Akaroa, Je T’aime

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It's not hard to be charmed by the little French-infused coastal town of Akaroa.

With it's numerous cafes, its stunning location, and its French flair, Akaroa is the definition of a quaint, charming seaside town. I know those two words – “quaint” and “charming” – are never supposed to be used in travel writing… But in this case, I think they absolutely fit.


Situated on the edge of a sheltered harbor on New Zealand's Banks Peninsula, Akaroa is surrounded by green-swathed volcanic hills which you drive through to reach the town. Add these green hills to the blue waters of the bay and nearby sea, and you have a pretty spectacular backdrop for a town.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Akaroa is very much a resort town, with a local population of only a few hundred. In the warm summer months, however, the town's population can rise to more then 7,000 because of the tourists who come to stay.

Since I was visiting the town on an overcast autumn day, there weren't many tourists to be found. In fact, there were only five people booked onto my French Connection shuttle to and from Christchurch, and less than two dozen booked on the Black Cat harbor cruise I went on in the afternoon.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Along with the coming winter months (when tourism drops off anyway), Akaroa has also been severely affected by the drop in tourism to the Canterbury region following the February earthquake that rattled Christchurch. While it's true that aftershocks can still be felt in the city, the Banks Peninsula has not been physically affected at all.

Bottom line – if you're considering a trip to Akaroa, DO IT. Don't skip it or remove it from your plans. It's well worth a day trip.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

The town of Akaroa is not a very big one. It has essentially one main street that runs along the bay, where small boats bob around in the water that the small, rare Hector's dolphin calls home.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

While “officially” claimed by the British, Akaroa has a distinctly French flair to it, with French flags waving in many windows and all the streets bearing French names.

There are not, however, many traditional French restaurants in Akaroa. A French girl and I ended up having fish and chips at a little locally-owned restaurant called the Trading Rooms (which I highly recommend).

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

There are many such cafes and little restaurants around the town, though the majority of its colorful buildings are set aside for lodging – from motels to hostels to rental apartments to B&Bs. Most of these were sporting “vacancy” signs in the fall, but, in the summer, many would normally be full.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Since it's now the low season, Akaroa was quiet and even a bit sleepy when I visited. Walking around the nearly-empty streets, I almost felt as though I should be whispering so as not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere.

But this wasn't a bad thing.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Sometimes when you travel, it's refreshing to visit a place like Akaroa. I personally can't recommend it enough.

Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

Next up: Cruising around Akaroa to find Hector's dolphins!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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28 Comments on “Akaroa, Je T’aime

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  1. I visited Akaroa in February 2004 and have never forgotten how wonderful a place it is. We stayed at a small inn and took a self-tour of the area. One highlight was taking a catamaran ride in the harbour and bay. I was amazed by the Hector’s dolphins who raced around the boat. We made it almost to the coastline where we saw tiny penguins bobbing on the water. This was a long time ago, but we ate dinner at a little French restaurant and had a delicious meal. We stuck out as Americans, but hopefully not in a negative way, and a couple nearby chatted with us. They were from Tasmania and encouraged us to visit there, too.

    We came into town from Twizel and the drive, at night, was a challenge. I didn’t realize that we would be covering steep hills!

    I would love to come back and often recommend it to others.

    Like your write up. I loved Akaroa and ended up spending a week there chilling. Simply loved the vibe, people, the views, Joys… wonderful place and I continuously have this urge to go back to NZ to Akaroa in particular.
    It is a must go to place. Make the time.. do it, do it, do it.
    Good boutique there too.. forget the name but the owners were lovely – some stylish pieces by Vamp New Zealand.

      Akaroa is such a great place to go and just chill. Glad to hear you liked it!

    Je l’aime!!! Ahhhh…I need to get back to New Zealand!

      Haha, yes you do!!! Though beware of Akaroa… knowing you and your Francophile ways, you probably wouldn’t ever want to leave!


    Akaroa seems to be a great little town, the first two pictures reminded me of the well-known serie – Pirates of the Caribbean. Indeed, it’s not hard to be charmed by the little French-infused coastal town of Akaroa, I totally agree. However, it’s a pity I haven’t heard before about this town. Akaroa is on my ‘must-see’ list. Thanks for sharing!

    Best wishes,


      Well I’m glad I could help you add something to your “must-see” list! If you want a scene straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean, though, just wait until my post on Doubtful Sound!

    Didn’t make it to Akaroa on my trip to New Zealand but looks like I will definitely have to visit next time I get the chance! Thanks for sharing!

      Thanks for reading! Akaroa is a great little town, both for the atmosphere, scenery, and wildlife!

    Somehow I missed this French part of New Zealand. Should check it next time.

    I just love those small quaint and charming towns! Yes I’m guilty of using those 2 dreaded word but sometimes they are the only one that will work.

    Your beautiful pictures are very inviting! Thanks for sharing your find.

      Ah yes, those dreaded words! They were the only words I was thinking about over and over again in Akaroa, so I figured I should be allowed to use them.

      As always, thank you for the nice compliment on my photos, and for reading!

    Reminds me a of a lot of small towns in Nova Scotia, really pretty.

      I’ve never been to Nova Scotia, but I can imagine the small towns there being very similar. Definitely very pretty!

    Whatwhat!!! YAY! Akaroa!! My favorite little NZ town:-) So glad that you loved it too!! And “less then two dozen” people on your cruise, is still a lot! There were way less on my cruise and I went Easter weekend (maybe one dozen, tops).

    Can’t wait to read more!

      You (as well as many others) always mention Akaroa when talking about New Zealand, so I knew I couldn’t possibly skip it! It definitely lived up to my expectations – maybe even exceeded them!

    I share your opinion of Akaroa – such a great little place to visit. I love the Banks Peninsula altogether, and it’s so easy and quick to get to from Christchurch. And a very scenic drive, too. I’m glad you enjoyed your time there and am looking forward to your dolphin cruise post!

      The Banks Peninsula was great – though I imagine it would have been even better under sunny skies. “Scenic” doesn’t even begin to do it justice!

    Photos look great. Actually the French bought up a large chunk of the area around Akaroa. They then went back to France to arrange with their govt to settle and colonize the South Island but when they arrived back here to settle the place the English had arrived, just beating them to the region!! But the French stayed for some time and tried to develop a wine industry, but sadly they bought the wrong grapes!

    It looks like a sweet little town! I had no idea there were any French influenced places in New Zealand – do you know what the history is behind it?

      I don’t know all the history, but I know that the French first settled it, before the British actually claimed it.

    Looks beautiful. Your photos do it justice! I’m happy to see you out of the States and knee deep in New Zealand. Enjoy!

      Thanks, Ross! It’s definitely a pretty little town. I can only imagine how stunning it would be on a warm, sunny day!

    I love little small towns like this. I am not sure about others but I like to get away from the big cities and enjoy some of these smaller towns. How in the world did a town like this have such a French heritage?

      I love towns like this, too. And, luckily, New Zealand is full of them! Even the “cities” here aren’t very big compared to what I’m used to. It’s very refreshing.

      And I believe Akaroa was originally settled by some French people, but, once the British heard that the French were going to claim it, they rushed it to beat them to it. But the French influence lives on!

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