Hidden Gem - Akaroa

The 50 mile drive from Christchurch to the old French settlement at Akaroa on Banks Peninsula presents some excellent sightseeing and photo opportunities. On our last visit, it was a beautiful summers day that encouraged us to spend a day exploring the region. We'd delved into the history of Akaroa and as you'll see in our story, there were some amusing aspects to what happened here in the 1800's!


A view of Akaroa Village

The village of Akaroa was originally established in 1840, by a group of 60 French settlers, the first step by the French in their plans to eventually colonize all of New Zealand as part of a French empire.

In an agreement with local Māori tribes, Akaroa and the surrounding Banks Peninsula (440 square miles) was purchased by the French for "2 cloaks, 6 pairs of trousers, 12 hats, 2 pairs of shoes, some pistols, axes and 2 shirts". The balance was due to be "paid later" when the Frenchman in charge of the settlers, a Captain Jean-François Langlois, returned from a visit to France.

Events were somewhat complicated by the fact that by the time Langlois returned, both Akaroa and Banks Peninsula had been resold several times over, as was often Māori custom at the time! No doubt Captain Jean-François Langlois was not at all amused by this turn of events.

In fact, the French plans for a colony were thwarted before they even started, because in the same year, 1840, Māori chiefs had collectively signed 'The Treaty of Waitangi' which effectively made New Zealand a British colony.

So the French enclave was eventually abandoned, and although the locals have managed to retain much of the charm and character of the original settlement, the only real evidence of the French stay in Akaroa is the street names, most of which remain French.

These days, a highlight of a visit to Akaroa is the unique opportunity to take a cruise on the harbor to see Hector Dolphins, the tiniest dolphins in the world.

Sometimes there are also sightings of Orca (Killer Whales). See our story here for an example of what happens when Orca are spotted.

We also visited some of the local art galleries, many displaying the works of local artists. We browsed the boutique shops, enjoyed a lunch at one of the harbor side cafes, hired a kayak to explore the harbor and ended a most enjoyable day with a stroll in the surrounding hills. 

The team here at New Zealand Vacations can include a visit to Akaroa on your New Zealand vacation.  


Lot's of sightseeing opportunities on the road from Christchurch to Akaroa - a 50-mile drive.


Hector Dolphin Akaroa


Blueweed up close. Take care if you decide to pick some, they have prickly stems.


Harbor frontage, Akaroa


"Bonjour" Welcome to Akaroa Village

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Dec 24, 2019