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

Category Archives: Lyttelton New Zealand

Banks Peninsula Must-Dos – A Guide to Lyttelton Bars

Lyttelton is a great family destination – the rich and interesting history and nature of the place puts something on offer for everyone. But if you’re after somewhere to wet your whistle after a long day of exploring, or something exciting for the 18+ crowd to do in the quirky port town, then check out one of these fine local establishments for a bit of Lyttelton fayre and late night fun.

Porthole Bar:

porthole lytteltonSituated on the site where the popular Volcano Bar and Café once stood, Porthole is another example of Cantabrian ingenuity that’s come out of the other side of the quake.

Although one of several container bars around the city, Porthole has a uniquely Lyttelton flavour.

The live music, craft beer, and loyal customers all come from the portside village, and the porthole windows cut out of the container are an appropriate finishing touch – head down for a beer and a bite on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

 

 

 

Wunderbar:

wunderbarA popular watering hole for the locals, Wunderbar is perfect for a taste of the creativity that Lyttelton is so famous for. Renowned for its quirky décor – which includes a collection of infamous doll’s heads amongst other bits and bobs – Wunderbar is a little left of centre.

A visit on any given Friday or Saturday night could get you caught up in anything from a poetry reading to a burlesque show to a local folk act.

Definitely a must-do if you’re after something a little different out of your visit.

Civil and Naval:

Civil and naval barA great example of that ‘cult bar’ theme Lyttelton has going on nowadays,

Civil and Naval has cosy-chic written all over it.

A tapas bar, restaurant, beer garden and coffee shop all rolled into one nautical-but-not-in-a-cheesy-way package, this casual dining experience fits perfectly into the town’s atmosphere.

 

It possibly has the best wine and cocktail list in town too.

Using fresh, locally sourced ingredients for creative and tasty dishes, Civil and Naval fits in with the community ethos so well known on the streets of Lyttelton.

 

Tommy Chang’s:

Tommy ChangsTucked away amongst the cool of London Street, Tommy Chang’s is an ode to Lyttelton’s past and future.

Formerly known as Dave’s Place, the café and bar came about after owner, Dave Watchorn, lost an almost complete restoration of the Canterbury Hotel in February 2011.

Although a tragic loss, Tommy Chang’s is yet another amazing Lyttelton establishment that’s come out of the resilience of this community.

With live gigs, superb fare, and, of course, that rich and interesting history, the place is a classic dining experience in the port town.

The Quail Island Easter Egg Hunt

Happy Easter holiday eve everyone!

If you have little people at home and are wondering what to get up to over the long weekend then look no further.

Black Cat Cruises will be hosting their annual Easter Egg Hunt on Quail Island. You’ll have two and half hours on the island to hunt for coloured tokens which can be swapped for up to 3 chocolate Easter eggs each! If you’ve never been to Quail Island before, which is a DOC reserve set in the middle of Lyttelton harbour, you’re in for even more of a treat. To see it for yourself watch our video here.

 

We’ll have 3 departures a day every day over the Easter break. Best of all it’s the same price as a standard Quail Island ferry ticket and under 5’s travel for free!

Whilst we don’t take bookings for the Quail Island ferry throughout the year, we do for the Easter weekend as it’s always a sell out! Tomorrow and Saturday are already booked up,so calling to pre-book is highly recommended. If you’d like to book just call 0800 436 574

Easter 2015

Banks Pensinsula Festival of Walking

Established by the local residents of Banks Peninsula, the walking festival was created to share thier passion for this special place with those from the wider community.

What’s it all about?

banks peninusla walking festival

The Banks Peninsula Walking Festival offers guided walks all over the peninsula including lyttelton, Little River, Akaroa and the outer bays. The guides, who are all volunteers, bring a huge wealth of knowledge and experience, which makes each walk a truly unique experience. It’s a one off opportunity to  gain guided access to tracks, reserves and private land.

Because of the success in recent years, for 2014 the festival has been extended to take in the four weekends of November. This will allow more opportunity for  more people to do the walks they want.

