Off the Beaten Track to... Okains Bay
Okains Bay (Okeina) is a small settlement, beach and bay on the Banks Peninsula (80 minutes' drive from Christchurch) on the South Island and located approximately 15km from Akaroa. The small bay has a camping ground which offers an idyllic and quiet camping spot for families especially. It has safe, sandy beaches for water sports and swimming and a playground for the children.
It is a great place to stay - near too, but not too close to the popular tourist destination of Akaroa. And the settlement of Okains Bay close to the campground makes for delightful exploration – think ice creams, local history and scenic walks.
Waitangi Day (6th February) – New Zealand's national day is a very special time for the local Māori and Pakeha community. Waitangi Day was first celebrated at the museum in 1977 and is the longest continuous celebration in the South Island. This is not the time to visit if you want a peaceful retreat, as Okains Bay plays hosts to thousands of visitors who gather for hangi, speeches, waka launches and traditional games and activities.
Things To Do
- Okains Bay Māori and Colonial Museum – View over 3000 Māori items including several waka (war canoes) as well as colonial items from yesteryear. A smithy, colonial cottage and printing shop are highlights, plus the whakaata (meeting house).
- Okains Bay Store – Drop in for an ice-cream at the longest continually operating store in New Zealand (which opened in 1873).
- Little Okains Walk – Visit Little Okains Bay, an important part of the history of Ngai Tahu and Māori settlement of Banks Peninsula. Enjoy stunning sights and the sound of bellbirds and other native birds as you walk from Okains Bay to this idyllic spot (you will probably have the beach to yourself).
- Big Hill – Take some great photos of Okains Bay and the whole valley up on the Big Hill Road (just off the main road before the entrance to the camping ground). An easy 10 minute walk, the road is not suitable for campervans.
- St Luke's Church, Little Akaloa – Built in 1906 to replace the 1874 church destroyed by fire, this small church is still often used for weddings. A visit is highly recommended due to the decorative work inside using Māori motifs.
- Barry Bay Cheese Factory – In the late 1890s, there were numerous small cheese factories in the area, today there is just one. Alongside (delicious) cheeses, the factory offer a wide range of wines, local preserves, honeys, oils, antipasto items and gifts. Well worth a visit.
- Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run – Find out more about the Peninsula's natural and social history on a guided tour with a former conservation ranger. Each tour takes four and half hours through stunning scenery and includes a beach front homemade morning tea, visit to a historic church and short walk on Le Bons Bay beach.
- Akaroa Village – This historic town has a very French flavour and offers plenty of shops to explore, cafes, galleries, museums and boating trips including an opportunity to swim with the dolphins.
- Walks – Enjoy a stroll through the area's parks and reserves: Ellangowan Scenic Reserve, Montgomery Park Scenic Reserve Walk, Nikau Palm Gully Scenic Reserve Walk and the Tutakakahikura Scenic Reserve. Find out more about the premier walking track, The Banks Peninsula Track.
- Black Cat Cruises – Cruise around an extinct volcanic crater and experience majestic scenery and stunning wildlife including dolphins, penguins and other sea birds.
To help plan your holiday in the Akaroa and Banks Peninsula region, simply choose from the main categories below:
More Off the Beaten Track Suggestions
If you want to discover some of New Zealand's hidden treasures, travel to some out-of-the-way places and see sites that many travellers and tourists miss out on, look at more of our 'Off the Beaten Track' suggestions.