Meaning "long harbour" in Maori, Akaroa is a charming, French-influenced harbour town in the heart of the Banks Peninsula. Located in the middle of a volcanic crater, the harbour is home to seals, rare Hector’s dolphins, penguins, birds, and much further out to sea, whales.
The popularity of the town means there are plenty of wildlife cruises that journey out to the Canterbury Bight and the surrounding bays, along with scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing and fishing expeditions. If you want to get out on the water without venturing out too far, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are also good options.
Within this little pocket of ‘French-ness’, you'll find delightful French colonial buildings, French street names, the French Cemetery, cute chalets, and lots of places to sit and enjoy some fine cuisine. Try Ma Maison overlooking the harbour or one of the many cafes and bars down the main street.
For retail therapy, there are some great little artisan shops, like the Fire & Ice gemstone jewellery store, Ca Bouge boutique and Studio 67 for unique crafts and giftware. The town has a very informative museum housed in a trio of the former Customs House, Court House and Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage, which details the colourful history of this, the South Island's oldest town.
Akaroa is only about 90 minutes’ drive southeast of Christchurch and another reason why it's a popular retreat for locals and visitors from further afield.