The French village Akaroa is not far from Christchurch. On the 6th day of our New Zealand road trip, we arrived at Christchurch. While many visitors tend to spend most of their time in Christchurch, we opted for the French village Akaroa on Banks Peninsular.
About Akaroa on Banks Peninsular
In 1838, the French whaler Captain Langlois decided that Akaroa would make a good settlement to service whaling ships. Then he purchased the peninsula in a dubious land deal with the local Māori. Then he carried a group of French and German families to New Zealand and started the French settlement there.
Located on a picturesque inlet on the volcanic Akaroa and Banks Peninsula, the historic French village is the peninsula’s greatest attraction. Famous for being the only French settlement in New Zealand, the holiday resort has retained many French influences as well as many of its nineteenth-century buildings. Akaroa is one of the most memorable highlights of our New Zealand road trip adventure.
Hilltop view over Akaroa harbour
From Christchurch, the road SH75 leads to Banks Peninsula. It was easy scenic drive south-east of Christchurch. But the road was quite busy. Along the way, we passed two lakes, Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth. Some people stopped there and were taking pictures.
One of the things to do in the French village Akaroa and Banks Peninsula is to stop at the viewpoint near Hilltop Tavern, where we had panoramic views of Akaroa harbour and bays.
Banks Peninsula is the result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, which led to the formation of two overlapping volcanic cones. After the volcanic activity ceased, the volcanic complex became eroded to half its original height, and deep valleys formed. When the valleys were flooded as the sea level rose to its present height about 6,000 years ago, thus flooded the valleys and formed the present harbour.
In fact, we were standing on the crater rim of the long-extinct Akaroa volcano. You can also join a guided crater rim walk in Banks Peninsula in Christchurch to learn about the history of the area from an experienced local guide
Many tour buses also stopped there for a break. If you want to eat or drink while enjoying the view, Hilltop Tavern is a good place to go.
Things to do in the French Village Akaroa, the leisure activities
A few minutes of further driving, we reached the centre of Akaroa. The historical village is very bustling during the summer seasons. The permanent residents are only a few hundred, but tourists are much more.
Discover Akaroa Village on foot
The charming French village Akaroa has a French flavour with quaint architecture and delightful hospitality. It has French street names and some charming colonial cottages. One of the bays is even called French Bay.
It has a bank, fuel station, pharmacy, doctor, general store, police station, postal services, churches, visitor centre, and many local shops, etc. Most of them are along the Rue Lavaud, the main street of the township. That is why Akaroa is the central service centre for the inner harbour and the outer bays of Banks Peninsula.
Have lunch in a French Restaurant
Local restaurants have their focus on French cuisine. We went to a French Bistro and had a quick lunch. I couldn’t remember what we ordered. But I did remember that the table water was for free, a culture which is popular in France. And, the food was delicious as well.
Spend some time at harbour front and on Akaroa Beach
It was a leisurely walk to the harbour front. Many activities start from there, such as swimming with Dolphins or nature explore cruises. A few houses at harbour are on the top of a timber trestle bridge.
Akaroa beach is quiet and secluded, with a mixture of sand and small rocks. It is flat and dense. There wasn’t any person on the beach, but we spotted many birds.
Things to do in Akaroa, the leisure activities
Some of the activities are family-friendly. We saw several agents offering cruise tours. For some reason, they were all not actively doing the business. It seems that you might need to pre-book the tours.
The following activities are popular things to do in Akaroa.
Take a nature cruise
One of the popular things to do in Akaroa is to join an Akaroa Harbour 2-Hour Nature Cruise. You will discover wildlife and gaze upon giant volcanic sea cliffs and hear about Akaroa’s fascinating past.
Swim with Akaroa wild Dolphins, the world’s smallest dolphins
Hector’s dolphin is one of the world’s rarest and smallest dolphins. Join a swimming with wild dolphins tour you will enjoy an intimate experience with dolphins.
Kayak the Bay
People are also want to kayak and sailing the oceans in the marvelous natural environment of Akaroa. The Kayak Adventure Eco Tour will take you to the breathtaking volcanic basin vistas, and you will be on the lookout for Hector dolphins, and soak up the beauty of this hidden gem that’s only 80 minutes from Christchurch.
Go for a Hike
Among many activities, hiking is another popular things to do in the French village Akaroa. Many hiking trails and walking routes are at the edges of this historical French Settlement. From as short as 10 minutes of walking to full-day hiking, you will find one that fits your condition.
Boardwalk to Children’s Bay is the shortest walking route. It is a waterfront walk to a tiny beach at the northern end of Akaroa with lovely views of the town and harbour. For detailed information on each trail or route, please visit Akaroa Walking website.
Akaroa Shore Excursion for cruise passengers
Akaroa is a tender cruise port. The Akaroa Shore Excursion is suitable for the cruise passengers. It includes the journey to Christchurch & Banks Peninsula.
How to make an Akaroa day trip from Christchurch
The french village Akaroa is only less an hour of driving from Christchurch. Just follow SH75, it is easy to reach the village of Akaroa.
It is also possible to take a bus there. The driving time is about two and a half hours, which is quite long.
Join a tour
The comfortable way is to book a tour. More options are available online.