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Banks Peninsula

An ancient volcanic landmark

bankspenBanks Peninsula was formed by volcanic action a great many years ago. The area is large with many hills and valleys, rocky headlands and numerous beaches, many are excellent for swimming, fishing, scuba diving and many other activities. The area is popular for day trips and recreation for Christchurch residents, be it the beaches or walking trails through the hills.

When NZ was colonised, the area was mostly forest which was used milled for the building of Christchurch city. To facilitate this the Little River stream was dammed and a canal built which took logs as far as the township of Tai Tapu and there was also a railway which carried both passengers and freight. Today the former railway line has become a popular cycleway and the railway station has become an arts and crafts store.

From Christchurch there is a good two lane bitumen highway from Christchurch to Akaroa and today Little River is little more than a general store & cafe, recently rebuilt after a fire with a range of goods from grocery items to local art works. There are several other cafe's and the area is a mecca for water birds with black swans, geese, herons and many others which inhabit the old dam.

Of interest is Tumble-down Bay, to get there turn right as you enter Little river, however you need to be a confidant driver for the single lane unsealed road. There is excellent sheltered swimming and if lucky you may encounter dolphins.
After Little River, the road is very winding and patience with slow drivers is reguired. A point of interest is an old Totara tree set in a reserve off the highway on French Hill which is said to be over 2000 years old. Nearby is the hilltop hotel which affords a view over Akaroa harbour.

If you are travelling with children, Wainui on the Western side of Akaroa harbour has a good swimming beach and picnic area. There are no cafes, here, only a couple of home stays and the French Farm Winery. To get here, take the turn off after descending the hill to the cheese factory.

lookout

Birdlings Flat, you need to be careful of the waves

Driving time to Akaroa is just over an hour from Christchurch and well serviced by bus. However to visit places off the main road, you need to drive or be driven. Other bays are Okains Bay and Little Akaloa. The northern side of the peninsula can be driven and even the main road can be precarious and covered in snow in winter.

Birdlings flat has a wild stony beach where folk go to  search for agates, a semi precious stone. Agate was once abundant, but you have to be lucky to find a few good pieces today.

The main highway follows; Christchurch - Halswell - Taitapu - Motukarara - Ataahua - Birdlings Flat (in the image left, you need to be careful of the waves) - Little River - Cooptown - Over French Hill - Davauchelle - Robinsons Bay - Takawatua - Akaroa.

Alternate 1 routes are from Christchurch - Lyttleton - Governors bay - Teddington - Gebbies Valley and continues as above from Motukarara.

Alternate 2 routes are from Christchurch - Lyttleton - Governors bay - Teddington - Daimond Harbour and along the north coastal route.

Former Christchurch Mayor, Bob Parker introduces the Banks Peninsula Walkway

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