Participants will enjoy refreshing walks, and are guaranteed to have an enjoyable experience as they relax, meet new people and together absorb the stories and atmosphere of this fantastic land, right on the doorstep of Christchurch.

 

 

Who can join in?

Everyone! There are walks for all ages and fitness levels, covering everything from town, rural and wilderness walks.

Camping on Quail Island

camping on quail islandAs part of the festival this is also your one chance to spend a night camping on Quail Island! At Black Cat we often receieve queries regarding camping on the island which is a DOC site, however camping is not permitted at any time….until now.

On Saturday, November 22nd for one night only, you can. Bring your tent and some food for the BBQ that will be put on. There will even be games organised for kids. The price is $25 per adult and $12.50 for children. For more information on Quail Island click here.

There is even a Facbook page you can follow

It is essential that you pre-book you walk. Phone 03 328 9093

Event Information

  • Bookings are necessary for all walks.
  • Leaders are accomplished volunteers with a wealth of knowledge to share.
  • Participants are responsible for their own safety, equipment, food, clothing and vehicles.
  • Children under 10 can join a wlak forfree.
  • Please arrive 10 minutes ahead of your departure time.
  • To check for weather postponements/cancellations visit www.lyttelton.net.nz or call us on 328 9093

Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights – Street Party Tonight!

Every year, in the middle of a cold  Christchurch winter, Lyttelton residents bring a bit of brightness back to Banks Peninsula with the harbour’s Festival of Lights. This years it’s running from June 19th – 21st The Highlight…….?  The ‘Matariki’ Street Party!

 

When: Friday June 20th, 5.30pm – FIREWORKS 7.30pm

 

Where: London Street, Lyttelton

 

What: A fantastic winter street party. Usually held to coincide with both the Matariki Maori New Year celebrations and the winter solstice, Lyttelton’s London Street transforms into a buzzing and beautiful scene. Light displays, sculptures and installations, music, dance and spoken word bring the community out of hibernation for this spectacle. Throw in a Friday night Street Party crammed with stalls amongst lanterns and light based artworks, followed with a spectacular fireworks display, and it’s easy to see why people in the know come out of the cold for this yearly event.

 

History: The Project Lyttelton team began the event in 2005 as something for the 3000 passengers on board a cruise ship moored in the port for the Lions Rugby Tour. But after seeing the spirit from the community in response to being part of the festival, they decided it was something that needed to stay. So each year the organisation collaborates with the council, libraries, and local businesses, working together to ensure there’s always something on for everyone. And this year is no exception.

 

Getting there: Take bus 28 or 35, carpool or use the free shuttle bus from the gondola (from 5:30pm). Parking is strictly limited. If you’re coming from Diamond Harbour the Ferry will be running it’s usual service all night. For the schedule click here
Tip: Bring your own reusable cup or buy one of ours at the festival tonight. If you’re a true foodie don’t miss the Mid-Winter Chirstmas Market tomorrow from 10am – 1pm!

 

You can be sure that the spectacle is worth the trip out to the harbour. There’s no better excuse for getting out in the winter weather to welcome in the Maori New Year and celebrate the winter solstice than heading over to the Lyttelton Harbour Festival of Lights.

 

Lyttelton Harbour Lights up the sky at the Festival of Lights

 

Find out more about the Festival of Lights on their Facebook page:

 

 

or to find out what’s going on in Lyttelton, visit their website: http://www.lyttelton.net.nz/festivals/festival-of-lights

72 hours in Canterbury

What would you do if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury ? Come to Akaroa of course………

Imagine you were told you could write a wishlist of the best New Zealand activities Canterbury has to offer….and it would come true!

Well Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism recently ran a” Win your dream 72 hours in Canterbury” campaign  over in Australia asking entrants to describe how they would spend their 72 hours.  The prize; your dream 72 hours will come true!

The competition came to a close and the lucky winner has just spent this past weekend having the time of his life with his wife visiting Christchurch, Akaroa, the Waipara Wine Region AND Hanmer……..His winning itinerary you ask?

DAY 1

Location: Christchurch

 

    • After flying into Christchurch it was a trip straight to the i-site to book all of their tickets.

