Akaroa │ A French Town in New Zealand
During our last few days in New Zealand, we stayed in the Christchurch area with friends. From there we did a couple of really great day-trips. Our first little drive was out to Akaroa, a small town on Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand. The name Akaroa is Kāi Tahu Māori for “Long Harbour”, which would be spelled “Whangaroa” in standard Māori. On a sunny morning, after a nice relaxing sleep-in, we jumped into our car (which we only had for two more days) and drove the 84 km from Christchurch to Akaroa.
“The most French town in New Zealand, Akaroa will have you entranced with its historic buildings, magnificent harbour and passion for fine food.”
– 100% Pure New Zealand
In all of our research (a total of 12 minutes 😂), we discovered that the best way to explore Akaroa is on foot. We began at the information centre, on the corner of Rue Lavaud and Rue Balguerie. There we picked up some brochures and maps, and tried some delicious homemade ice cream.
YOU CAN ALSO: Take a self-guided walk to see historic cottages, visit the museum, and take a harbour cruise to view dolphins, penguins and fur seals. We didn’t do any of those because we were feeling suuuuuper lazy, and felt like strolling around and soaking up the sun.
The views along our drive were simply gorgeous, but then again, they almost always were while driving through New Zealand. We stopped on the top of a hill to admire the amazing views, pictured above.
The Sleep King
Little man loves to nap, and especially so while we are driving. He took a nice long nap while we drove to Akaroa. In fact, we moved him from the carseat into the stroller once we were parked and ready to get exploring. We assumed that he would wake up, but with the scarf covering his stroller, he has a nice little cocoon. He can sleep FOR HOURS in there! If I remember correctly, he slept for the entire duration of our Akaroa visit. He only woke up when we sat down to have a drink and a snack.
Two Volcanic Cones
Banks Peninsula is the South Island’s most interesting volcanic feature. It is an island formed by two volcanic cones. The peninsula has two dominant craters which form Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours.
Located on the south east side of the deep, sheltered Akaroa Harbour, the charming township of Akaroa has a special point of difference – it was the only French settlement in New Zealand.
After a long leisurely stroll along the coast, we settled down at one of the restaurants for a couple ciders and some french fries. Everything about this little town made me want to live there. It was quaint, charming, and full of character.
Sitting in the sun, feet up, cider in my hand, while looking over the harbour, I sat thinking all of the unbelievable adventures we had been on over the last month!
Things to Do in Akaroa
Akaroa has an enormous range of activities to keep you busy for days. In Flea Bay you can take 4WD trips to the largest little penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. Akaroa waters are home to the rarest and smallest marine dolphin and all around you will find fantastic sea kayaking in spectacular surroundings. There are cruises, sail boats, cycle tours, mail runs, and an excellent range of walking tracks. Don’t miss seeing the Hector’s dolphins and other special wildlife on a harbour cruise. There is so much to see and do in Akaroa that you will need more than a day trip.
Driving Back to Christchurch
On our way from Akaroa back to Christchurch, we stopped at this charming little train station. It didn’t look like this station was in use anymore, and we saw no one around. We climbed on the train and took a few photos. There was a little picnic bench under the trees, and with the soft afternoon light, this little spot just seemed incredibly peaceful.
Akaroa is wonderful day-trip from Christchurch. I will say though, if you like charming little towns, you might want to do more than just a day-trip. It definitely felt like we didn’t have enough time to fully appreciate all that Akaroa had to offer. It probably didn’t help that we slept in, and then took our time getting out. But nevertheless, we had a wonderfully relaxing time, and we loved everything about this French town!