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

Category Archives: Akaroa New Zealand

The Giants House Akaroa

The sleepy seaside village of Akaroa is full of unexpected surprises, and The Giant’s House on Rue Balguerie, is most definitely amongst the top of that list.

The Giant’s Housethe giants house akaroa, located just off the main road and up the hill a little bit, is truly a sight to behold. Built in 1881, the historic building is a beautiful ode to creativity and wonder, and of course, the elegance of the French that Akaroa prides itself on.

But before you explore the house itself, it’s hard to miss the world that local artist Josie Martin, has created in her own backyard. Her incredible labour of love and craftsmanship has truly taken over her terraced garden and turned it into another world that young and old from all over flock to see.

Although originally a traditional painter, Martin’s style evolved throughout her career and she began to move into more lively and colourful abstract work. After studying in the US, France, and Italy, and displaying exhibitions throughout New Zealand and the rest of the world, in 1993, Martin put down the paintbrush, and picked up some tiles.

the garden at the giants houseThe evolution of what is sometimes known as the ‘Secret Garden’ took place over a number of years. Each sculpture – a mosaic installation – reflects Martin’s surreal, flamboyant and eccentric view of the world, and of course demonstrates the enormous skill she has as an artist.

A short walk through Martin’s backyard will take you past angels and kings, ballerinas and wizards, a grand piano, and its receptive audience.

By turning her home into a work of art, Martin has earned herself recognition from the New Zealand Gardens Trust, who deem the place a ‘Garden of National Significance.’ Her garden has also featured in many prominent television shows and magazines, such as Maggie’s Garden Show, and New Zealand House and Garden.

 

The Giant’s House can be viewed throughout the year (although it makes a great springtime adventure). Or, if you’re enamoured with Martin’s work and are keen to explore her home, the house itself is set up as a Bed and Breakfast – every bit as beautiful and creative as the famous garden.

 

Accomodation

the rose room akaroa accomodation

 

 

As of recent you can now stay at The Giants House in Akaroa to. It’s a unique, one of kind Akaroa property that promises to deliver a special experience.There are three wonderful rooms to choose from; the Rose room, the Double boat room and a twin room, all of which can be booked for a minimm one nights stay and include bed and breakfast.

 

At The Giant’s House you will be pampered

the giants house piano akaroaOpen Hours

Summer (26 Dec – 30 April) the garden and gallery are open 12 – 5pm daily
Winter (1 May – 24 Dec) the garden and gallery are open 2 – 4pm daily
Cruiseship  days the garden and gallery will be open 12:30pm – 4pm (Oct to Dec ).

The ‘Artisit Palate’ Cafe is open 26 Dec – 30 April.

Prices

  • Garden visit : $20 per adult, $10 per child (2 – 15 years of age)
  • Family Concession Prices:
    • 2 Adults + 1 Child $45
    • 2 Adults + 2 Children $50
    • 2 Adults + 3 Children $55
    • 2 Adults + 4 Children $60
    • Students (with ID) $17
    • Seniors (with NZ gold card ID) $17
  • For group visits (10 or more) to see both the house, gallery and the garden: $22.50pp+ GST

5 Fab Stops On Your Drive From Christchurch To Akaroa

Although it’s not a particularly long and arduous journey, it’s always nice to have a place to stop on a drive through the countryside.

Take a look at a few of these places on your next trip to Akaroa for friendly faces, local attractions, or a delicious bite to eat:

1. Little River

Little River is a great halfway point for stretching those legs on the drive over to Akaroa. Hop out at the main stop through the town and have a look around. With the Little River Craft Station, Little River Gallery, and the Little River Café all in one easily accessible location, you can pass an hour or two browsing and brunching on your way to Banks Peninsula. If you’re a little more active and have some extra time, take a day to get out on the Little River Rail Trail – a great biking track that goes along the old railroad – before heading over the hills. There’s also a fantastic campsite here, which is reported to be the most searched for campsite in New Zealand on google!

2. Barry’s Bay

Stop for a seaside snack in Barry’s Bay. Famous for its award winning handmade cheese, a stop in Barry’s Bay means a visit to the factory. With taste tests for delicious cheddar, gouda, harvati and maasdam, you’ll be sure to take a bit of time to stock up. Bring a few crackers and chutney and make a meal of it while looking over the water not far from the shop. If you’re keen on staying for a bit longer, there’s also the cosy Halfmoon Cottage. Just 30 metres from the ocean, its wonderful service, homely atmosphere and beautiful gardens, make it the perfect retreat for backpackers passing through.

