones served out on the homestead veranda, where you can listen to cheerful birdsong and take in the ocean backdrop. Bid farewell to your hosts and return to port after this pleasant experience.
Settle into your motorcoach for a delightful five-hour adventure and set off skirting the many bays and coves bordering historic Akaroa Harbour. Your destination is Manderley Farm, a historic homestead built on a 750-acre working sheep farm renowned for both its fine merino sheep and its champion sheepdogs. Savor tea in the landscaped gardens and then observe a demonstration of herding skills featuring the farm's prized collies. Continue on a scenic drive through the township of Tai Tapu to Christchurch. Enjoy a drive through the bustling Addington business district and past Hagley Park to the city center, where you will make a short stop for the opportunity to explore some of the city's attractions or shops and to purchase lunch at one of the many cafés or restaurants. Your return includes a photo opportunity at Hilltop tavern, which offers a scenic overlook perched atop the rim of the caldera that formed Akaroa Harbour. Descend to the harbor and your ship.
Local Connections: Antarctic Centre & Botanic Gardens
7.5 hours | Akaroa | AK1-280
International Antarctic Centre
Discover two top attractions in Christchurch on this exciting full-day adventure. Begin with a scenic motorcoach ride to the International Antarctic Centre, offering an interactive experience that puts you in the South Pole. Located in a working Antarctic campus, it is home to the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic exploration programs. Thrill to a ride on the amphibious Antarctic vehicle Hagglund, experience a 4-D movie theater that puts you in the frozen frontier, and come face to face with rescued penguins that will delight with their antics. After engaging in all the interactive displays, do a little shopping for souvenirs, then continue on a comprehensive drive to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Nestled in a bend of the Avon River, the Botanic Gardens were established in 1863. The gardens span an area of 75 acres, hosting without doubt the finest collection of exotic and indigenous plants to be found anywhere in New Zealand. Return to port.
Local Connections: Scenic Peninsula and the Giants House
4 hours | Akaroa | AK1-135
The Giant's House
Explore Akaroa and the surrounding area with a visit to three of the area's best-known attractions. As you travel, your guide will provide commentary on the history and geological significance of this region. Drive past Duvauchelle Bay to the Barry's Bay Cheese Factory to sample a selection of local cheeses and condiments and view aspects of the cheese-making process. Continue up to Summit Road for photos of the amazing views, then drop down into Okains Bay, home to the Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum. The collection of Maori artifacts originally started as the private collection of a local resident, but in 1968, the abandoned Okains Bay Cheese Factory was purchased. It was then renovated and opened as a public museum in 1977. Back in Akaroa, visit the famous Giant's House, a garden filled with mosaics and sculptures set among spectacular plants, citrus trees and blooms. Return to port after this lovely day.
A fascinating historical and cultural experience designed by Princess Cruises and inspired by local expert Hollie Hollander awaits on this three-hour exclusive adventure. Your local guide, Marie Haley, was born and raised on her family's farm on Banks Peninsula. Begin at the site of Takapuneke to learn the story of the infamous Te Rauparaha massacre that led to the Treaty of Waitangi. Continue on to Onuku Marae, where this treaty was first signed. At the Britomart Monument, learn directly from a French descendant about the 'Race for Akaroa', and at Heritage Park, stop for panoramic photos and a light refreshment. Next, at the Hinewai Reserve and the Wildside Conservation Project, delve into the business of sustainable sheep farming in New Zealand, learning directly from a farmer's daughter. On to Pa Nga Toko Ono, one of the oldest visible Maori pa (fortification) sites in New Zealand. Finally, pause at Otanerito Lookout, then return to port.
Local Connections: Akaroa, Giants House & Canterbury Farm
4.5 hours | Akaroa | AK1-200
The Giant's House
Travel the lush countryside taking in magnificent views and glimpsing pastoral life, then return to Akaroa and the Giant's House on this relaxed, half-day adventure. A picturesque 45-minute motorcoach ride brings you to Manderley Farm, nestled in Canterbury. You'll be greeted by a friendly hello and a spot of morning tea. After your refreshment, experienced farmhands will present a sheep-shearing demonstration. You'll marvel as the four-legged sheepherding team gathers a mob of sheep from nearby hills and leads them to their master. Pause to photograph the views of Akaroa Harbour from the lookout point at Hilltop tavern, then visit the Giant's House. A unique part of the history of Akaroa, this French-style grand house boasts a unique garden of artwork including mosaic steps, welded steel sculptures and other creations set among roses, vegetables, citrus, and other blooms. Return to port with a camera filled with memories after this lovely day.