 

    • Then it was a visit to the re-start mall to take in what’s happening within the Christchurch CBD
      Re:Start Mall in Christchurch

      things to do in christchurch or akaroa

 

 

 

    • For lunch it was off to Madras Street for Pizza followed by some fun wheel action on the Segway Urban Wheels.

 

    • A leisurely afternoon was then spent punting on the Avon. An iconic and classic Christchurch activity, before settling in for the night at a hotel in Christchurch.

 

DAY 2

Location: Akaroa

Day 2 is ”all things French” as they headed off to Akaroa. En-route from Christchurch they stopped off for an early morning Gondola ride to take in the majestic views down Banks Peninsula

After taking the 90 minute scenic drive to Akaroa there was time for a stroll in the streets to enjoy the shops, galleries and a french inspired lunch

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Akaroa Harbour & wildlife cruise

Straight after lunch it was all aboard the Black Cat boat to enjoy an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise. An opportunity to enjoy the marine and bird life whilst taking in the breathtaking views of the extinct volcanic harbour. The team at Black Cat were so pleased to host the winner and his guest. It’s wonderful to play a part in makeing a dream trip come true!

After two hours on the water with Black Cat it was back on land for a drive along the summit road. A spectacular peninsula drive with great New Zealand photography locations along the way!

All finished off with dinner at Vangionis

DAY 3

Location: Waipara Valley, Hamner Springs

Sad to leave Akaroa it was then on to a day of pure indulgence as they headed to the Waipara Valley and Hanmer Springs.

The 3 hour drive to Hanmer was broken up by visiting numerous wineries along the way in Waipara wine region and lunch at a local winery.

Waipara Wine Region in Canterbury, New Zealand

Waipara Wine region things to do canterbury

Arriving in Hanmer called for one thing only – a stop off at the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa followed by a body treatment for him and her – one word, Divine!

Late afternoon was then spent meandering through the shops and boutiques in Hanmer before choosing a spot for dinner and home to beautiful retreat for bed!

What a wonderful 3 days!!!

There is so much on offer in the Canterbury region we would find it hard to choose (apart from the Black Cat experience in Akaroa of course!) What would your dream itinerary be if you had just 72 hours in Canterbury? We recommend using the Christchurch and Canterbury Toursim website to help plan your trip!

5 PLACES FOR A BANKS PENINSULA CHRISTMAS PICNIC

If you’re keen to get out and about in Banks Peninsula with the family this Christmas there is plenty for you to do. Between chilling in Lyttelton or Akaroa, swimming in the gorgeous bays, or taking a ferry out to Quail Island, you’ll never be short of something fun to do. But every adventurer needs to break for food. Luckily for you, Banks Peninsula offers plenty of places to pull up a rug and relax in the sun with a picnic basket – here are just a few favourites to choose from.

Picnic the afternoon away in style…..

things to do in Christchurch picnic

Quail Island Beach – After a walk around the former farm and leper colony, head down to the beach to set up your banquet. A great place to have a pre-lunch swim, or just rest your feet with a good book in the sand.

Quail Island Picnic

Things to do in Christchurch

Akaroa Domain –

Akaroa

things to do in akaroa

If you’re out and about in the French seaside town, there’s plenty of room down at the Akaroa Domain to throw down a blanket and enjoy those sammies. Bring a ball or the cricket set and while away the afternoon with games on the grass.

Le Bons Bay Beach –

Le Bons Bay

things to do in christchurch

Another great location for a summer dip, Le Bons Bay Beach is a beautiful piece of kiwi paradise. Secluded from the hustle and bustle of the busier Banks Peninsula hangouts, a picnic here is perfect for those who are after a quiet getaway.

Cass Bay –

Cass Bay Lyttelton

things to do in christchurch

With walks, sand, and playgrounds galore, you’ll be sure to work up an appetite with a day at Cass. There are three beaches to choose from for splashing about for a bit, or get active and bring along the kayak for a scenic tour of the bay.

