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.
10 THINGS WE LOVE ABOUT AKAROA
1. NEW ZEALAND’S SOLE FRENCH SETTLEMENT
As the only attempted settlement by the French in New Zealand, there is no doubt that Akaroa’s European history adds a fascinating aspect to the town. The influence from the original French setters is still very evident through the architecture, street names, proudly flying French flags and descendants of the original French families still living here. Enjoy wondering the streets of Akaroa while exploring and soaking up a piece of European history. akaroa.com
There is no better place to experience a sighting of the highly endangered Hector’s Dolphin. Only found in waters around the South Island, Akaroa Harbour boasts the highest population of the Hectors. A trip out on the water is a fantastic way to encounter the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin. Click here to book.
Pohatu hosts the largest Australasian Little Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand. Francis and Shireen Helps have worked tirelessly over the last three decades protecting the White-flippered Penguins, giving a fabulous opportunity to view them in their own habitat. Take a tour to view the penguins on land, or a kayak adventure through the Pohatu marine reserve. Pohatu Penguins ticketing office is located in central Akaroa. www.pohatu.co.nz
The multi day hike, the Banks Peninsula Track winds its way around the remote and dramatic Peninsula landscape. Views of the ocean to as far as the Southern Alps entrances can been seen from the stunning ridge line. The track offers overnight stays in the picturesque huts and lodges. You start the adventure by being picked up from the centre of Akaroa. www.bankstrack.co.nz
Managed by Hugh Wilson, a world renowned Botanist, the Hinewai reserve has grown over the years to 1,250 hectares of regenerating native remnant forest. Hinewai now attracts tourists and biological researchers from around the globe has over 20 publicly accessible walking tracks that cross the reserve, including part of the Banks Peninsula Track.
Akaroa and Banks Peninsula boasts an abundance of local food producers, from locally breed salmon, wines, cheeses, olive oils and much more. Visit the summer Farmers Market and the local butcher to take advantage and sample some of what the peninsula produces.
Situated on the eastern side of Banks Peninsula, Fisherman’s Bay is operated by very avid gardeners Jill & Richard Simpson. The 100 hectares of rugged and dramatic landscape has been transformed into a stunning hillside garden oasis, with its winding paths running through regenerating protected native bush, traditional flower borders, a herb garden, farm garden, fern garden, a shaded streamside valley and pond, and a wild exposed rock garden. www.fishermansbay.nz
This magical and breath taking creation of Josie Martin’s mosaic garden is something not to be missed when in Akaroa. Mosaic steps, sculptural walls, welded steel sculptures and many other fabulous creations surprise and delight around every corner. www.thegiantshouse.co.nz
Every two years in October Akaroa pays homage to its European history through a weekend of French Fest celebrations. With a street party on the Friday night, the re-enactment of the French landing, a festival day with market stalls and entertainment on the Saturday, the festival delights and entertains all.
There are some great short walks around Akaroa, but one of our favourites is at Children’s Bay, which leads you up the hill through forests of native bush, and offers breath taking views down the harbour. The ‘wildlife’ on this walk is a little different too. Keep an eye out for giraffes, a crocodile, and at the very top a Rhino – don’t worry none of them bite!
Akaroa is just 80 kilometres from the Christchurch city in the South Island of New Zealand. The journey to Akaroa is a delightful trip through changing landscapes with many natural and cultural features.
From Christchurch, follow State Highway 75 to Akaroa.
On arrival in Akaroa you will notice this village has a certain French flair with street names, restaurants and colourful characters reflecting the early French settlement. We’ll see you at the wharf or in our shop at 65 Beach Rd.