The town is 84 kilometres (52 mi) by road from Christchurch and is the terminus of State Highway 75. It is set on a sheltered harbour and is overlooked and surrounded by the remnants of a miocene volcano. Akaroa is entirely dependent upon rainfall on the hills.
Akaroa is a popular resort town. Many Hector’s dolphins may be found within the harbour, and ‘swim with the dolphins’ boat tours are a major tourist attraction. In the 2013 New Zealand census, the permanent population was 624, an increase of 9.5% since 2006.