Orton Bradley Park –

Orton Bradley Park

things to do in chirstchurch

For a taste of Banks Peninsula’s history and quintessential Kiwi greenery, take the family over to Orton Bradley in Charteris bay for the day. Known for its beautiful tracks that lead to stunning views over the harbour, packing a picnic basket and heading for this destination is a winner for any summer afternoon.

We would love to hear where your favourite picnic spots in Banks Peninsula are….leave and comment and share it with us……

5 EASY STEPS TO TAKING A GREAT PHOTO…

Point and shoot – how hard can it be? Despite the seemingly idiot-proof design of the modern camera these days, it can be harder than it looks. That blurry, dark, shot of half your thumb, or the washed out, blindingly bright one of what you thought was the sunset are endless sources of frustration for the amateur photographer and tourist alike. New Zealand is internationally famous for it’s picturesque landscapes. Akaroa and Banks Peninsula deliver many picture perfect locations so it’s a must visit destination for some of the best places to photograph in New Zealand. It’s also no secret that when it comes to landscape photography, getting your lens to reflect the beauty your eyes can see is quite the challenge.

‘Akaroa foggy morning’ Black Cat photo competition 2013

photo competition akaroa

Of course that’s not the story for everyone. The winners of our recent photography competitions know a thing or two about taking a pretty picture, and you can see the artworks their lenses have captured further down our blog. But for those of you who are aspiring to have a shot at next year’s prizes, here are a few tips on how to capture that perfect photo of Banks Peninsula’s breathtaking scenery.

Now, how complicated this gets depends on what kind of camera you’re using. If you’ve got the simple, good ol’ point and shoot, and it’s been bought in the past few years, chances are you’ll have a setting on there specifically designed to make taking a landscape shot a breeze. In this case, all you’ve got to do is make sure you have a steady hand – or even better yet, a tripod – make sure the shot is in focus, and then take the snap.

These days the cameras on mobile phones are producing some fantastic images, and with so many high quality filter apps everyone can be the next budding National Geographic photographer! Check out some awesome shots on Instagram by Jim Richardson. A National Geographicphotographer who has been shooting around the globe with his i-phone.

But if you’ve mastered that aspect of the basics, going a little further with fairly inexpensive equipment isn’t as hard as it seems. If your camera has a manual or custom settings option, there are several things you want to think about before making that shutter click.

Step 1

 

Framing a picture on an Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise

Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise Black Cat

Firstly, arrange your frame. It’s important to scope out the composition and of what you want to capture before you start clicking. Use the rule of thirds as a general guideline for finding ways to balance out your shot, and play with the zoom to focus in on the best parts of the scene in front of you.

Step 2

Next, you’ll want to consider the lighting of the shot. How does it look to your eye? How does it look through the camera? Depending on the feel you want to give to an image, adjust the brightness and contrast using your camera’s settings to subdue colours or make them pop. Although these can be adjusted in post-production software, getting the shot as close to how you want it to look as possible at the scene makes life a lot easier in the editing phase. Try playing with the different tones and pick your favourite later on.

Step 3

 

Sunrise in Lyttelton Harbour by Carolyn Nicholl

things to do in christchurch lyttelton harbour

Also because of the high contrast and brightness while the sun is high in the sky, many photographers recommend picking your times for landscape shots carefully. If the sun is in danger of overexposing your pics, go for an early morning or late afternoon expedition – you’ll get some amazing hues at these times of the day too. Sometimes it’s worth the 5am wake up call for a beautiful sunrise.

Black Cat Dolphin Swimmer Surprise Shot

Black Cat Dolphin Swimmer Surprise Shot

Step 4

When it comes to action shots, especially on the water, you’ll want to have your camera’s shutter up to speed. If you have a sports mode setting, or the ability to set the shutter speed really high, this will assist in getting clearer, crisper shots of moving subjects. It’s best to go for these when there is ample natural lighting, or a scene where your flash will work, as because the shutter is so fast, there isn’t much time to let a lot of light into the lens. If you get your timing and lighting right, capturing that mid-air dolphin shot shouldn’t be too strenuous.

