Akaroa is one of New Zealand’s first European settlements. With many fine examples of early architecture, including a part of the Akaroa Museum where displays and a short film help with understanding Akaroa’s past- Maori History, French Settement, British Sovereignty Akaroa is recognised as an exceptionally well preserved example of an early colonial village. Hugh Wilson the manager at Hinewai Reserve has documented much of the natural history of volcanic Banks Peninsula which is home to many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. Murray Thacker at Okains Bay Museum has one of the finest collections of Maori artefacts anywhere in the world.
Travel 80 kilometres from Christchurch City and arrive in the historic French town of Akaroa. Nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano, this seaside town was New Zealand’s first European settlement.
Explore Akaroa Village with its colonial architecture, galleries, craft stores, and cafés. Relax or take part in the many activities that are on offer. Explore the dramatic outer bays and take your time to soak in the magic of this area. A wide range of accommodation options are available, for you to be able to take more than a day to explore this little piece of paradise. From more information on accommodation options in Akaroa visit akaroa.com
Banks Peninsula the Extinct Volcano.
Akaroa Harbour is one of two drowned volcanic craters which make up the unique land form of Banks Peninsula. Volcanic activity between 6 & 11 million years ago led to the formation of two overlapping volcanic cones, Akaroa & Lyttelton. The dramatic rock formations, lava flows, and deeply carved coastline now provide a glimpse into the cataclysmic events of millions of years ago, offering some of the best landscape scenery in the world.
Ancient caves created by gas bubbles once encased in lava flow can also be observed, when cruising on Akaroa Harbour. Cathedral Cave is one of the best example of this, showing how a massive explosion of trapped gas blew out, giving the perfect opportunity to see the many lines and layers of each eruption through the ages.
Banks Peninsula was once an island, being separated from the mainland. Roughly 20,000 years ago, the mainland joined the volcanic island due to erosion from the Southern Alps. Rocks and pebbles rolled down the gullies or were washed along in glaciers, rivers and streams, creating the Canterbury Plains.
Takapūneke (Red House Bay), which lies between Akaroa and Ōnuku, is a place of immense significance. Takapūneke was the home of the Ngāi Tahu Upoko Ariki (Paramount Chief) Te Maiharanui. On 6 November 1830, Te Rauparaha captured Te Maiharanui by deception and then raided and destroyed his kāinga at Takapūneke. Te Rauparaha was aided by a British ship’s captain, Captain Stewart and his Brig “The Elizabeth”.
When British authorities learnt of Stewart’s involvement in the massacre at Takapūneke they were appalled at the anarchic state of affairs in New Zealand. As a direct result of British involvement at Takapūneke, Governor Hobson was sent to New Zealand to form an effective administration, resulting in the signing of our founding document The Treaty of Waitangi.
Ōnuku Marae, 5 km from the Akaroa Township, is also a place of historical significance. This time with the Treaty of Waitangi being the first of the three locations in the South Island (the others being Ōtakou and Ruapuke) where the Treaty was signed. Two local chiefs, Iwikau and John Love (Hone) Tikao signed the Treaty at Ōnuku.
Having signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 6th February 1840 in the Bay of Islands, and on 30th May of the same year in Onuku, the British believed that they had obtain the right to the whole of New Zealand. On obtaining information that the French plan to colonise Akaroa, the Britomart, an English war ship, was dispatched to travel to the area and proclaim sovereignty for the Crown. On its arrival on 16th August 1840, Captain Stanley raised the British flag on what is now known as Green Point.
France’s Aim To Settle Akaroa
In the 1830s approximately 60 French whaling ships were making the regular journeys between France and New Zealand for the profitable whaling trade. To further solidify the access to whaling in the South Island, French whaler Langlois and his friend Le Lievre felt that Akaroa would make an excellent French base, and began forming plans to colonise Banks Peninsula for France. He held negotiations with 12 Ngai-Tahu Māori chiefs from Port Cooper, obtained signatures from them all believing then that he had bought the majority of Banks Peninsula.
The deed he put in place dated 2nd August 1838, is understood to state that the land was bought from the Māori for a deposit of 150 French francs in goods. The remainder of the total price was to be settled on Langlois’ return to take possession of the land.
In 1840, 64 French and German settlers arrived at Akaroa after enduring many months at sea, only to see the Union Jack flying on Green Point. New Zealand had just been annexed under the Treaty of Waitangi by the British. The French & German settlers where offered the opportunity to stay on in Akaroa to live under British rule, and on realising that the dream of a French colony in New Zealand was gone, they agreed.