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

Category Archives: Lyttelton New Zealand


Spring is here and its time to look forward to summer. Over the winter months we’ve been planning and preparing to welcome visitors this season. Around 80 cruise ships have selected Akaroa as their Canterbury base this season which should really add some buzz to the town. Of course the buzz right now is about the world cup so we are wishing our boys all the best and of course the profile the event will create around the world will be huge. Also in this Breeze are details of our new treasure hunt, Lyttelton to France cruise and our latest promotions. Thanks for reading in advance.

Cheers Paul

Dolphins up close

If you have ever wondered how close we get to the rare Hector’s dolphins then this picture sums it up! So close in fact that not all of the dolphin fitted into the frame with its leap almost knocking the camera out of the guide’s hands. In truth this is a little unusual. Like us, teenage dolphins can get a bit excited sometimes and this one may have slightly misjudged his jump. An incredible sight for all on board though.


Akaroa chosen for Cruise liners

Lyttelton’s loss is Akaroa’s gain with the recent announcement that cruise ships will be visiting Akaroa on 72 days between October 2011 and April 2012. Here is the Press article on it. On 7 days there will be two cruise ships in the harbour at once. Cruise ships are an incredible sight in Akaroa dwarfing Black Cat which is normally the largest vessel around. If you fancy the buzz and excitement of cruise ship days then akaroa will be going off. If on the other hand you like to have the place to yourself you may want avoid those days. We have posted a schedule of cruise ship days on our web site.


The big Snow

Not once but twice Banks Peninsula and Christchurch got a huge dump of snow this winter. This did disrupt our cruises a few times with public transport shutting down the ferry and the road to Akaroa needing to be cleared to allow customers to get through. These images show how beautiful it was though and quite different to the normal scenes.


All Black Cat

The world’s eyes are focused on NZ for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and Black Cat are getting in behind the All Blacks. Not many people know in 1987 just days before winning the first world cup the All Blacks came for a cruise with us out on Akaroa Harbour. Maybe it was something in the air in Akaroa that made them kick on to win the world cup that year. Go the Blacks!


Akaroa triple treat

We’ve teamed up with the Akaroa Salmon and Akaroa Cooking School to create a great new cruise product this year. Aimed at groups of 15 or more the day starts with a two hour nature cruise of the harbour including a stop at the Salmon Farm to catch a fish. Then it’s on to the cooking school to turn the Salmon into a delicious feast. For more details contact alison@blackcat.co.nz


Treasure Hunt is back

We’re launching The Great Quail Island treasure hunt on 1st October. All you need to do is pick up a treasure map on the ferry on the way over, find the ‘x’ markers and solve a secret word. All correct entries win a $5 prize for the kids with 2 for 1 coffee for the hard working adults at coffee culture. Adults $25, Children $10. Departs daily at 10.20am and also 12.30pm during school holidays. Phone 03 328 9078.


Quail Tree Trail

We are proud to be helping with the planting of native trees on Quail Island. Its part of our commitment to give back as much as we can, and of course to help transform the island into a native paradise for wildlife. Black Cat will spend $50,000 via its Community and Environment fund on local projects in the next year.


Lyttelton to France

We have our once a year cruise from Lyttelton to Akaroa coming up on the 25th September with the following two Sundays as reserve days. It’s a unique way to see a part of Canterbury’s coastline few have seen, and of course to spend a peaceful day in Akaroa too. $99 for Adult, $49 for children. Includes cruise over and coach back. Tel 03 304 7641 to reserve your space.


Intercity to Akaroa

You might be interested to know that Intercity now have daily bus services to Akaroa. You can book this through your normal Intercity system or phone them direct (03) 365 1113 .http://www.intercity.co.nz/timetable/lookup/8615


Book a Christmas charter before end of Oct and get a free wine.

Have you organised your Xmas function yet? No? Forget the earth, head for the water for a great night out on the Canterbury Cat in Lyttelton harbour. Prices including food start at $55 per person with a free glass of wine to kick you off. Email alison@blackcat.co.nz for details.


Promotions and marketing

As spring is here, you may notice us increase our marketing efforts. Here are a few of the highlights:

We commence a TV1 advertising campaign 6th to 23rd October. TVC here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gz5PQ_YSpUk

Press Competition. Keep an eye out for full page ads early October with the chance to win one of 25 family passes on Akaroa Harbour Cruises).