Step 5

It’s also important that you try your best to ensure the shot is in focus before you press that button. There’s nothing worse than going back through a batch of what would be beautiful shots just to find that something’s out of focus. Using the auto-focus setting is a great way to see that the focal point of your image is in fact just that, but if you’re more confident with your eye, play with the manual focus to blur out the background or foreground, and get a little more creative with your camera.

But finally, what matters most of all is that you get out there and give it a go. The more shots you take, the more comfortable you’ll become behind the lens, and the easier it’ll be to figure out what works, and what doesn’t. There’s plenty to see out there, and even more to capture.

Send us your photo’s…

Black Cat love to see and share your pictures from Banks Peninsula. If you have ever been on or are going on a Black Cat cruise within the next few weeks be sure to upload your favourite photo and share it. We will send an A4 print to you at your home address and your photo will go into a competition to win an Ipad mini! Check out the competition here.

Do you have any great photography tips? Share them with us below and we’ll give away a pair of Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise tickets to the one we think is best!

Tickets will be awarded by Dec 31st 2013.

20 BIRDS YOU SHOULD EXPECT TO SEE IN AKAROA

Banks Peninsula is well known for its gorgeous scenery and breath taking views. But amongst the vast beauty found in the area, there lives a wide array of wildlife. Akaroa’s birds are just a few of many creatures you’ll find, but if you’re around in the warmer months, keep an eye out and there’s a good chance you’ll spot quite a few of them:

1. Little Blue Penguin: The blue penguin is the smallest penguin in the world, standing at only 25cm tall and weighing in at under a kilogram.

little blue penguin akaora black cat cruises
Little Blue Penguin

2. Yellow-eyed Penguin: Another rare New Zealand penguin, the Māori name for this bird is ‘hoiho,’ which means ‘noise shouter.’

akaroa yellow eyed penguin black cat cruises
Yellow Eyed Penguin

3. Black Shag: The Black Shag can often be seen feeding on fish in the harbour. This used to cause a stir amongst fishing enthusiasts who thought they were eating sport fish. However, the Black Shag does not have a significant impact on the fishing population, despite still being persecuted by some.

black shag akaroa bird black cat cruises
Black Shag

4. Mollymawk: Part of the Albatross family and only found in the southern hempisphere these large birds are very vocal and can often be seen swooping around at the heads of Akaroa bay.

Mollymawk
Mollymawk

5. Spotted Shag: Ledges of cliffs, overhanging the water of the sea below, are popular breeding and nesting areas for Spotted Shags. This makes Banks Peninsula an ideal area to spot one.

Akaroa bird life black cat cruises
Spotted Shags in Akaroa

6.White-faced Heron: The White-faced Heron is originally an Australian species, but introduced itself here in the 1940s and as a result is classified as a native bird of New Zealand.

white faced heron black cat cruises akaroa
White Faced Heron in Akaroa

7. Pukeko: Known for running out in front of oncoming vehicles, although the Pukeko may appear to have mild suicidal tendencies, they are often seen there because the habitat is ideal for hunting and gathering food.

pukeko akaroa bird black cat cruises
Pukeko

8. Australasian Bittern: Shy and secretive birds during the day, the Australasian Bittern usually come out at night to mate and hunt for food.

Australasian Bittern can be found in akaroa
Australasian Bittern

9.New Zealand Falcon: Fearless, the New Zealand Falcon has a reputation for swooping down, finding its prey, and not letting go until it gets what it wants. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of these beautiful creatures.

Falcon akaroa black cat cruises
New Zealand Falcon

10. South Island Pied Oystercatcher: There are many species of Oystercatchers, so many that experts find it difficult to agree on a number. The South Island Pied species is a wary and restless creature with a shrill cry.

akaroa bird black cat cruises
Oystercatcher Akaroa

11. Caspian Tern: Another international bird, the Caspian Tern is also known as the ‘King of Sea-Swallows’ on account of it’s very large size.

Terns in Akaroa

Terns in akaroa black cat cruises

12.  Shining Cuckoo: This pretty little bird is about the size of a sparrow and gets its name from having an iridescent coat that shines greenish blue in the light.

