Akaroa is situated an hour’s drive from Christchurch and is ideal for a day visit. However, many people spend a day there and realize they should have stayed for a week. Although the permanent population is only about 600, the village has a number of attractions to offer tourists.
The Background History of Akaroa
Akaroa was established in 1840 and was the only part of New Zealand to be inhabited by a group of French settlers. The name Akaroa is a Maori word meaning ‘long harbor’. This is a perfect description of the waterfront that runs the full length of the village. In the 1800s, whaling and sealing were lucrative industries and many of the men in Akaora worked on the ocean beyond the tranquil harbour.
Akaroa and Banks Peninsula formed as a result of volcanic activity and the hilly landscape and rocky shoreline bear testament to this. It is one of the most beautiful areas of New Zealand and the village itself exudes charm. Many of the original cottages are still standing and descendants of the French settlers still live in the area.
Things to do in Akaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa has a fine selection of stores along the waterfront and these offer local art and craft works, jewelry and paua shells. The standard of work is generally high and many tourists leave with a lasting memento of their trip.
A number of harbor cruises are available and the ‘swimming with the dolphins’ trips are extremely popular. Akaroa Harbor is home to a number of Hector’s dolphins – the smallest, rarest dolphin in the world. Nature cruises include close-up encounters with birds, seals and penguins. Other watery trips available are fishing charters and canoes and paddle boats for hire.
There are a number of popular walks around Akaroa. One of these includes the historic Akaroa Lighthouse. This used to be positioned on the headlands of Akaroa Harbor but was relocated to the village when an automatic light was installed. It is beautifully preserved and retains its historic equipment.
A number of other small settlements surround Akaroa are well worth a visit. These include Birdling Flats with its pebble beach, Little River which has a historic railway station and Okains Bay which is isolated with incredible views.
Wining and Dining in Akaroa
Akaroa is home to a number of cafes and restaurants that overlook the waterfront. These offer a selection of tasty food ranging from fish and chips to pizza to gourmet meals. The area is famous for Akaroa salmon and fresh seafood, and fine cheese is made in nearby Barry’s Bay. Dining alfresco with a glass of wine, while watching the sun set over the harbour is a superb way to end a visit to Akaroa.
Akaroa in New Zealand is a small village with a big heart. Visitors are captivated by its beauty and heritage and a day trip is often extended to a week as they explore the area and enjoy cruises around the harbor. Many tourists to Christchurch add a trip to Akaroa onto their itinerary when they hear what it has to offer.
Akaora & the Bays Official Visitor Guide