Welcome to Banks Peninsula, home of The Hector’s dolphins and eco-tourism pioneers Black Cat Cruises

Author Archives: Black Cat

A Unique Venue for your Function!

Did you know that you can charter Black Cat boats for private events?  Our Canterbury Cat and Black Cat catamarans comfortably hold up to 80 people, providing the perfect venue for a unique and enjoyable function.

A smooth evening

From entertaining clients and staff to celebrating with friends and family, chartered cruises are a memorable choice.  Our experienced staff will make sure the evening runs smoothly, and the natural beauty of Banks Peninsula guarantees an unforgettable event.

For any occasion

One of our most popular charters, the dinner cruise, begins with an hour-long tour, offering guests the opportunity to scan the harbour for Hector’s dolphins and native sea birds.  Then we anchor for a two-course buffet, catered by spitroast.com.  For a more casual event, our catamarans can also be chartered for two to three hour cruises with access to a full bar service and the option of light snacks.

An unparalleled backdrop

We’ve hosted a variety of events, from end-of-year office parties to weddings, and each one has found the Black Cat charter to be an unforgettable event.  With an abundance of natural beauty and the chance to spy some of New Zealand’s extraordinary wildlife, it’s impossible to beat a venue like Akaroa or Lyttelton Harbours.  Holiday event planners take note: there is no better time to charter than the summertime, as your guests are treated to the stunning view of the sun setting over the water.

Checkout Black Cat Cruises as a function venue today.

Day trip to Quail Island

Quail Island lies in the flooded crater of an extinct volcano, a short Black Cat ferry ride from Lyttleton.  While it is Canterbury’s largest island, Quail Island is only 81 hectares in area and easily explored in half a day.  Rich in history and boasting a wealth of activities, the uninhabited island makes for a fascinating day trip from Christchurch.

Pre-European history

Before the arrival of Europeans, Maori often visited the island it to collect food.  In fact, the Maori name for Quail Island is Otamahua, meaning ‘the place where children collect sea-bird eggs’.  The European name was assigned in 1842 by Captain Mein Smith, who spotted the now-extinct native quail there.

From farm to leper colony…

In 1851, the land on the island was cultivated and used for farming, though this was only one of the many uses over the past centuries.  Aside from farming, the island served as a quarantine site for new immigrants, a leper colony and the training ground for dogs and ponies used by Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their Antarctic expeditions.

… to park

In 1934, Quail Island was again used for farming, though this ended in 1975 when it was turned into a recreational reserve.  Today, the island plays host to visitors who boat in from Lyttelton.  The island’s attractions are outdoor activities including swimming, water sports, bird watching and walking.  It takes approximately two hours to to circumnavigate the island, while more leisurely strolls lead past shipwrecks, leprosy graves and abandoned kennels.

The Quail Island Treasure Hunt

In the summertime, from the 1st of December to the end of March, Black Cat runs the Quail Island Treasure Hunt.  Maps and entry forms are available on board the ferry.  Those who find the seven clues on the island and solve the mystery go in to win a family trip to Stewart Island!

Check out our Quail Island ferry.

Help Protect our Friendliest Dolphin

Hector’s dolphins are the highlight of many Black Cat cruises, and rightfully so.  Known to be the smallest and friendliest dolphin species, Hector’s are found only in New Zealand.  Aside from their playful dispositions, the dolphins are notable for their rounded dorsal fins and short snouts.

Our mission

When Black Cat was established in 1985, we were determined to showcase these unique animals in their natural habitat and we’ve been proud to play a role in conserving the dolphins and their habitat for over twenty-five years.  To help save the dolphins, Black Cat donates a portion of every passenger’s fare towards projects that support dolphin research and education.

The dolphin sanctuary

In 1989, a marine mammal sanctuary was put in place around Banks Peninsula.  To protect the wildlife, the sanctuary placed restrictions on set netting (a commonly used fishing method), banning it for commercial use and restricting its recreational use.  Set netting can be threat to marine wildlife, as seabirds or marine mammals are often accidentally entangled in the nets.  During this time, Black Cat worked closely with renowned marine biologists Dr. Steve Dawson and Dr. Liz Slooten and continues to contribute to the preservation of this rare species.

