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

CHRISTCHURCH SIGHTSEEING TOURS & WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS

Welcome to Christchurch!  We live in a diverse and scenic city, and while many visitors are attracted to the South Island for Alps and fjords, don’t discount the

Sumner Beach Christchurch. Photo credit: Flickr

sumner-beach-christchurch

city of Christchurch for some excellent sightseeing options.  New Zealand’s second largest city and the biggest on the South Island, Christchurch has plenty for you to do and see during your stay.

A charming coastal city surrounded by scenic hills…  It doesn’t get much better.

Book Now

Here are a few of our top picks for sightseeing in  the Christchurch area:

Downtown Christchurch Sightseeing

 

Hagley Park Christchurch. Photo credit Flickr

hagley-park-christchurch

Even after the damage caused by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in September 2010, downtown Christchurch is a showcase for beautiful gothic architecture.  You could hop on board the red and gold tram that snakes through the city, or simply design your own walking tour, but definitely take some time to explore downtown.  Highlights include the elaborate Arts Centre complex and, of course, the postcard perfect Christchurch Cathedral.

And while you’re in the area, swing into the Botanic Gardens at Hagley Park.  The Botanic Gardens take up 21 hectares (75 acres) of the massive Hagley Park just west of the city centre.  The Gardens were founded in 1863 and features collections of plants from all over the world, as well as a large selection of New Zealand natives.  You can take a guided tour of the Botanic Gardens on a quirky green ‘caterpillar’ shuttle.

The Best View in Town

 

Cathedral Square Christchurch. Photo Credit Flickr

christchurch-cathedral-square

For a unique view of the busy city centre, you can’t beat the scenery from the Cathedral tower.  A $7 admission gives you the chance to climb the tower’s steep 133 steps to the alcoves at the top.  You’ll have a fantastic panoramic view of downtown Christchurch!

While the Cathedral offers a great view from the middle of the city, the Port Hills offer another worthwhile vantage.  To get to the top in a memorable way, take the gondola that transports you through the air to the top of the hills: 500m above sea level.  From the top, you’ll have a stunning view every way you turn: admire the spread of the Canterbury Plains to the foot of the Southern Alps on one side and the photogenic hills and blue-green harbours of Banks Peninsula on another.

Heritage and Cultural Tours

 

Maori cultural tours at Willowbank

If you’re looking to add ‘time travel’ to your Christchurch sightseeing to-do list, pay a visit to Ferrymead Heritage Park.  This park is located on the site of New Zealand’s first public railway and celebrates life in the early 1900s with a recreated township and functioning train as well as an informative museum.

For a cultural tour that introduces you to pre-European life in New Zealand, Ko Tane Living Maori Village at Willowbank is the perfect spot.  An evening at Ko Tane includes a guided tour of the village, demonstrations of traditional lifestyle and hunting techniques of the Maori people, and a presentation showcasing the traditional dances performed by Maori men and women.

Wildlife Encounters

 

Black Cat Wildlife Cruises

christchurch-sightseeing-cruises

Even though it’s an urban area, there are several Christchurch sightseeing options for wildlife lovers!  Willowbank Wildlife Reserve boasts one of the most comprehensive collections of New Zealand native animals in the country.  The kiwi house is especially popular—a great opportunity to see New Zealand’s most famous birds up close and personal!

And don’t forget the marine life!  Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours are home to some of New Zealand’s most interesting and unique animals, like the friendly Hector’s dolphin, tiny White-Flippered penguin and the graceful albatross.  You definitely don’t want to miss a chance to see these animals—many of them are only found in Banks Peninsula. Blackcat wildlife cruises are the best way to catch a glimpse of these cool creatures in their natural habitat.

Seaside Sightseeing

 

Quail Island

Christchurch is a coastal city, with several great options for beach activities.  Sumner beach, home to the iconic cave rock, is fairly sheltered from wind, making it a favourite among families and sunbathers.  New Brighton beach has its own charms and boasts along pier extending into the ocean.  The surf at New Brighton is better than at Sumner, and the shores are filled with people taking advantage of the waves.

And for a more remote coastal adventure, Black Cat runs a ferry from Lyttelton to uninhabited Quail Island in the middle of the harbour. It takes about 2.5 hours to walk to circumference of the island, and along the way you’ll be treated to views of pristine beaches, dramatic cliffs and even a few shipwrecks along the way!

Ripapa Island testimonial

“Thanks for organising our trip to Ripapa Island with our holiday programme.  We wish to give positive feedback on the whole experience.  We were greeted on time and by your friendly staff.  Our group of young people aged 9-12 really enjoyed seeing the tunnels, guns and going to a place only 2 of them had ever been too before.  The information given in the museum was well received, not too long, but long enough!  We were very impressed with the young lady who took charge on the day, who took us through the formal programme and then allowing us the flexibility and freedom for the kids to do their own exploring, while also making boundaries clear.  This free time was definitely a good part of the day.”

Banking on the Banks Peninsula

A great blog post about Akaroa:

“Two extinct volcanoes. Two harbours. One drop dead gorgeous peninsula just over the hill from Christchurch.