Cuckoo

cuckoo akaroa

13.  Morepork: You wouldn’t expect it, but these small owls that lurk in the trees are carnivorous creatures, sometimes feeding on animals larger than themselves.

Morepork

Morepork found in Akaroa

14.  Kingfisher: The collective noun for a group of Kingfisher birds is a “concentration,” perhaps referring to its broad and steady build, strong enough to take down small mammals.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher you can find in Akaroa

15.  New Zealand Pipit: The pipit has quite drab colouring, but this is to provide camouflage, allowing them to blend in against the forest floor.

Pipit

Pipit you can find in Akaroa

16.  Fantail: Although the Fantail can suffer greatly through a harsh winter, they’ve developed strategies to survive, like having more than one brood in the right conditions, sleeping in late to avoid the cold morning frosts, and tucking away in bushes and haystacks to keep themselves warm.

Fantail

Fantail found in Akaroa

17.  Song Thrush: You can distinguish the Song Thrush from other birds by listening out for its cheerful and uplifting tunes. Some say their musical ability in terms of rhythm, tone, harmony, and melody can compete with that of humans.

Song Thrush

Song Thrush Akaroa new zealand

18.  Bellbird: Another song bird, this little critter makes the sound of a single bell-like note, perfect to break a morning slumber.

Bellbird

The Bellbird found in akaroa

19.  Starling: The starling gets its name from the markings on its feathers that gleam like tiny white stars. However, this only happens in the summer months, glistening in the sun.

Starling

Starling bird found in akaroa

20.Silvereye: Like the Tui and the Bellbird, the Silvereye has a brush-tipped tongue for drinking nectar.

Silvereye

sILVER EYE AKAROA BIRD

Diamond Harbour Photo Contest

Last Friday saw the close of our Diamond Harbour Photo competition and the start of our new competition Vote & Win! (see below)

 

We had some fantastic entries to the Diamond Harbour contest so thank you to everyone who entered, voted and shared. In total we had 99 entries to the competition and after hundreds of votes were cast the winning photo was awarded to Emma Aldous. Congratulations Emma, a $300 mac pac voucher is now yours!

 

The Winning shot by Emma Aldous

Diamond Harbour photo contest winner

Spot Prizes

 

It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts

Everyone loves a winner but we decided to award an extra 5 spot prizes along the way. You see we are nice like that! The prizes included mac pac gift vouchers, metro cards and gift vouchers to Freemans in Lyttelton. Check out our complete gallery of winners here….

Vote & Win! A luxury weekend in Akaroa…

Our new competition ‘Vote & Win!’ is a photography competition with a difference. We have edited a collection of 40 photos from our past competitions. All you have to do is vote on a photo and then you will be in with a chance of winning a luxury weekend in Akaroa. It’s a simple as that!

As well as giving away a weekend in Akaroa the photo with the most votes will be awarded a $500 Black Cat Cruises voucher. To start voting and find out more click here.

BANKS PENINSULA CRUISING

Cyclists high on the Summit Road above Akaroa Harbour during the iconic race, Le Race. Photo credit; Tailwind Events

Banks Peninsula offers a huge variety of options to cruise on the bike, both for road and mountain biking. The area starting life as a volcanic island and the Peninsula’s two major volcanos’ have now sunk 2500 meters over a very long period of time, providing the wonderful harbours of Akaroa and Lyttelton.

Over time alluvium from the Southern Alps extended from the mainland shoreline to link up with the once isolated volcanoes, providing the flat areas that surround the peninsula.

There are numerous ways of attacking climbs throughout Banks Peninsula, but we’d thought we look at a unique ride that starts in Christchurch and finishes in Akaroa with a boat trip thrown in along the way.

Heading along Colombo Street towards the Port Hills of Banks Peninsula you eventually arrive at the bottom of Dyers Pass, just under the first two kilometres of this portion of the road up Dyers Pass is filled with thousands of very keen cycling fans in early January each year for the Calder Stewart New Zealand elite cycling champs. In late March each year the climb all the way to the top sorts things out early for the iconic 100 kilometre Christchurch to Akaroa Le Race cycle race, being held this year on the 23rd of March.

