Our family history dates back to 1838 from the original French & English settlers, giving us the chance to provide you with a personal insight into the Banks Peninsula area. Not only do we offer an extensive knowledge of the area as a family owned & operated business, but offer a unique experience available in Akaroa Harbour.
Fun Fact: Hugh’s cousin, Morgan Waghorn, worked on the very first Akaroa Harbour Nature Cruise which operated back in the 1970s and 1980s. The boat he skippered was called “Miss Akaroa” which was owned by George Brassell.
Akaroa Harbour is one of two drowned volcanic craters which make up the unique landform 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 while cruising on Akaroa Harbour. Cathedral Cave is one of the best examples of this, showing how a massive explosion of trapped gas blew out and giving us the perfect opportunity to see the many lines and layers of each eruption throughout 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.
In the 1830s approximately 60 French whaling ships were making 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, obtaining signatures from them all, therefore 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 realisation that the dream of a French colony in New Zealand was gone, they agreed.
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 learned 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, 5km 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 chefs, 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 obtained the right to the whole of New Zealand. On obtaining information that the French plan to colonise Akaroa, the Britomart, an English warship, 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.