Banks Peninsula: The Most Quintessential New Zealand Drive

Banks Peninsula New Zealand

There are endless beautiful drives in New Zealand, but this one took us completely by surprise. The Banks Peninsula is set in one of the most gorgeous areas of the country. And beyond being able to see rolling hills and ocean for miles there’s actually something more! It’s the kind of views that make you think fairy’s are real and magic exists. It’s literally stunning New Zealand in its most pure form. So join us for our afternoon hike to the top of the Banks Peninsula, and our drive on the incredible summit road in New Zealand.

Our Banks Peninsula Summit Drive 

Our adventure started in the small and charming town of Akaroa. After a few days of exploring the French influenced seaside town and stuffing our faces with baguettes and chocolate croissants, we we were ready to see more. On the drive in we had seen a small sign on a road that sharply cut up the mountainside marked “tourist route.”

Overall, New Zealand has done an amazing job marking its popular roads and trails. So if there is a particular tourist route marked it’s bound to be good! We could only imagine how insane the views were as we stared up to the top of the imposing mountain ridge.

With that, we hopped in our Jucy Van rental and made the very slow climb to the top of the Banks Peninsula. While our van thankfully made it up the steep road there were more than a few moments where we questioned it! Nevertheless, our campervan scooted along until we finally got to the top and WOW! What a view! 

Tourist Drive

Banks Peninsula Drive Route

Cruising the Summit Road

Once we made it to the top of the drive, the actual Banks Peninsula summit road was smooth without too much incline. With each twist and turn of the road we had a different view of the massive peninsula. From the large fields of sheep to ocean views and even small beaches in the distance, it felt like we could see forever!

There are several pull over/lookout spots that you can take in the views from. However, the best choice we made was actually to pull over and get to higher ground. There are many great hikes in the area, and we decided to go with the Otepatotu Scenic Reserve one hour loop.

Banks Peninsula Summit Road

Otepatotu Scenic Reserve

We picked the Otepatotu Scenic Reserve because it was right in the middle of our drive. While it’s only an hour in total, this short but steep hike will be a welcome break from the winding roads of the Banks Peninsula.

There also happens to be two EPIC viewpoints. One at the top of the hike, and the other shortly after you start your climb. Note that it could also be done at the end depending on what way you complete the loop. We unpacked some sandwiches and snacks at the top, and enjoyed our lunch while overlooking the Banks Peninsula New Zealand.

Otepatotu Banks Peninsula Hike Start

Otepatotu Scenic Reserve

Banks Peninsula Hike

Tips for Your Banks Peninsula Drive

1. Take the ride on a clear day where you are able to fully enjoy the amazing views of the Banks Peninsula.

2. Pack a lunch or snack to have at one of the many lookout points along the road or during your hike.

3. Make sure to fill up on gas before taking off. There are no shops, stores, or gas stations along the summit road. If you do need anything you’ll have to wait till you’re back at ocean level to visit one of the small towns. Even you aren’t going to stay at the campgrounds, you can extend your drive and explore some of the more remote areas of the Banks Peninsula.

4. If you’re in a camper you can make it an overnight trip by staying at one of the campgrounds in Little Akaloa or Pigeon Bay.

5. Make a full day of it! Take the Banks Peninsula drive in, or out of town. We did it as an afternoon of exploring, but you can easily drive the summit road on your way to or from Akaroa.

Banks Peninsula Summit Road

Arriving Back in Akaroa

Our drive along the summit road with cutting down to Pigeon Bay, and our Banks Peninsula hike made for a full afternoon of fun.

We arrived back in Akaroa, pulled into our freedom camping spot, and hit the town just in time for happy hour to watch the sunset. Hands down a trip to the Banks Peninsula isn’t complete without taking a ride on the summit road!

Where To Stay In Akaroa New Zealand

Ultra Luxury  – Blythcliffe – Built in 1857, this historic building will be your perfect stay near Akaroa harbor. Enjoy a home cooked breakfast and the views of the hills, all within a short stroll to town. 

Fun Vacation – Akaroa Waterfront Motels – Simple private units right on the water with balcony views of Akaroa. Just a quick walk along the harbor to the main part of Akaroa town center. 

Town CenterAkaroa Village Inn – Studio & apartment units with private kitchens and balconies overlooking the ocean! Clean and modern units in our favorite area of town. 

Cabins & CampersAkaroa Top 10 Holiday Park –Located above the town center this is the perfect place if you are traveling with a camper and also offers couple and family cabins. 

For more places to stay near Banks Peninsula New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!

Akaroa Harbour

Have any questions about our afternoon exploring the Banks Peninsula in New Zealand? How about any other New Zealand drives that we should know about? Let us know in the comments below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar

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New Zealand Travel Planning 

Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.

 Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll still need a vehicle to get around. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Auckland to Queenstown for $40 USD, and New Zealand to Fiji for less than $150! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best deal such as and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials


South Island New Zealand

Travel Tips & Guides:  10 Helpful NZ Travel TipsNorth Island ItinerarySouth Island Itinerary25 Beautiful BeachesWellington to Picton Ferry15 Freedom Camping Tips27 Delicious Food & Drinks7 Milford Sound Tips

Queenstown: Ben Lomond TrackFergburger (Is it Worth It?)Tiki Trail HikeFun Wine TourQueenstown Hill Hike18 Fun Queenstown Things to DoQueenstown RestaurantsArrowtown NZ

North Coast: Abel Tasman Day HikeWharariki Beach & Archway Islands6 Picton Things to Do 

Mt. Cook & Tekapo: 10 Mount Cook TipsHooker Valley Track5 Can’t Miss Lake Tekapo 

East Coast: Tunnel Beach DunedinHanmer SpringsKaikoura

Explore all our North Island New Zealand Travel Tips & Guides

South Island New Zealand

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