The gradient is quite steep in places but after you past the Cup and Emperor’s New Clothes cafes and the iconic Sign of the Tahake it flattens out into a nice steady climb to about 300 metres above sea level at the Sign of the Kiwi which provides magnificent views across Christchurch, the Canterbury Plains towards the Southern Alps and to the south across Lyttelton Harbour.

From here it’s downhill towards Governors Bay and then a left turn towards Lyttelton. This is really nice rolling terrain which is quite quiet as the road beyond Lyttelton has been closed since the earthquakes so much of the traffic uses the Lyttelton tunnel rather than this piece of road.

Looking out across the harbour there are great views of Quail Island, named after the now extinct native Quail (koreke) by Captain William Mein Smith. The island has a fascinating history; it was originally used as a quarantine station and as a small leprosy colony by the early European settlers.

From 1934 till 1975 the Island was leased out for farming and was then converted to a recreational reserve. Today the focus is on restoring native vegetation and the island is home to loads of native birds and the rare white flippered little blue penguins.

Recently the Kiwi Ranger programme started up on the island, a fun and interactive programme initiated by the Department of Conservation (DOC) that incorporates various sites, such as national parks, ecosanctuaries, heritage centres and reserves across the country. Black Cat Cruises run trips to the island and it’s a good chance to take a lunch and swimming togs for a great family day out.

Once into Lyttelton it’s down to the harbour and jumping on board (with your bike) Black Cat Cruise’s Diamond Harbour Ferry. Legend has it that Diamond Harbour got its name because one of the early settlers observed the sun reflecting on the water and thought it looked like a thousand shining diamonds. There’s no doubt that Diamond Harbour remains one of the sunniest and unspoilt destinations on Banks Peninsula and the ferry ride only takes five minutes across the harbour.

From Diamond Harbour, you ride east along some lovely rolling terrain until you descend into Purau and its very nice bay. Then it’s all uphill for a while with a long climb up the Purau Port Levy Road. Once at the top it’s a fast descent down into Port Levy – watch for the tight hairpin halfway down – and onto a gravel section made ‘infamous’ in the 90s by legendary road cyclist Brian Fowler who used to come the other way on long training rides during his tour winning days in the Tour of Southland.

It’s mostly hard packed gravel and mud which is just as well as it’s a steep five kilometre climb up to over 600 metres up Wild Cattle Hill. After riding through the barren hills scattered with sheep and some trees there is another descent of five kilometres and it’s finally back onto sealed road again at Pigeon Bay.

Pigeon Bay is usually a magnificent turquoise colour and a good spot for stopping to take in the views and get some food and drinks on board before another tough climb up the Pigeon Bay Road for six kilometres to the rim of the Akaroa crater and the Summit Road again.

Once again there are magnificent views, again in most directions; down into Duvauchelle Bay, back into Pigeon Bay and up Akaroa Harbour. Turning left and heading south along the Summit Road you are once again on the final quarter of the route used for Le Race, including a climb up to 700 metres and a head rush of a downhill down Long Bay Road into Akaroa, the South Island’s oldest colonial town and New Zealand’s sole French Settlement.

First stop is a good local cafe for food and coffee, then a chance to kick back and reflect on an awesome day out on the bike. While in Akaroa it would be a shame not to stay and check out the harbour the following day. Black Cat have been cruising the waters of Banks Peninsula for more than 26 years and is a must see Akaroa activity so finding their office in the Main Street or on the wharf is a good idea.

They know all there is to know about Akaroa Harbour and the diversity of marine wildlife, birdlife and its volcanic origins. You can swim with hector’s dolphins year round, or do an Akaroa Harbour Nature cruise. Black Cat Cruises helps create some of the most memorable experiences to be had on the water anywhere on New Zealand’s Canterbury coastline, and great way to round off two fantastic days on Bank Peninsula. If you are super keen you can always ride back to Christchurch via Hill Top and Little River on the main Christchurch to Akaroa Highway – its only another 85 kilometres.