3. Wainui

If you’re up for a bit of a detour then Wainui is a great place to unwind after a day of driving. The rocky beach makes for a lovely afternoon stroll, exploring the rock pools and sea life that live in the corners of the shore. The place is also great for a getaway from city bustle, with plenty of baches nestled amongst the bush for the perfect family summer at a quiet beach. Bring the boat or the kayak for a bit of seafaring fun, or take a walk up the hills for a spectacular view of the water.

4. Hilltop Tavern

Open from Wednesday to Sunday, the Hilltop and the Tavern are a great place to soak in the view and have a bite and a beer before you head down the hills. Coin operated binoculars give you a fantastic up close look at the Peninsula and the road ahead, while the Tavern does great woodfire pizzas and Kiwi craft beer to tide you over until you make it to your destination. Spending an evening at the Hilltop Tavern is also an excellent experience, with local and national acts often playing live on the weekends.

5. DuVauchelle Bay

A stop in DuVauchelles will see you get your first taste of French history before heading to Akaroa. The town was named after two brothers who held the land there after the French Settlement arrived in the 1840s. There are several historic sites, such as the 1921 post office, that show an interesting window to the past as you’re passing through. Or, if you’re up for a relaxing afternoon, get lunch at the DuVauchelle Store and Café, and dine in front of the harbour. Then, head down to the 18-hole golf course for a game that has some of the best scenery in New Zealand.

Say Cheese!

Alright, before you read this article, I have to emphasise that I am a cheese lover and furthermore, I am French. I know what you are going to say, but I can assure you, cheese is magical! 

Let’s now talk about cheese…

During my first trip to Akaroa in early 2014, I heard about a little cheese factory on the way to the Peninsula. I thought: “What an amazing idea to stop by!” I was not disappointed!

When you enter this little treasure, you are exposed to a lot of different kinds of cheese. From the Gouda to the Havarti passing by the Gruyere, Edam and Maasdam, you will find some very special taste’s and I am sure you will find one that you like. You will be exploring wonderful aromas, mulitple textures, delicious flavours and different colours.

You can purchase direct from the shop for your friends or yourself after having a degustation (it is the best part). But what made my cheese experience really enjoyable was the factory itself. This factory had been using the traditional method of fabrication since 1895. They also use fresh milk from Banks Peninsula Friesian cows. I think this is great! In addition, you can ask for an explanation about the process and you get to see the cheese making room (see picture).

If you are planning a holiday or daytrip to Akaroa, it is a great stop off along the way. If you need more information about Barrys’ Bay, please find the website below : http://www.barrysbaycheese.co.nz/

Barrys Bay Shop Akaroa

cHEESE FACTORY aKAROA

Akaroa Harvest Festival

When you think of Banks Peninsula do ever think of fresh smoked salmon, award winning olive oil, juicy chorizo and New Zealand wine?

Well…you should, because our beautiful Banks Peninsula has even more to offer than just world class scenery and wildlife, we have an abundance of award winning food too!

This weekend us folk in Akaroa will be celebrating our fourth Annual Akaroa Harvest Festival. It promises to showcase an array of excellent local produce……and you are all invited!

The Details

When: Saturday April 11thAkaroa Harvest festival

Where: The Akaroa Area School

Time: 10 am to 4.00pm.

This year’s festival boasts at least 30 stalls all offering prime locally-sourced produce ranging from mussel and paua fritters to Pig in a Day – all things pork including a workshop – ‘Three things Italian’,

As always, the atmosphere will be enhanced with live music and local wine, and to create a fun fairground vibe the day will play host to traditional games such as the egg-and-spoon race and sack race.

Food Glorious Food

Let your taste buds discover Banks Peninsula sourced honey, tasty French crepes, sumptuous berries, fresh local lamb,artisan cheese and quince, along with locally produced wines that will be available to both taste and purchase.

There will also be some competition on the day. Bakers will go head to head in a cake auction.

Top chefs will return to Akaroa by way of some marvellous cakes; all fighting for the highest bid to raise money for the Akaroa Health Hub.

Whilst other locals will compete for the ‘best jam’, and who better to judge this than Lou Bentley from the Akaroa Cooking School.

The festival truly celebrates some of the best food and wine in New Zealand – all produced on Banks Peninsula.

Best of all this is a free event, so come on over to Akaroa for a great day out and support the local folk…..

