Akaroa New Zealand – for beach, wildlife, great seafood

Akaroa New Zealand

Akaroa New Zealand Harbour and cloudy skyWe are wildlife voyeurs and take every opportunity to experience the animals in their natural habitats on all of our travels. When Coast Up Close Wildlife Adventures invited us to join them while we were on New Zealand’s South Island, we planned a couple days in Akaroa New Zealand. So glad we did! See Akaroa with us …

While we were invited guests on the Coast Up Close boat tour, this is a totally independent honest review. I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions are my own based on my experience.

Akaroa New Zealand is a small town with an aqua blue harbour and a small beach. The beachfront is lined with shops, restaurants and pubs, gardens, and quaint historical sights. It’s lovely to stroll along the waterfront. Be sure to visit the pier where boats leave on all sorts of water excursions – from harbor cruises, kayaking, to diving. The pier houses the Blue Pearl gallery, a shop whose owners farm blue pearls in abalone and make gorgeous jewelry; there is a free film about the process and browsing is encouraged.

Anyone who visits Akaroa New Zealand should not leave without trying the local salmon and the local mussels. We had the salmon fish and chips grilled fresh from the truck on the end of the pier. The woman proprietor buys her fish directly from the fisherman at the dock. I purchased fresh fish to cook at home also. Yum!

Why Akaroa New Zealand?

A quaint beach town, settled by the French on a calm bay on the Banks Peninsula, is a great place to relax. Akaroa New Zealand offers great eating – fresh fish, grilled on the docks, or in the restaurants dotting the shoreline. Restaurants also offer great local brews and wonderful New Zealand wine; the local New Zealand fruits are juicy and delicious. Find all sorts of water play opportunities to indulge in – from sailing, diving, swimming with the local Hector dolphins, fishing, and of course wildlife excursions, of which there are many. We went with Coast Up Close and recommend them over the other operations.

Driving from Christchurch to Akaroa New Zealand treats the visual senses to the beauty of farmland, hill and mountain-scapes, and sea views. It is a short 90 minute beautiful drive from Christchurch to Akaroa.

Why Choose Coast Up Close?

Akaroa New Zealand Coast Up Close Captain TonyThe operation has a seasoned captain who ran boats for other operators before starting Coast Up Close. They have won several Certificates of Excellence from TripAdvisor and are an approved Department of Conservation operator who supports conservation worldwide.

Captain Tony knows the waters, and where to see various types of wildlife very close to their habitats. His boat is smaller than most that offer a similar tour, and that is a big plus. The smaller boat enables closer encounters with baby seal pups, dolphins, shags, and other wildlife compared to the large catamarans. Coast Up Close provides a more intimate experience, and Tony talks with everyone, making all feel very comfortable.

We saw Hector dolphins, little blue penguins, several types of cormorants or shags, seals, and pools with seal pups playing. All in all we had a fun time with Tony and Anna who is also very adept at running the boat while Tony shares information and local lore with guests. He is also a great photographer – view his photos.

The Boat

Originally a fishing boat built in 1964, the captain, Tony, renovated and restored her to a reliable twin engine leisure boat that comfortably seats over 30 people. People can easily move around from the fore-deck to the saloon, wheelhouse, upper deck or back deck for a variety of viewing options. The boat is comfortable, and offers indoor and outdoor seating. We took advantage of both. Have a look at the boat.

Be prepared

Take clothing layers, and a rain jacket. It can get windy, cool, and wet without warning, or sunny and hot. It is a 2.5 hour experience, leaving at either 10:15 or 1:45. We chose to go in the morning, when the waters are usually calmer.


If going to New Zealand’s South Island, definitely fit Akaroa into your trip; for the wildlife harbor tour, the food, activities, and the quaint beach town.  I recommend Captain Tony and Coast Up Close. In 2017, the cost was $75 NZ per person, and well worth the price.

14 thoughts on “Akaroa New Zealand – for beach, wildlife, great seafood

  1. Akaroa is lovely – so long as a cruise ship is not in port – and then it’s totally over-run! The whole area is a delight and we enjoyed staying in the camping ground with the view across town. The wildlife tour looks fun

    • I agree; don’t go when a cruise ship is in. Our original plan had us there when a cruise ship was in and I rearranged our route to go different days. I am positive that it was a much better experience. The cruise ships are planned well in advance, and the tour operators all know when they are due in. All one needs to do is contact a tour operator and ask when the cruise ships are in port. Then you can plan around them.

    • We spent 7 weeks in New Zealand; 4.5 weeks in the South Island and 2.5 in the North Island. It still wasn’t enough to see everything we wanted to see or get a good feel for each place. I plan to post on a different place from this trip weekly, so please follow the blog so you can use it your planning. Happy travels!

  2. We visited Akaroa during a 2002 trip to New Zealand. It was in November (their spring) and I am wearing my winter coat in all the photos. We didn’t go on any wildlife tours and were actually only there for a few hours on a bus tour from Christchurch. You’re right about the scenery on the ride over—quite beautiful through curtains of fog. Every now and then, the fog would lift and we’d be surrounded by the green countryside. It was actually quite dramatic.

    • If you ever get back there, try to plan it for their summer. While it might be cool on the water even in summer, it is quite lovely when the sun is shining! I recommend a full day there at the very least. The organized trips rush you through each area and don’t give enough time to see really see a place – no matter where you go. So we prefer to organize our own trips and take charge of our transportation.

  3. I had a brief visit to Akaroa when I was staying in Christchurch a few years ago. I found it quite fun and quirky – I’d love to go back for longer, and to try one of those wildlife trips.

    • It’s exhilarating for me to interact with the wildlife. I’ll be posting about more of those experiences over the next several months, as I write about this 4 month trip.

    • The wildlife on this 4 month trip was just as spectacular as the scenery. Over the next 3-4 months, I will be posting about each of the different places we visited over the next 4 months. Please check them out.

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