Nestled behind a bay just 75 kilometres from Christchurch, Akaroa is one of South Island’s little gems. Its picturesque setting will inspire you to don walking boots and try at least one of the many hiking trails in the area; from a ten minute stroll to an all-day tramp, there’s something to suit everyone. But the town itself exerts a strong pull. In spite of its diminutive size, there are a whole host of things to do in Akaroa and around this attractive Akaroa French colonial settlement in New Zealand’s South Island.
Akaroa French Colonial Settlement
Take to the water
The waters near Akaroa are rich with marine life and heading out to sea is an essential experience in these parts. Try a cruise by catamaran to discover seals, penguins and perhaps even the rare Hector’s dolphins. Numerous operators offer paddle boarding, kayaking and other water sports. If that’s just a little too sedate, then why not swim with the dolphins or take a spin in a jet boat for a typically Kiwi adrenaline rush?
Step back in time at the Akaroa Museum
The area’s French and British history forms part of the collection at the town’s fascinating museum. From the area’s volcanic origins to exhibits that reveal what life was like here in the 19th and 20th centuries, you’ll learn what makes Akaroa tick. The complex is centred on three heritage buildings: the Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage which dates from the 1840s, the Customs House built a decade later and the 1878 Court House.
Visit a gallery
And not just any gallery: as you might have guessed from its name, the Orion Powerhouse Gallery began life as the location for the hydro-electric power equipment that helped to illuminate Akaroa from 1911. In 1977, the building’s original use redundant, it became a gallery and concert venue showcasing the talents of local, national and international artists. Art lovers will also be drawn to the Giants House, a historic home and garden packed with sculptures, mosaics and other fantastic pieces.
Experience local life
There are several ways you can get to know the locals better and one of the most fun is to visit Paua Bay Hill Country Farm. It’s a working sheep farm where you’ll have the chance to take part in mustering, marvel at the skill shown by the farm’s sheepdogs and perhaps even have a go at shearing a sheep. At nearby French Farm, your hosts will explain all there is to know about rearing alpacas. If you’d prefer to stay in Akaroa town, then instead take a cooking class with the Akaroa Cooking School where you’ll be taught how to prepare some local favourites and of course, how to pair your dishes with the best local wines.