Akaroa like you have never seen it before

Thank you for creating such an incredibly perfect video to showcase Akaroa!  I was captivated by the video and will be sharing it with everyone, especially my overseas friends and family. Wow! 

Here are just a few lovely comments we received when we launched our brand new Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise video. Shot this summer it showcases our little slice of paradise from both land and air…..and of course we’ve uploaded the video below…black cat cruises akaroa

It looks beautiful – we’ve lived in chch most of our lives and ive blogged about a lot of stuff but not that part of banks peninsula – love the video! was that done using a quadcopter – great camera work and yes it has been an awesome summer!!

akaroa cathedral cave cruiseGreat video, I didnt even realise we had places like that so close by!

What a beautiful, tranquil video!

Great photography and a very special part of the world.

I was fascinated as I spent so much of my life at Le Bons bay and yet have never seen this footage of the Akaroa Harbour like this before.scenery nook akaroa

I was very impressed at the quality of the video, and loved the shots taken from the flying drone. It also did a great job of showing the characteristically stunning Geology we have here in NZ. I am actually studying Geology and would love to check it out on one of your cruises!

Great video – we are so lucky to have this in our own “backyard”

New Zealand fur seal nature cruiseWhat a beautiful video.  We have been to akaroa and the surrounding area but never on one of your black cat cruises

Cool video! Looks like an amazing experience.

 

 

 

 

Watch the 2 minute video here….

 

Akaroa makes it on TV with two rare wildlife sightings during Seaweek

Bottlenose dolphins and a ginger seal make rare ‘once in a lifetime’ Akaroa visit

Akaroa was treated to a rare ‘once in a lifetime’ sight of a pod of Bottlenose dolphins close to the town’s main wharf yesterday, well within sight of the town’s locals and visitors sitting in cafes on the waterfront.bottlenose dolphin in Akaroa

“It’s a fantastic sighting,” Black Cat Cruises Sales & Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart said. “We’ve never had them (Bottlenose dolphins) visit the main wharf before, or seen so many around the harbour; it just doesn’t happen”  The rarity of the sightings made it onto TV One Breakfast news. Local Christchurch reporter Holly Carran helped to share the story with thousands of viewers…..Tv one Breakfast news features Akaroa

The area is well known for the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin the Hector’s dolphin, but sighting of large numbers of Bottlenose dolphins is rare for the area.

“Our job is to show people the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin every day, something uniquely special in itself, however this season we have had such a treat with rare wildlife as well as Orca, Hector calves and even a ginger seal pup that was seen happily playing with its sleek fur seal playmates last week.”BCAK BCAK 2015 03 03 C1640 1945

Lombart said it had really been a ‘special summer’ with so many rare and unique sightings. “In a very rare sight, a female Orca and her two calves were seen playing with a pod of Hector’s dolphins late last year, last week was the first time anyone has ever seen a ginger seal and there’s been a few dolphin calves in the harbour which always great news for the endangered species.”

The pod of between 20 and 30 Bottlenose dolphins included several calves and have been sighted at various spots in the harbour this week.DSC 0008

“Customers and staff on our Akaroa Harbour Cruise were very excited,” Lombart said. “They said you could even hear their sounds. It really is a very rare opportunity as we never get Bottlenose dolphins inside the harbour and they’ve certainly never been right up against the wharf in town.”DSC 0067

She said it literally was ‘a once in a life time opportunity’ as Black Cat staff thought it had never happened before.

Lombart said the sightings were timely as New Zealand is celebrating Seaweek, New Zealand’s national celebration of our marine environment.

“The timing couldn’t be better,” she said. “It’s almost as if they (The Bottlenose dolphins) know its Seaweek.”

To watch the brekfast news report click here and scroll to 1hr17mins

THERE ARE ONLY 5 DAYS LEFT FOR YOU TO WATCH THE EPISODE

 

bottlenose 2

60 Seconds with…

Sonya!

sonya

What is your name and what is your role at Black Cat Cruises….

Sonya Watts – Photography & Customer Service

 

Where is your role based….

Akaroa

 

What three words would your friend’s use to sum you up?

Very, very funny

 

Tell us a secret or something unique about you….

I’m a man. shhh

 

What did you dream you would do when you grew up and why….

Supermodel, because I’m hot

 

Why did you want to work for Black Cat Cruises….

Because I fancied the boss

 

What do you love most about your job….

My boss

 

What’s different about Black Cat than any other place you’ve worked….