Mastercard promotion featuring free fish n chips on: http://www.mastercard.com/nz/rwc/offers/details/#!/866256


Viator rates us tops

We’ve received a special commendation from Viator, one of the large on line travel companies. In recognition of our consistently high rankings we have earned ‘’top rated on Viator’’ status. See http://www.viator.com/search/akaroa


Blogging favourites

Check out this great blog on Akaroa


The shortest day is nearly upon us and whilst many are hoping it’s about to snow the fine weather has been great for cruising. We’ve had some special sightings of whales recently and hosted some VIPs including the former mayor of San Francisco and a NZ sports legend. We’re also looking forward to next summer already with many cruise ships confirming Akaroa as their Canterbury stop and also plans for a huge French Fest. In the meantime thanks for your continued support. We are operating right through the winter season every day.

Cheers Paul


One of the many damaged buildings after the devastating Christchurch earthquake

We extend our thoughts and condolences to everyone affected by the Christchurch earthquake on Feb 22nd.

For the benefit of our passengers and those looking to get away from the city, we want to let you know that everything is fully operational in Akaroa. Businesses and homes were not affected by the earthquake.

Akaroa Cruises and Dolphin Swimming:
Our cruises and dolphin swims are still going ahead as usual. If you are looking for accommodation, Akaroa currently has plenty of availability.

Lyttelton Wildlife Cruise Cancelled:
We regret The Christchurch Wildlife Cruise in Lyttelton has been cancelled for at least 6 months and possibly up to 1 year.

Canterbury Cat in Lyttelton:
We be operating the Canterbury Cat boat in Lyttelton for groups only and charters. Groups in excess of 20+ pax.

Diamond Harbour Ferry Operating:
Ferry services to Diamond Harbour are now back operating, departures from Lyttelton are every 10 minutes to the hour and from Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton on the hour. These ferry services are free until further notice.

Quail Island Ferry:
Quail Island Ferries commence again from the 14th of March.


Have you ever seen a cruise ship up close?  We see about 50 cruise ships a year docking in Lyttleton Harbour, and the sheer size of these ships never stops impressing us!  When we witness just how large these ships can be, we have to take a moment to consider what a feat of human ingenuity they are.

Cruise ships in Lyttelton


The Queen Mary 2

In January, the massive Diamond Princess Cruise Ship docked in Lyttelton and Black Cat was given the privilege of escorting the ship out of the harbour.  We gave our guests a very special two-hour ride alongside the Diamond Princess as she left Lyttelton for open sea.  A unique and memorable experience for everyone!

We had such a great time with the Diamond Princess that when we heard about the iconic Queen Mary 2 (QM2) docking in Lyttelton on the 26th of February, we jumped at the chance to escort this impressive ocean liner.

Once again, Black Cat will be offering cruise escort tours to our guests.  Join us for a two-hour tour on the 26th Feb 2011 (5:30pm to 7:30pm) as we accompany the Queen Mary 2 out of Lyttelton Harbour.

QM2’s classic design

We can’t wait for the chance to see this impressive liner up close and personal.  Unlike typical cruise ships, the QM2 was designed in the style of vintage ocean liners like the Queen Elizabeth 2 (built in 1967) and the original Queen Mary (built in 1936).

Her classic style lends her a very distinct look.  The design of the ship is so iconic that she’s even been the inspiration for cruise ships in movies like A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Poseidon and 2012.

Facts and figures

Be sure to head down to Lyttelton on February 26 to glimpse the ship from the public jetty.  Here are a few things to know about Lyttelton Harbour’s honoured guest for the day:


    • The QM2 was built in 2003 and was, at the time, the largest passenger ship ever built.  She has since been surpassed by a few cruise ships, but remains the largest ocean liner in the world.


    • To get a feel for the size of the ship, imagine Westminster Tower (Big Ben) in London.  Now imagine 3 and a half Big Bens stacked on top of each other…  That’s about the length of the QM 2.


    • The QM 2 has a passenger capacity of 2,620.


    • How do you keep 2,620 people entertained?  Well, the QM2 has an on-board cinema, shopping arcade, planetarium (the first planetarium at sea!), ten restaurants, spa, 8,000 volume library, five swimming pools, gym, basketball court, kennels and childcare facilities.  Not to mention the 300+ works of museum-quality art on display throughout the ship.


    • The QM2’s whistle is audible for 16 km.


Our captain is well-versed on the liner and will be entertaining guests of our tour with facts and anecdotes about the QM2.  And, of course, nothing beats an evening cruise of beautiful Lyttelton Harbour.  Keep your fingers crossed for the possibility of dolphin sightings!  Contact us for more information on our cruise ship escort tour.


Check out our most recent blog post about what is open in Christchurch since the earthquakes.

