Formed from the remains of two now extinct volcanoes, the Banks Peninsula today offers the visitor outstanding natural beauty and abundant marine life. It is a great getaway, with scenic bays and harbours, steep green slopes covered in wildflowers and unique wildlife. The Banks Peninsula Track is a great hiking trail that can be completed in several days, staying in mountain huts. There are also opportunities for sailing, kayaking and surfing, and it is a good place to swim with Hector’s dolphins, the world’s rarest. Okains Bay has a good sandy beach, and is growing in popularity due to its great surf and village atmosphere. Around the peninsula are colonies of seals and nesting penguins.
Akaroa was established by French settlers just after the British colonisation of New Zealand, and the town still has a distinctly French charm. There are great cafés and boutiques along its quaint streets, nice colonial architecture and restaurants serving French cuisine. Even the street names are French. The Akaroa Harbour is spectacular, and is a great place to take a cruise. There are also lavender fields, wineries and specialty cheese shops in and around Akaroa.