The team!

Describe one of your best days here….

Everyday, working here is awesome!!!

Of Demons and Dolphins

At the age of 71 Richard Jacobs wasn’t just worried about his age when he took the plunge and joined us on a dolphin swim. This inspiring story wraps both his fears and life-long dream all into one, and demonstrates the reward that awaits when you take on a challenge…..

By Richard Jacobs

Is it possible to experience an adrenaline rush, a huge privilege and achieve an almost life-time longing all at the same time?  I really wasn’t sure.  The opportunity was right there, staring at me, teasing me, challenging me.  I just didn’t know if I had the confidence, the ability or the nerve.

It was about 4pm on a windy afternoon, about as far from home as I could be, when I asked for more information.  Would I be safe?  Did I need special insurance?  How long would it take?  In truth, I think I knew all the answers but perhaps I was looking for an easy way out – “Sorry, sir, we can’t take people of your age”.  I heard the opposite!  “No problem”.  It’s probably the most often heard expression in this far off land and that’s what I was told, “No problem at all.” richard jacobs

Well, there was still a problem for me.  In plain language, I suppose I was scared of letting myself down, of looking in some way inept or even of a genuine health risk.

Dinner outside that evening, overlooking one of the world’s most beautiful bays, really did provide food for thought.  At some point during the evening it all seemed straight forward.  I would probably never have such a unique opportunity.  I would be highly unlikely to be at this particular location again and, most important of all, I was at risk of letting myself down for no good or logical reason.  I’ll do it!

It all sounds a bit dramatic but here are some of the considerations that I had decided would not deter me.  I’m 71 years old with a load of metal in my back from recent spinal surgery.  I have moderate heart failure and I suffer from occasional bouts of angina.  It was 15 years, to the day, since two paramedics saved my life in an ambulance after a heart attack and, oh yes, as well as having a pathological fear of sharks, I don’t like cold water!

The challenge?  It doesn’t sound much as I write it here.  I was going to swim with dolphins where the Southern Ocean meets the South Pacific.  Not just any old dolphins, however, these were Hector’s dolphins; one of the rarest, smallest and most endangered dolphins in the world.  It is estimated that there are only some 7,000 left and they can be found around much of the eastern coast of New Zealand.  The largest concentration is believed to be off Akaroa on the Banks Peninsular, south of Christchurch – and that is just where I was on that November day.

These pods or groups of dolphins are normally made up of eight or ten individuals.  Because of their relatively small size – they grow to only about 1.2 metres long and are about as big as a five year old child – they do not have the lung capacity of the larger dolphins and, therefore, cannot dive to great depths for their food.  Hence their love for the relatively shallow waters off this coast, where the water shelves down to only about 200 feet and, as the song goes, “the fishing is easy”.  Of course if they are fishing for food, they are not going to come and frolic with us swimmers who presume to invade their watery world.  Equally, like us, they may sometimes just not want to socialise and our skipper on the dive boat tells us we may not even see any at all.

Back to the plot.  I had been told to report at 8.30 in the morning but I was waiting on the wharf from nearly an hour before that time.  The night had been good but waking to a howling wind did nothing for my confidence and made me wonder if the trip might be cancelled.  Then at least I would have an excuse.  “Well, I signed up but the weather was too bad.”  “No problem”, came the familiar reply as skipper and crew arrived for the day’s work.

An initial shore briefing was followed by a ludicrous struggle to force my 18 stone bulk into an enormous wetsuit and boots, together with the morale boosting comment that, with the sea temperature at just 12 degrees C, the neoprene suit would keep me warm – ish!

More briefing as we sped up Akaroa harbour, with explanations about the necessary hand signals to use once we were in the water.  One for help and one for, “I’m fine”.

Ten minutes later, Hector’s dolphins were spotted and the powerful catamaran idled in the choppy water as eight of us climbed over the stern and into that very cold sea.  Not being used to swimming wearing a wetsuit brought its own problems.  My legs persistently wanted to be where my head should be!  The net result included several mouthfuls of salt water and a pretty ludicrous sight, I suspect, until I was told to bicycle with my legs.  Having attained more or less the correct posture, I hear a shout of, “Richard, behind you!”  Spinning in the water, I was just in time to see two sleek and beautiful shapes swim past me about three feet away.  I know I screamed with excitement but, thankfully, so did the rest of the party.

