In Akaroa, the small blue, white, and red flags hang from the buildings, and the smell of fresh-baked bread and salty sea air floats through the storefronts. Who knew in New Zealand you could be transported so quickly to a charming French seaside village? This quaint town on the Banks Peninsula has become a must-visit on the South Island. Join us as we explore Akaroa New Zealand and take in the stunning harbour, dolphins, and much more.
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Getting to Akaroa New Zealand
Akaroa is a short hour and twenty-minute drive from Christchurch along State Highway 75. It’s very popular for both weekend getaways and day trips from the South Island’s largest city.
We highly recommended taking the slight detour and driving the summit road on your way in or out of Akaroa. Read all about our afternoon cruising the Banks Peninsula below!
Akaroa French Influence and Flair
So why is there a small town in New Zealand with such unique French style? The history of Akaroa is extremely interesting and dates back to the 1840’s. During this time period, settlers from all over Europe were coming to the shores of New Zealand. It was then that a group from France ended up choosing Akaroa harbour as their home.
Whaling was one of the first industries of this town and remnants of that can still be seen today. The whaling trypots along Akaroa harbour are big iron vats formerly used for turning whale blubber into oil.
What was once a farming and fishing town has now transformed into a major tourist destination! However, the Akaroa French influence can still be seen to this day.
Strolling the Akaroa Harbour
This once sleepy seaside village has exploded in popularity over the years. From the cruise ships that now stop offshore to people attending the weekend french market, there is never a shortage of travelers in Akaroa. In the winter months, much of the town comes to a halt. Yet, it’s still worth stopping into if you’re in the area.
Filled with fun bars, restaurants, and cafes, the palm tree-lined roads easily show why it’s one of the most beautiful small towns in New Zealand. It’s best to ditch your car as soon as possible and explore by foot since there is limited parking. Wander along the harbourfront, take a dip in the water, and keep an eye out for Akaroa dolphins!
Getting Out On the Ocean in Akaroa
The Hector Dolphins are the most admired residents of Akaroa New Zealand, and there are several tours where you can actually swim with them! Hop on a boat from the harbour and cruise through the now extinct volcano crater.
If you’re lucky, in addition to the Akaroa dolphins, you might also see penguins, seals, and native birds. Kayak and stand up paddle boards are also available to be rented from the waterfront.
5 Things Not to Miss in Akaroa New Zealand
1. Walk along the harbor to the famous Akaroa lighthouse that dates back to to the 1800’s.
2. Hike above town on the Purple Peak or Curry walking tracks for sweeping views of Akaroa and the Banks Pensinsula.
3. Take the quick drive up to the gorgeous Akaroa winery. Make sure to call in advance for the hours of the tasting room, or to schedule a visit in the winter months.
4. Wander through town and do some local shopping. Some of our favorite shops are Fire & Ice, Akaroa Woolshed Gallery, and Pot Pourri.
5. Stop into the Akaroa Museum to learn about the history of the town. You can also see the old library which has kept its historic charm by turning into a bookstore.
Where to Eat & Drink in Akaroa
After all the exploring we did it was hard not to build up an appetite! We ate our way thought the small town for several days and quickly found our go-to spots. Now before we dive into where to eat we have to mention the local butcher.
Akaroa Butchery and Deli
Set on Rue Luvaud, the colorful building is home to the iconic town butcher. The Akaroa Butchery and Deli has everything from the freshest cuts of meat, Akaroa pate, and homemade goods to takeaway.
Since we were traveling in a campervan we made sure to stop in and stock our fridge with delicious Akaroa products. Everything from the lamb sausage to the streaky bacon, and homemade lasagna were some of the best we had in New Zealand.
Our Perfect Akaroa Eating Day
Breakfast at the French Bakery
When in French Akaroa you must start your day at the French Bakery! This cute shop serves local New Zealand treats like you’re getting them in France. There is no better way to start the day in Akaroa than with a large cappuccino and a hot pressed ham & cheese baguette. Make sure to also grab a baguette or focaccia to-go as well!
Murphy’s on the Corner for Lunch
While many of the popular restaurants are on the main street, just a block away from the Akaroa harbor is one of the tastiest seafood spots in town. You can dine in at the small benches or grab some fresh fish and chips to bring down to the water.
Dinner at Harbar Beachbar & Kitchen
Welcome to the best happy hour spot in town! After a full day of seeing the Akaroa dolphins and hiking, it’s amazing to wind down with dinner on the water. Make sure to stop in at the beach bar if you get a chance even if it’s only for a drink.
Where To Stay In Akaroa New Zealand
Ultra Luxury – Blythcliffe – Built in 1857, this historic building will be your perfect stay near Akaroa harbor. Enjoy a home cooked breakfast and the views of the hills, all within a short stroll to town.
Fun Vacation – Akaroa Waterfront Motels – Private units right on the water with balcony views of Akaroa. Just a quick walk along the harbor to the main part of Akaroa town.
Town Center – Akaroa Village Inn – Studio & apartment units with private kitchens and ocean view balconies! Clean and modern accommodation in our favorite area of town.
Cabins & Campers – Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park – Located above the town center, this is the perfect place if you are traveling with a camper. Also, the Top 10 park offers cabins for couples and families.
For more places to stay in Akaroa New Zealand you can explore the latest prices here!
Have any questions about our visit to Akaroa New Zealand or want to to share your own experience with our readers? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
New Zealand Travel Planning
Jucy Van: The best way to explore New Zealand is with a Jucy camper! We spent over six weeks driving around the North and South Islands in a van and loved every moment.
Rental Car: If you’re not renting a van you’ll still need a vehicle to get around. We use Discover Cars when traveling and enjoy having the freedom to get around.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide to find activities all over New Zealand! They have everything from a Milford Sound cruise with underwater observatory, to a Otago wine tour with gourmet wine & lunch, and even a Kaikoura whale watching cruise!
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for insurance the last few years and they are always there when we need them.
South Island New Zealand
Travel Tips & Guides: 10 Helpful NZ Travel Tips – North Island Itinerary – South Island Itinerary – 25 Beautiful Beaches – Wellington to Picton Ferry – 15 Freedom Camping Tips – 27 Delicious Food & Drinks – 7 Milford Sound Tips
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