More work to be done…

Sadly, even with established sanctuaries the Hector’s dolphin is an endangered species, with only between 5,000 and 7,000 left in the world.  Threatened by fishing by-catch (such as by set nets), pollution and habitat destruction, it is crucial that we take care to preserve these animals.  Here at Black Cat, we’ve taken measures to reduce waste in order to protect the dolphin’s habitat.  We hope that these measures will help to ensure the future of the Hector’s dolphins.

Top 10 Things to do in New Zealand

CD Traveller.com based in the UK has also named swimming with dolphins in Akaroa as one of their top 10 things to do in New Zealand.


    1. Swimming with dolphins in Akaroa


    1. Whale watch tours in Kaikoura


    1. Tucking into a Maori meal and cultural tour


    1. Partying up a storm in Wellington


    1. Heading to Hanmer Springs


    1. Taking a trip to Taupo


    1. Exploring Auckland – aka the ‘City of Sails’


    1. Thrills and spills in Queenstown


    1. Chilling out in Christchurch


  1. Catching the All Blacks in action

Christmas Cruising 2010 Schedule & Prices

Our Christmas day schedule is as follows:

Akaroa Harbour Cruises

Dolphin swimming
9am, 12noon
$174/$144 (watching $144/$44).

Christchurch Wildlife Cruise (Lyttelton)
$85/$35 (includes free shuttle)

Diamond Harbour Ferry is a normal Saturday timetable with nothing after 6pm.


Great Feedback on Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise

This is just a little note to thank Black Cat Cruises for a wonderful trip. We took our two little people out on your Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise on Monday (Labour Day).

The weather was perfect and we saw lots of dolphins, one busy young fur seal, some nesting shags and other sea birds. The skipper was precise in his piloting of the boat and the commentary was informative and interesting.

All in all, a most pleasurable outing.

Our kids haven’t stopped talking about their day out. The postcards are shown to everyone who’s interested, with full details of the ‘mouse ear’ shaped dorsal fins on Hector’s dolphins, stories of the way the seal played with the dolphins and the long white ‘poos’ on the rocks under the Shags’ nests. Not bad detail from a 2 1/2 and 4 year old.

Thanks for your efforts to protect these beautiful creatures and to educate people about them in such a positive way.

We highly recommend your company to anyone who’s interested in harbour / wildlife cruises..

Phill and Jacq Long, Christchurch

I just wanted to say thank you and give you some feedback on the cruise.

The group thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we saw lots of wildlife. The commentary was interesting and there was a perfect amount of it – you don’t want someone talk for 2h non stop 🙂 And I think it probably was the first cruise I have been on where you actually could understand what was said – absolutely full points for that. The staff was super nice and the vessels spacious and tidy. No wonder you win awards. What a beautiful part of the world you have down there.

Christchurch Earthquake Update

Our new location in Lyttelton is two doors down and we are now located at 5 Norwich Quay.

We will have a big sign on the old building so any customers reporting to the old address will easily be redirected to the new one.

Meantime work is completed on the repairs to the Akaroa wharf thanks to the great work from Christchurch City Council.

Southern Right Whale Spotting in Lyttelton

Recently we were lucky enough to see a southern right whale in Lyttelton which appeared very relaxed and was even seen to rubbing itself up against the rocks near a beach.

It seems it is not the first time this whale has done this because the attached video shows the same whale two years ago doing something very similar to what we witnessed. Clearly it’s on the way to the Antarctic and sees Lyttelton as a great place to take five.

Red Bus Buys Akaroa Shuttle

Akaroa Shuttle is under new management! From 29th November the iconic daily shuttle service is now operated by Red Bus who are the major public transport operator in Christchurch. Marketing material will be refreshed.

At this stage the timetable and prices remains the same.

Tel 0800 500 929