New Zealand,  Oceania,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Akaroa (New Zealand): encounter with Hector dolphins

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

The sale of farm products in “honesty box”

The road from Christchurch to Akaroa is, at the beginning, nothing extraordinary. We are just happy to come across a farm selling eggs (between NZ$5 and NZ$6 a dozen) and manuka honey. It’s very easy to spot this kind of farms, they put signs on the side of the road with the list of products sold. For eggs, people usually come with their cardboard, but for tourists like us, they give free cartons. When it’s marked “free range”, it means that the hens have access to the outside

Either the farmer is there and we type the discussion, or we pay in “honesty box” by leaving money in a box. But manuka honey is too expensive for the lady to leave it in a self-service box (NZ$24!)

Moreover, if you go to New Zealand, buy a small jar: from a wild shrub of New Zealand, cousin of the tea tree family (“tea tree”). manuka honey has antibacterial properties. There is an index called UMF to measure its properties. Above 10, it is excellent for the skin. The UMF 18 index is the holy grail, but honey will cost much more too. My little jar doesn’t have a UMF index (normal, you have to pay to get this index, something a small producer won’t do) but the producer tells me that the neighbor’s horse wound closed in only 3 days thanks to this honey, so I can spread it on my face without any worries

The view on Akaroa

The second part of the path is much more interesting, even if it is an unpaved road. At one point, our GPS had the intention to save us 5 minutes by making us pass by a “4WD only” path (only for 4×4). Having engaged without asking too many questions we took this way, we advise you against it!

Fortunately, we can return very quickly to the main path and admire the view of Akaroa. On the left or on the right, the landscapes are sumptuous. We do not regret to drive at 50km/h to join this very postcard city where there are French flags everywhere. The French occupied these places a long time ago, but nobody speaks French there now. France could have colonized New Zealand but it was overtaken by the English within a few weeks. What a pity!

The campsite

We spend the night at Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park. When we see “Top 10” in the name of the campsite, we know that it is more expensive than the others, but whose quality is guaranteed. The unlimited hot shower is an obviousness, as well as the presence of a swimming pool and corner of plays for the children. We do not have many choices in Akaroa so we will choose this one

JB has too much trouble parking at the top of the hill, but an experienced New Zealander, observing the scene from his balcony, tells us how to proceed. It is good, we are well installed! With a nice view on the bay as a bonus

Day 2: Black Cat Cruise

The area is very well known for its Hector’s dolphins, the smallest in the world, and only found in New Zealand. The chances to see them is 98% according to the commercial leaflets. Moreover, the boats offer you to come back for free another day if you don’t see the dolphins

I don’t know which fly stung me, I had the intention to observe dolphins in the North Island, but I decided at the last moment to go and see them here. Moreover, the Kiwipal site that I like very much advises to see them here, to the detriment of Kaikoura or Bay of Islands. Decision taken, we run to Black Cat’s office, the blue house on the pier. It is 18h sharp, we still have a few seconds to reserve our excursion for the following day at 11h (in fact, considering the low season, we could have shown up the following morning without reservation)

The next day, we embark at 11 am for 2 hours by boat. The landscapes are always so pretty, we saw some caves, some seals and birds… and at the moment of leaving the bay to join the ocean, who do we see? 3 Hector dolphins running towards us! A boat is next to us, with 2 guys in the water. They paid for the cruise “swimming with the dolphins”. I don’t know if I should say “the poor” or “the lucky ones”? The water is icy because it comes from the glaciers, but swimming with 15 wild dolphins next to us must be OUT!!!

What an incredible opportunity! 15 dolphins! Even the captain does not understand what is going on. Usually, they see a group of 5 or 6 dolphins, but today, we see 3 groups. The wind is weird too, usually it blows from the land to the ocean. Today, it blows at 90°, creating a lot of waves, and disorienting the fish, which attracts our famous dolphins

We spend a good twenty minutes watching them, they may be the smallest in the world but they are very strong, swim fast, surf the waves like nobody else. What a pleasure to observe them so closely

We leave Akaroa, and don’t regret having completely changed our itinerary to see the dolphins. Moreover, the bay is magnificent!

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • There are some very tempting campsites in the area, which can be accessed by unpaved roads. But if it is marked “4WD only”, I advise you against it, especially if you have a camper van. There is room for only one car, and the slopes are so steep that we thought we wouldn’t survive it
  • A nice picnic area is just in the town of Duvauchelle.
  • For a beautiful view of Akaroa, it is better to go there in the afternoon when the tide is high. In the morning, with the low tide, the view is less good
  • It is possible to visit Akaroa in one day, before returning the car or taking the plane to Christchurch. There are 2 boat trips per day: at 11am and 1pm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *