Located in the Canterbury region
See rare Hectors dolphins, take a short bush walk, or tackle a more challenging day or overnight tramp as you explore its extensive coastline, steep volcanic landscape and historic townships.
The Summit Road, which follows the crater rim of the extinct volcano, makes for some extremely scenic - and thrilling - driving. Most of the reserves on the peninsula are close to the summit road.
Banks Peninsula is near Christchurch on the east coast of the South Island. Its many reserves are scattered all over the peninsula and best accessed by car.
Akaroa, 83 km from Christchurch is situated on the edge of a deep harbour. Allow 1.5 hours driving as the Christchurch to Akaroa Highway climbs and turns steeply.
The roads on Banks Peninsula are winding, steep, narrow and not all are sealed. Some are four-wheel drive only. Parking is limited for some reserves. Drive cautiously.
Pick-ups and drop-offs near the ends of the Summit Walkway can be arranged through the two local bus services.
There are two bus services to Akaroa: Akaroa Shuttle (0800 500 929) and French Connection (+64 3 366 4556).
The NewTopo map “Banks Peninsula Port Hills and Te Ara Pātaka” (1:65 000) gives good coverage of the whole area. For greater detail the Topo50 maps BX24 Christchurch, BX25 Duvauchelle, BY24 Birdlings Flat and BY25 Akaroa together cover the whole of Banks Peninsula.
Banks Peninsula was formed over six million years ago, following the violent eruptions of two volcanoes. Craters form the harbours of Lyttelton and Akaroa with many smaller bays indenting the coastline.
The original Banks Peninsula forest had similar plants 20,000 years ago as we find today. Much of the remaining forest was felled or burned during the first 50 years of European occupation.
Forest remnants provide refuges for native forest birds, including bellbird/korimako, wood pigeon/kererū, silvereye, pūkeko, fantail/pīwakawaka, tomtit/miromiro, grey warbler/riroriro, riflemen/tītitipounamu, and brown creeper/pīpipi.
A marine mammal sanctuary around Banks Peninsula protects the rare Hector’s dolphin/upokohue, while the Akaroa Marine Reserve and nearby Pohatu Marine Reserve in Flea Bay protect marine sea-life. Visit Akaroa Marine Reserve and Pohatu Marine Reserve.
Banks Peninsula is commonly known to Maori as Horomaka. It's also known as Te Pataka o Rakaihautū, meaning the storehouse of Rakaihautū, who was a legendary explorer.
Waitaha, Ngāti Mamoe and Ngāi Tahu all lived in or moved through the area. By 1820 Ngāi Tahu had many settlements and pā around the peninsula. In the 1820’s fighting between hapū (family groups) began. Known as the Kai Huanga feud, it continued until the threat of Te Rauparaha in the early 1830’s brought the families back together.
In 1840 French settlers arrived at Akaroa, which had just been claimed by the English under the Treaty of Waitangi. As the site of the only attempted settlement by the French in New Zealand, Akaroa is unique.
Some of the first European settlements in Canterbury were whaling stations.
Five concrete structures on the hilltop east of Tauhinukorokio/Mt Pleasant represent a command post and four gun positions. They are the remains of a World War II (1939-1945) Heavy Anti-aircraft Artillery (HAA) battery. Read about Tauhinukorokio/Mt Pleasant Heavy Anti-aircraft Artillery Battery.
Motukarara Conservation Nursery grows Canterbury plants exclusively. View information on the nursery and how to plan and maintain a native garden.
Enjoy magnificent views over Banks Peninsula, the Canterbury plains, Southern Alps and Pacific Ocean on this track, which is about an hour's drive from Christchurch.
Auckland and parts of the Waikato are at Level 3. DOC huts and campsites are closed in these regions. The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2.