GuideA Road Trip Guide to Akaroa
Akaroa is simply picture-postcard. The harbour town is perched on one of the dozens of inlets on Banks Peninsula. Found just an hour and twenty minutes drive from Christchurch, Akaroa has fast become a popular and charming location to visit in the region. As Aotearoa’s only French settlement, the town exudes a certain je ne sai quois with colourful history, great food, quaint accommodation, and stunning scenery. No surprise really that the rare Hector dolphin decided to call this place home too.
On The Road: Pt.1
Make the most of your journey to Akaroa. There’s a handful of worthy pit-stops on the peninsula that deserve exploration.
Little River Café and Store
Main Road, Christchurch Akaroa Road, Banks Peninsula, Christchurch City
With a renowned café and gallery, Little River is a must-see on the way to your destination. We suggest timing it with morning tea so you can have a flattie and a scone in the courtyard at Little River Café. Then head to their small store to pick up some artisan supplies for lunch or something delicious from their cabinet (if you can resist not eating before your picnic).
Little River Art Gallery
Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River, Christchurch
The gallery adjacent to the cafe is a beaut. Home to New Zealand-made art and crafts, it is an ideal place for those seeking an authentic, local keepsake. There is an array of exquisite books spanning the local landscapes, history, cuisine and culture. Take your time here; wander the garden sculptures, savour the peaceful ambience and admire the collectable art.
Little River Craft Station
4235A Christchurch Akaroa Road, Little River
Just next door you may have already spotted the historic Little River Railway Station. Swing by and discover the Little River Craft Station, a co-operative of local crafts people from the area and its surrounds. These Little River folk sure know how to craft. Their diverse range of crafted items include knitwear, pottery, preserves, woodwork, jewellery, leatherwork, quilts and much more.
On the Road: Pt.2
Let's keep moving closer, but before you get to Akaroa, there are a couple more places to stop awhile.
Barrys Bay Cheese
5807 Christchurch Akaroa Road, Duvauchelle
The next interlude on the road will appeal to turophiles. Turo-who?! Turophile. The official name for a connoisseur of cheese. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed after pausing enroute to Barrys Bay Cheese. For over 120 years, Barrys Bay Cheese has been creating delicious, memorable cheeses on the hills of the Banks Peninsula. The Barrys Bay collection of cheeses includes real English cheddars, havarti and the ever-popular Peninsula Blue. They also make a range of Dutch style cheeses – of particular note is their aged cumin gouda which has previously been awarded Champion Dutch Style Cheese at the NZ Cheese Awards. Now’s the chance to stock up for your picnic.
Long Bay Road, RD3, Akaroa 7583
Hinewai Reserve is the final stop before rolling into Akaroa. The reserve is a special and distinctive stretch of land; what was once degraded gorse-infested farmland has been nurtured back to 1250 hectares of native forest. The regeneration occurred after a pioneering approach from the Maurice White Native Forest Trust who allowed the gorse to grow rampantly whilst simultaneously acting as a natural canopy and protection for the fledgling native plants. Fast forward 30 years, the reserve which lies just east of Akaroa, is an ecological restoration success story. Take a stroll for an hour or two through the forest surrounded by native flora and fauna, and mid-amble, find a suitable spot for a picnic and dig out your tasty supplies. It’s hard not to leave Hinewai feeling inspired, if that’s the case, you can volunteer your services so they can continue to do such great environmental work.
Photo credit: Hinewai Reserve
74 Rue Lavaud, Akaroa
As you drive down into Akaroa, you may feel ready for another caffeine fix and something sweet. Search out Rona's and indulge yourself with a slice of cake and coffee. Sit outside if weather permits and watch as people walk on by.
Meander Rue Lavaurd
Rue Lavaurd, Akaroa
Now to familiarise yourself with Rue Lavaurd aka the high street. We recommend meandering the length of the village at a leisurely pace. Take a moment to call into the Akaroa Butchery, proudly decorated in the colours of France. Behind the red, white and blue facade of La Boucherie du Village you will find locally sourced provender at its finest. The vintage exterior of Peninsula General Store will pique curiosity and inside organic, international and gourmet foods await you. Lava Gallery is a humble little shop worth popping in. They source a range of beautiful objects, gifts and homewares made by New Zealand creators and makers. As is the case with many of the other recommendations in this guide, you may be hard pushed to depart Lava with nothing in hand.
French Bay House
113 Rue Jolie, Akaroa
Once you’ve got your sense of locale, check into French Bay House, your accommodation for the night. The place is a rather dreamy sleepover stay indeed. Let us explain. A flourishing garden flanks French Bay House, one of the settlement’s original homesteads, while a wisteria-covered, sun-soaked porch swing seat completes the halcyon picture. Inside, four king-sized bedrooms with ensuites are named after local landmarks and are comfortably furnished giving each room its own unique feel. Think cosy throws, intricate artworks and luxe linen, while bathrooms are resplendent in tiles and stocked with organic toiletries. Savour some quiet down-time in the most comfortable of surroundings in those luminous hours before dinner.
Sundowner and Supper
HarBar & Ma Maison
After freshening up at the French Bay House, it’s time to squeeze the most of golden hour. Take a walk down to HarBar; a coast-hugging beach bar that’s undoubtedly the best place for a sundowner beverage before dinner.
Supper by the sea is the quintessential way to end your day. The outlook for the evening is gazing past Daly Wharf out to Akaroa Harbour at Ma Maison. Here you’ll be treated to a seafood dinner with the freshest produce available. The offerings of this place are abundant. Think crabs, octopus, scallops, mussels, oysters– you name your favourite seafood and there’s a strong likelihood it’ll be on the menu. Coupled with a cold glass of chardonnay, you may well have found your mon amour.