I grew up in Akaroa so I’m really surprised when I hear people say there is not much for children to do in the town, and that the hot pools of Hamner are a better bet. Sure the pools are a must do but you can’t go there every weekend and Akaroa offers something different for families.
Now I have my own family, I can show them the hours of fun that can be had in and around Akaroa. Here are my top tips for entertaining the kids with Akaroa activities, many of these are free.
Akaroa Harbour is just a fantastic place to explore, and on the daily Black Cat cruise around the harbour you will see dolphins, seals and penguins which are sure to delight kids of all ages; what kid doesn’t like dolphins?!
If you don’t own a boat, it’s the best way to explore the volcanic outer harbour. Black Cat has kid’s activity books and with kids under 5 free and 5-15 year olds at $25, its great value for money.
There are lots of great places to walk and my favourite is a trek through the Garden of Tane. The ‘domain’ as it used to be known faces the harbour and you can find it easily by looking for Akaroa’s historic lighthouse on the waterfront and walking in land from there. The forest is teeming with native birds and trees and you will also discover the old cemeteries with some of the early settler’s graves. Bird spotting here is quite rewarding with fantails, tui, bellbirds and lots of others. There’s a huge birdsong each morning that’s sadly missing from many parts of New Zealand.
3. Go crabbing
About 800 people live in Akaroa but the beachfront is home to maybe millions of tiny crabs. All you need to do is go down onto the beaches at a mid to low tide and look under the rocks. Sure there is nothing much you can do with the crabs but its fun to look at the many sizes and shapes and the bravest will be able to pick them up by the tops of their shells.
The days of pulling up ten cod off the end of the wharf are long gone but going fishing at the end of the wharf is still popular and you never know if you get the tide and conditions right you can still catch some fish.
Or for the older kids forget the fishing rods and try jumping off the wharf instead!
5. Take a rugby or soccer ball
..and have a kick about on the school grounds; they are about 2 minutes walk from the main wharf.
6. Adventure playground
OK it might not be the scale of the big playgrounds in Christchurch but there’s a neat little playground near Dalies wharf in town or try Le Mini golf. Again not the scale of the big city but a great way to burn up an hour and compete against each other.
The best place to go is probably from Akaroa out to the Onuku Marae which is somewhat flat compared to the rest of the peninsula. There is also a great walk from there through rolling farmland to Nikau Palm Gulley which as the world’s southernmost growing palm trees and a great little waterfall.
You’ll have to go a little further afield to what is known as the outer bays. Jump in the car and go to Okains Bay or LeBons Bay. They boast enormous sand beaches. You may find you’ll be the only people there!
9. Hire a canoe or paddleboat
Don a lifejacket and get into one of the self propelled vessels. The boat hire jetty is just beside the main wharf.
10. Go to the Giants House
It’s a wacky playground of wild ideas all made from thousands of mosaics. Probably more akin to the sights of Vegas than Akaroa it shows what can be done with a little imagination and a dose of creativity. It’s a short walk from the Museum up Rue Balgarie.
11. Eat fish n chips!
Or dine at one of the many seaside cafes or restaurants. After all that exploring kids will be sure to have worked up an appetite and Akaroa is lucky to have lots of kids’ friendly menus and options.