When I finally score the real ‘Bank Error in Your Favour’ card instead of Monopoly’s version, I’m going to buy a ‘bach’ in Akaroa, the faux-French heart of the Banks Peninsula. Once a French colonial outpost from the era when the French and English were competing for dominion in the Antipodes, it has tenaciously held on to its short-lived French-ified past.”

Read the full blog post.

BANKING ON THE BANKS PENINSULA

A great blog post about Akaroa:

“Two extinct volcanoes. Two harbours. One drop dead gorgeous peninsula just over the hill from Christchurch.

When I finally score the real ‘Bank Error in Your Favour’ card instead of Monopoly’s version, I’m going to buy a ‘bach’ in Akaroa, the faux-French heart of the Banks Peninsula. Once a French colonial outpost from the era when the French and English were competing for dominion in the Antipodes, it has tenaciously held on to its short-lived French-ified past.”

Read the full blog post.

Black Cat Leads the Pack in Eco-tourism

Black Cat may be well known as a tourism operator, but did you know that we’re also a leader in environmental management?  From reducing energy consumption to donating a portion of every passenger fare to dolphin conservation, Black Cat takes extra measures to ensure the preservation of our environment.

New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator

Established in 1985 as Akaroa Harbour Cruises, we can claim to be New Zealand’s first eco-tourism enterprise.  We launched with the intention of showing off Hector’s dolphins as well as the other creatures and scenery of Banks Peninsula.  Naturally, such a reliance on the natural environment encouraged Black Cat to foster a keen interest in maintaining the health and beauty of Akaroa Harbour right from the start.

Actions to protect the environment

Black Cat works hard to protect the environment.  First, we reduce our energy consumption (we aim for an annual reduction of 1% per person) through actions such as:

 

    • Maintaining our vessels for maximum efficiency

 

    • Encouraging our staff to walk or bike to work

 

    • Monitoring fuel usage

 

    • Using energy saving light bulbs and efficient heating

 

We also take care to minimise the by-products from the energy we do use.  By recycling and using biodegradable cleaning products, Black Cat is able to reduce the amount of waste resulting from our operation.

Education and advocacy

Black Cat takes pride in giving back to the environment and the community through advocacy, education and sponsorship.  Each year we donate at least $70,000 to programmes that support causes like marine mammal research and education, Quail Island restoration and penguin predator trapping.

We also provide sponsorship to projects that raise awareness of issues important to the community and the environment.  For instance, early in 2010 Black Cat supported Christchurch teenager Aescleah Hawkins undertake a 42km walk to raise funds for the endangered Hector’s dolphins, an event that gained national media attention.

Positive Feedback

Black Cat’s efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment have been recognised with a number of international eco-tourism awards including a Green Globe 21 Award and a Skal International Eco-Tourism Award.  With such positive response from the local and international community, we are confident that Black Cat will continue to set the standard for responsible engagement with the environment.

Book a place on a Black Cat cruise and see why we are one of top Christchurch attractions.

BLACK CAT LEADS THE PACK IN ECO-TOURISM

Black Cat may be well known as a tourism operator, but did you know that we’re also a leader in environmental management?  From reducing energy consumption to donating a portion of every passenger fare to dolphin conservation, Black Cat takes extra measures to ensure the preservation of our environment.

New Zealand’s first eco-tourism operator

Established in 1985 as Akaroa Harbour Cruises, we can claim to be New Zealand’s first eco-tourism enterprise.  We launched with the intention of showing off Hector’s dolphins as well as the other creatures and scenery of Banks Peninsula.  Naturally, such a reliance on the natural environment encouraged Black Cat to foster a keen interest in maintaining the health and beauty of Akaroa Harbour right from the start.

Actions to protect the environment

Black Cat works hard to protect the environment.  First, we reduce our energy consumption (we aim for an annual reduction of 1% per person) through actions such as:

    • Maintaining our vessels for maximum efficiency
    • Encouraging our staff to walk or bike to work
    • Monitoring fuel usage
    • Using energy saving light bulbs and efficient heating

We also take care to minimise the by-products from the energy we do use.  By recycling and using biodegradable cleaning products, Black Cat is able to reduce the amount of waste resulting from our operation.

Education and advocacy

Black Cat takes pride in giving back to the environment and the community through advocacy, education and sponsorship.  Each year we donate at least $70,000 to programmes that support causes like marine mammal research and education, Quail Island restoration and penguin predator trapping.

We also provide sponsorship to projects that raise awareness of issues important to the community and the environment.  For instance, early in 2010 Black Cat supported Christchurch teenager Aescleah Hawkins undertake a 42km walk to raise funds for the endangered Hector’s dolphins, an event that gained national media attention.

Positive Feedback

Black Cat’s efforts to protect and preserve the natural environment have been recognised with a number of international eco-tourism awards including a Green Globe 21 Award and a Skal International Eco-Tourism Award.  With such positive response from the local and international community, we are confident that Black Cat will continue to set the standard for responsible engagement with the environment.

Book a place on a Black Cat cruise and see why we are one of top Christchurch attractions.

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