Enjoy an incredible experience swimming with dolphins on this active tour amidst the stunning scenery of Banks Peninsula and Akaroa Harbour, a marine mammal sanctuary since 1988. Your scenic adventure includes approximately two hours of cruising and up to 45 minutes in the water with some of the world's smallest and rarest dolphins, the Hector's dolphin. There are just 8,000 of these graceful creatures left in the world, so you're in for a real treat! Your modern vessel travels along dramatic landscapes with 500-foot high cliffs, plunging palm-fringed gullies, and ancient lava flows. These waters shelter stunning marine mammals, including penguins, New Zealand fur seals, and of course dolphins. You'll know the Hector dolphin by its rounded dorsal fin, sloping forehead, and distinctive black, white and gray coloring. Don a wetsuit and mask and enter the water confidently after your orientation by the crew and unforgettable experience awaits with these frolicking friends of the sea.
A full day of scenic beauty awaits when you board a motorcoach for a picturesque drive along Banks Peninsula en route to Melton Estate Winery, a boutique winery. Here, you'll take in the lovely surroundings, enjoy a tasting platter and sample some local wine. Then, continue on to Christchurch, where you'll board a punt, a flat-bottomed boat, and enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Avon River. Sink back into the velvet cushions of your boat as the Edwardian punt gently glides you down the river. After taking in the serene views, you'll continue on to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, where you'll board the "Caterpillar," an electric, open-air tram that gives you a great overview of this sprawling, 21-hectare display of the best flora and fauna of New Zealand and around the globe. It boasts exotic plants, lush foliage, fragrant blooms and elegantly landscaped lawns. Reboard your motorcoach for the 90-minute drive back to Akaroa. Tour order may vary.
The catch of the day and more is on the menu at The Akaroa Cooking School, where you'll engage in everything seafood on this deliciously satisfying five-hour adventure. Meet your friendly instructor at the Fresh from the Wharf cooking class, and engage in informative demonstrations that cover everything from how to source fresh seafood to what to look out for when buying fish, how to store it, and many different cooking techniques, including how to prepare shellfish. The chef will cook up a storm before your eyes with all of the abundant seafood Banks Peninsula has to offer, as well as the country's best olive oils, local honey, nuts, fresh organic fruits and vegetables. The experience culminates with a huge seafood feast around the table. Each dish is matched with award-winning local wines, which are also available for purchase. Conclude with a little shopping in Akaroa, then return to the ship.
Canterbury Station, Mt Sunday & Lord of the Rings Sights
9 hours | Akaroa | AK1-125
Journey to the remote and beautiful high-country station, home of Mt. Sunday, and see how this peaceful mountain was transformed into Edoras, the capital city of the Rohan people in the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy. Immerse yourself in the natural, unspoiled beauty of the high country's sparkling clear lakes, glistening blue rivers and fresh mountain air. A local guide provides commentary on all aspects of the region and the "Lord of the Rings." As this full-day excursion unfolds, you'll marvel at one breathtaking sight after another: the farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, the high country of the Southern Alps, Rakaia River, Lake Clearwater, and the Akaroa bays. After morning tea, arrive at the spectacular setting where "Lord of the Rings" fans will recognize Edoras. Take time to enjoy the views and have your photo taken with "Lord of the Rings" replica swords. With a picnic-style lunch at a high-country setting, your day out is complete.
Get off the beaten path by land and by water on a full-day, active adventure exploring one of New Zealand's least-visited areas: the rugged hill country of the Southern Alps. From Akaroa, a motorcoach drive through the Canterbury Plains and along the Waimakariri River brings you to morning tea at a secluded lodge. Then, board a Hamilton jet boat, which will skim you fast and furiously into the spectacularly scenic heart of the Waimakariri Gorge, gliding over water at times only centimeters deep. At Rubicon Station Tourist Center, you will enjoy a buffet lunch before switching to a 4x4 vehicle for an exciting tour with all the thrills of off-roading that takes you over Rubicon and Mt. Torlesse high country stations. Stop for photos of river gorges, rugged high country and the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps as well as Mt. Torlesse Station, a 10,000-acre working sheep and cattle farm. Your return journey travels the Great Alpine Highway to port.
All aboard the famed Southern Alps Express Railway! Your full-day adventure, which includes five hours of drive time and a two-hour train ride, begins with a motorcoach journey across the scenic Canterbury Plains. Soak up the sights as your driver/guide shares expert narration on the passing scenery. Stop at a farm in Darfield for morning tea before arriving at the highest pass in the Southern Alps. If time permits, enjoy free time at the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre. At Arthur's Pass, you'll board the Southern Alps Express Railway for a relaxing train ride on board carriages that include both one-way seating and tabled group seating. Watch in awe as the rail belt descends through the misty mountains and your route crosses a series of steel girder bridges over deep gorges and through a succession of short tunnels. Tuck into an on-board picnic-style box lunch while enjoying the stellar views. Arriving at the railway junction of Rolleston, you will reboard a motorcoach for the return drive back to your ship.