Port 6: Akaroa
Akaroa was my favourite stop on our cruise.
Akaroa is a small town, on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, about an hour or so north of Christchurch.
While we were sailing between Dunedin and Akaroa, we were talking about what we were going to do in Akaroa, and for some reason, it only just dawned on me while we were talking about it, that we needed to go dolphin watching.
Akaroa is a very special place for dolphin watching as it is the only place in the world where you can see Hector Dolphins. So we actually booked on a tour while we were sailing up the coast so that we didn't miss out, as there were only a few spots left and the other sailings for the day were either sold out or didn't work with our timing.
On the morning we arrived in Akaroa, we did as we had been doing every morning, getting up, breakfast, get organised and then leave. So Akaroa is a tender port, so again we had to go and get tender tickets, which we were there quite early so we got on an early tender, and they were using all of them to get everyone ashore. When we got ashore, we had a little bit of time before we had to head off for the scenic cruise, so we wandered around the shops and restaurants by the wharf. Once we'd had a little wander, it was time for our cruise, we cruised with BlackCat who also do swim with the dolphin excursions, but we were just on a scenic nature cruise. So all the scenic cruises we looked at had a guarantee that you would see dolphins, and that was all I wanted, so I was sold.
We really enjoyed our cruise, it was spectacular, we were on the boat for about 30 minutes and the captain comes on over the loudspeaker and says that there are dolphins coming up. It was incredible, how many we saw as we were cruising, and just how close they got to the boat as well. Hector's dolphins are one of the smallest and rarest dolphins in the world, and you can only find them on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. There are also certain restrictions surrounding them because they are an endangered species, there can only be 3 boats around them at one time. There weren't too many other boats around, so we stayed as long as they played around in the water, but once they disappeared we carried on with the other stops on our tour.
So the tour goes past a few other spots that the cruise passes by on its way to find dolphins. Including the lighthouse, Akaroa's Cathedral Cove, the 'Elephant Head' cliff, which (kinda) looks like well an elephant, the Maori village Onuku as well the volcanic cliffs that make up the Banks Peninsula. But its the wildlife that everyone comes for, not only did we see dolphins, but we saw native birds, a penguin, and a load of New Zealand fur seals hanging out on the rocks.
If your ever in Akaroa doing one of these nature cruises is something I would highly recommend, there are a few different companies that do them, and they basically go to the same places its not too different in pricing either, we checked, for us we went with BlackCat because they had space available on their cruise, but we had a fabulous day on the water, and really enjoyed it.
You end up being on the cruise for about an hour — which goes super quick — but once we got back to land, we decided to get some lunch at a local (read: busy but delicious) fish and chip shop and then walk into the main town area, which we could see from the wharf. So we did that, and then wandered back to the wharf to get a tender back to the ship, and that was our stay in Akaroa.
Akaroa is a beautiful little town, lots of history, still very french-inspired which is nice to see a little town embracing its heritage.
Our next stop, Wellington.