The water was rough and facing into the wind meant a face full of spray.  We swam for about five minutes and I came out early as my first efforts to stay head up had been a bit strenuous.  We then motored our way outside the confines of the bay and into the ocean.  Here it was not so choppy but there was a good swell running.  About a mile or so off shore, we suddenly had eight or ten dolphins swimming behind the boat and we all climbed down into the water.  It was this second swim which brought home the enormous privilege of being with these wild animals in their habitat.  jacob and hectorsTo add yet more wonder to the moment, a huge albatross flew over us.

I have never before experienced the euphoria that this swim generated.” 

I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t out of breath; I wasn’t even cold!  More importantly, I wasn’t going to miss out on such a special moment.  I freely admit to being a little proud of myself for having committed to this adventure.  I had talked of wanting to swim with dolphins for so many years and here I was, doing just that.

The pod swam in and around us for about 15 minutes, maybe more.  To be honest, I lost all sense of time.  This was a truly wonderful experience and I know I had a huge smile on my face and I have the pictures to prove it.

So, that adrenaline rush was matched by a huge sense of achievement and a long held ambition was realised.  It is matched by the knowledge that, whilst many other people have swum with dolphins, this was an intensely personal moment for me, when I defeated my demons.  At the time, it moved me to a tear or two but the sea water hid that from those around me.

”To be accepted into the world of this unique animal was one of life’s special moments and a huge privilege.  The effects of those few minutes will last a life time.”

Survival of the species – Rare dolphin calves sighted in Akaroa Harbour

tv1 screen shot 2

This morning we made TV1 Breakfast News with our rare sighting of dolphin calves in Akaroa Harbour. Each year we eagerly wait to spot the first calf of the season. To see a mother and it’s calf is always great news for the endangered species.

Hectors dolphin calves

Early summer has seen Hector’s dolphin calves spotted swimming with their mothers in the harbour, which is always exciting, Black Cat Cruises Sales & Marketing Manager Natasha Lombart said.

“Hector’s Dolphins are classified as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Because of their coastal habitat and slow reproductive rate they are particularly vulnerable to entanglement in fishing gear, especially gill nets, so we never fail to get enthusiastic when calves are spotted.”

Black Cat Cruises skipper Julian Yates said two Hector dolphin mothers and their calves were seen between Bush Bay and the salmon farm, half way across the bay in Akaroa Harbour.

“That there were two babies’ with two mums was just fantastic,” he said. “They were just cruising and the guest reactions on board were great – they were so excited to see such a rare species of new born babies, it was wonder, a real treat and so delightful.”

Yates said guests on the harbour cruise could clearly see the calves’ stripes from being folded up inside mother’s tummy as they able to swim as soon as they are born.hectors dolphin calf folded skin

Females usually have one calf every two to three years. The calves are 50 to 60 centimetres long at birth and stay close to their mothers who provide them with milk and protection for about a year until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

Hector’s dolphins are among the most endangered in the world.

It has been an eventful week for Black Cat Cruises as a female Orca and her two claves were seen playing with a pod of Hector’s dolphins near the entrance to Akaroa Harbour last week.

Yates said it was extremely rare to see Orca’s interacting with Hector’s as Orcas are known for preying on dolphins.

To watch the TV1 breakfast news clip follow this link http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast/2014-12-18-video-6208476 and scroll to 1.08:25

tv1 akaroa harbour news

The Perfect English Countryside Escape… In New Zealand

This week the Huffington Post, an American online newspaper, featured an article on ‘The Perfect English Countryside Escape…..in New Zealand’.

Where about’s in New Zealand you ask? Answer: Akaroa Harbour!

After forgiving them for forgetting that this is 100% pure new zealand in their articles title we can firmly say that the feature is a testament to the international appeal of our stunning and perfectly preserved peninsula and village.  Perhaps it’s why the worlds rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector’s, choose to call this place home???

We just wonder what they would make of Akaroa harbour if we were to take them out dolphin swimming with the Hector’s dolphins…or on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise…….

If The Huffington Post decide to travel over this way, an invitation awaits………

akaroa harbour

The images from the article speak for themselves……

akaroa harbour

Akaroa truly is the perfect getaway escape if you are planning a holiday in New Zealand. With the stunning landscape (a photographers dream destination), variety of accommodation and dining options, and of course things to do (cue Black Cat Cruises), what more could you ask for?

A link to the full article from The Huffington Press and pictures can be found here….

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/akaroa-harbour-new-zealand_n_5185891.html