Nearest town: Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula. Duvauchelle is closer but is just a general store and hotel.
Type of track: loop from the carpark
Official distance: maybe 3km return from the carpark, double that from Duvauchelle hotel.
Official time: 1 hour
Jenny’s time: I was there for about 4 hours!
Toilets: no, or maybe at the Duvauchelle Hotel
Tips: The peninsula is a sacred Maori site, so no eating is allowed on it!
The Onawe Peninsula juts out into Akaroa Harbour like an elongated pyramid, connected to the mainland only by a thin ridge reminiscent of a dragon’s spiny backbone.
It’s clearly visible from the Summit road along the Banks Peninsula to Akaroa, the one that winds right along the top of the peninsula. Not only is this road extremely fun to drive (but watch out for livestock on the road!) but it has absolutely spectacular views, and the Onawe Peninsula is one of the most recognizable features of the view over Akaroa Harbour.
To get to the Onawe Peninsula, take Highway 75 between Christchurch and Akaroa, and turn off on Onawe Flat Road, which loops around the near end of the peninsula. Unfortunately this doesn’t get you onto the summit road, but if you’re coming from Christchurch you can stop at Barry’s Bay Cheese for some samples, so it’s not all bad!
If you want to take the summit road, there are a few roads that connect it to Highway 75, such as Pigeon Bay road, Pipers Valley Road, or Okains Bay road. I highly recommend making a loop route of some kind here, taking the summit road one way and the coastal Highway the other.
You can park at the end of Onawe Flat road, but the lot there is quite small. An alternative is to park at the Duvauchelle Hotel and walk down Onawe Flat road. It winds right along the shoreline, past boathouses and old wooden docks, as well as tidal mud flats.
A walk onto the Onawe Peninsula is a very chilled-out, easy way to spend a couple of hours in the sunshine. Don’t go at high tide because the ridge is crumbly and covered in vegetation so you have to walk on the beach next to it, which means you get to see the cool patterns in the rock at the same time!
Once you get past the ridge, it’s an easy grassy path up onto the hill, with a path going around it through the forest and then up onto the top for some great views of the harbour and back to the mainland.
Because of its very stragetic position and surroundings, of course the Onawe peninsula was a Maori pā site. In 1831 the site was attacked by a rival tribe and up to 1200 people died here. There is a rather full, slightly confusing, and a little bit horrifying account of the battle here, if you’re interested.
The Maori consider this to be a sacred site. I’m not sure if the sacredness comes from the tragedy here, or if it’s because the site was formerly the home of a guardian spirit, which was possibly scared away by the first sound of a musket firing. Either way, it is asked that you refrain from eating while on the peninsula.
Once I got back onto the mainland, I took a walk along the beach West of the peninsula, where some people were fishing for flounder in the shallow water. It was fascinating to watch them pulling in their huge nets and taking the fish out! I was hoping they’d offer me one to take home for my dinner, but no luck.
So take an hour or two and go enjoy some time in the sunshine on the Onawe Peninsula, and its surrounding areas!