This rewarding scenic route to Akaroa on Banks Peninsula begins on the Summit Road on Christchurch’s Port Hills. The return journey can be made via the peninsula’s remote harbours and bays on its northern coastline—in total an enjoyable day excursion from Christchurch.
Via Port Hills & SH 75, 97 km, 1.5 hours
Drive to Sumner village (ice-cream shop and café), then follow your nose up the valley to find the Evans Pass Road. A left turn at the pass takes you to Godley Head (walks, views), and a right turn puts you on the Summit Road, which follows the crest of the Port Hills to Gebbies Pass (1 hour). Exceptional views across Lyttelton Harbour and the Canterbury Plains can be experienced from a number of walks and viewpoints en route. You’ll also come across two historic walking houses—the Sign of the Kiwi (now a café) and the Sign of the Bellbird (disused). The road is narrow and must be shared with cyclists, runners and walkers.
SH 75 is joined below Gebbies Pass at the very good Blue Duck Café. The highway skirts the shallow Lake Ellesmere and turns northeast towards Lake Forsyth and Little River village. The popular Little River Café offers great coffee and lunches, and has a very interesting gallery of contemporary artworks for sale.
Barrys Bay/Duvauchelle: campground, swimming, fishing
From Little River the road climbs to a saddle below French Hill with views over Akaroa Harbour from the Hilltop Tavern (and café). On reaching the cabbage tree–lined harbour at Barrys Bay you can buy locally made cheeses, or turn right and drive 3 km to French Farm winery, now offering a fancy lunch menu as well as winetasting and sales. Heading towards Akaroa you next encounter Duvauchelle village where the Duvauchelle Store and Bistro presents a good menu, or try the old Post and Telegraph office for home-cooked fare, a lot of which is organic. Both have views down the harbour.
Akaroa: campground, swimming, fishing, marine mammals
Historic homes nestle amid the new at Akaroa, which markets its French heritage to the hilt. European architecture, cafés, wine bars, galleries and craft shops lend a relaxed Mediterranean air to the settlement.
A recommended return journey to Christchurch is along the Summit Road above Akaroa back to the saddle at the Hilltop Tavern. From Akaroa take Long Bay Road (past Akaroa Winery and Café) and turn left onto the Summit Road. As well as offering fine views, the road provides access to Le Bons, Okains, Little Akaloa and Pigeon bays. There’s a serviced motor camp at Le Bons Bay, and a museum, shop and fuel at Okains. The road between Pigeon Bay and Port Levy is unsealed in places and recommended only for 4WD vehicles.
Lyttelton–Diamond Harbour/Purau Bay/Port Levy:
This route rounds Lyttelton Harbour (café at Governors Bay), and passes Charteris Bay (good swimming beach) to reach Diamond Harbour (Godley House Café and gardens). A sealed road (narrow and winding) continues to Purau Bay (swimming beach) and on to Port Levy (12 km from Diamond Harbour).