New Zealand is known for its outdoor adventures: for glaciers and fjords, volcanoes and pristine beaches. And while New Zealanders do love to be outside, the fact is that most of us live in developed urban areas.

Living in cities doesn’t mean we spend all our time in air-conditioned shopping malls and enjoy your time in Christchurch, like a true Cantabrian.

Friday 5-laaaaate


Botanic Gardens

For most of us, the weekend starts on Friday afternoons. Pick up some sandwich fillings, fresh bread and snacks in town and wander around the Botanic Gardens until you find the perfect picnic spot (there are some nice ones by the river, just be prepared to share with the ducks).

SOL Square

After dinner, head east, into the heart of town for some live music. SOL Square (which stands for South of Litchfield – conveniently describing the address) is a mainstay of the nightclub scene. The square features trendy bars and restaurants set hidden behind industrial brick buildings. You can definitely spend an evening bar-hopping here.



Arts Centre Craft Market

Walk off the remnants of last night at the Arts Centre craft market. Wander past the handmade jewellery, crafts, delicious ice creams and don’t miss out the fudge cottage. If the smell of the fried food is too much for you, catch a bus or drive to Lyttelton for the crisp, fresh aroma of the weekly farmer’s market.

Lyttelton Farmer’s Market

Once you’ve stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies (you know you’ll want a snack later in the afternoon), wander around Lyttelton’s hip main street. Pop into one of the many cafes for a latte and a sandwich. Lyttelton Coffee Company offers a great view from the back porch.

Hiking in the Port Hills

If you took a bus, strap your hiking boots on and get trekking over the Port Hills to Sumner Beach. The paths are well marked, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a map. The hike should take about 4 hours.

If you drove yourself to the harbour, you’re in for a treat. Take Sumner Road out of Lyttelton and then detour to the left when it intersects with Summit Road. Park at one of the lots off the main road for a scenic walk to burn off your lunch. Mountain bike trails are also plentiful, so definitely bring your bike. Once you’ve fully exhausted yourself, drive down into Sumner.

Fish & Chips on Sumner Beach

There should still be a few hours of sunlight left for you to enjoy this charming little beach town. Cool off in the temperate ocean, lie out on the sand and climb up Cave Rock (if you still have the energy!). When hunger strikes, pick up a package of fish and chips to enjoy by the beach. An ice cream cone while the sun sets is the perfect dessert.

If it’s not quite bedtime, catch a film at Sumner’s 70 year-old cinema—the only one of its kind still standing in Christchurch.



Beautiful Akaroa the French Colony

The last day of the weekend is popular for a day trip as we try to cram in a vacation before we have to head back to work. Akaroa is a good choice, since it is close enough for a day trip but worlds away from what we’re used to in Christchurch.

Known as New Zealand’s French colony, Akaroa isn’t exactly what most people would consider ‘French’, but it’s still awfully charming. Take a relaxing stroll down the Rue Lavaudor park yourself on a scenic bench with a book. Akaroa is a relaxing town you won’t realise you are only an hour drive from Christchurch.

Akaroa Cafes and Restaurants

There are plenty of boutique cafes and restaurants for lunch. Check out a few menus and choose whatever looks good. With an abundance of restaurants serving French cuisine, this may be the only taste of France you get in New Zealand.

Swimming with Dolphins in Akaroa Harbour

Enjoy an incredible experience swimming with the worlds smallest and rarest dolphins. Hector’s dolphins are protected in the Akaroa harbour by a marine mammal sanctuary and this cruise gives you the chance to see them up close.



Akaroa – Relax, Shop and Enjoy

The morning will be spent in lovely Akaroa. Take time out to read a book on a bench overlooking the harbour. Treat yourself to an ice cream and take a walk up the jetty at the gorgeous shops including the famous pearls from Akaroa.


Cruise on Akaroa Harbour

In the afternoon, hope on board a Black Cat cruise for a stunning tour of Akaroa Harbour. You’ll get a great look at the marine wildlife that makes its home in the area including fur seals, penguins and the tiny Hector’s dolphin.

Barry’s Bay Cheese Factory

Drive back to Christchurch on the shuttle or your rental car and make sure you stop in to pick up some award winning cheese from Barry’s Bay Cheese factory. These are produced with some of the finest milk from the pastures of the Banks Peninsula.

We hope you enjoy your stay in Christchurch and have seen many of the wonderful Christchurch attractions.


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


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.

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

Downtown Christchurch Sightseeing


Hagley Park Christchurch. Photo credit Flickr


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


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


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.”


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.

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.