Akaroa may only be a small part of New Zealand, located 52 miles from Christchurch, but it is not one to be missed. Surrounded by beautiful bays and harbors, and lush with French and English history, Akaroa is a destination with more to offer than meets the eye. Spend your days outside, and your early evenings wine-tasting in this small piece of New Zealand paradise.
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Akaroa, New Zealand
Akaroa, a little town located on the Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand, is positioned near a harbor of the same name. Akaroa means “Long Harbour” in Kāi Tahu Māori, one of New Zealand’s official languages; it has a permanent population of a mere 624 residents as of 2013, though in the summer the population can temporarily jump to more than 10,000.
Akaroa’s location makes it any food-lovers paradise thanks to the banks peninsula for making a wonderful growing climate. The Akaroa Farmers Market takes great pride in their produce, locally grown on volcanic soil. You can find fruit, vegetables, herbs, olive oil, nuts, and flowers as well as locally produced preserves, cheeses, breads, and pastries. The farmers market has something delicious for everyone, and is open every Saturday morning from October to April; it is a must stop in season while visiting Akaroa.
As the only French settlement in New Zealand, Akaroa has a large French influence. Biannually the town hosts the Akaroa French Festival to honor its unique roots. The festival completely immerses you with french entertainment and romance; it even includes a parade, a light show, and a flag ceremony over the weekend time span. If you miss the festival, you can still feel the culture in the French street names and colonial cottages dotted throughout the town; or, head over to Barrys Bay Cheese where the same traditional recipes brought over from early settlers years ago are used daily to produce local cheese.
Akaroa offers a variation of activities, with most of them involving the outdoors. Take a tour of Akaroa’s Alpaca Farm and enjoy the breathtaking views over the harbor. Or take a leisurely stroll down the Banks Peninsula Track, which is considered to be the first private walking track in the country. Starting in Akaroa it winds through volcanic coastlines, spectacular waterfalls, and four beaches over its 35 kilometer (~22 miles) span. If you’re more about the indoors, The Giants House is always an option: a historic home full of sculpture, terraced gardens, and original artworks.
Because of how ideal the Mediterranean climate of Akaroa is for produce, the wine that comes from it is some of the most superior. The Akaroa Winery boasts the highest quality grapes due to each and every aspect of their growing process; located in Takamutua Valley this organic, family owned winery focuses on making age-worthy wines. On the western shores of the harbour you can find French Peak Wines, where the original French settlers first planted their vines. The unique terroir of the Banks Peninsula can be tasted in the many flavors of their wines.
If wine tasting sounds appetizing, checking out Old French Road Olives will make your mouth water. Kalamata, Sevillano, Picholene, Manzanillo, Frantoia, and UDP olives can all be found at Old French Road Olives, as well as for purchase at many other restaurants and retail locations in Akaroa. Robinsons Bay Olive Oil, another local grove, makes up one of the most southerly groves in the world. They boast seven different varieties of olives, as well as three types of table olives, and also produce infused oils which include basil and garlic.
Akaroa is home to one of four species of dolphins called Hector’s Dolphin; they are only found in New Zealand. Hector’s dolphins are the most rare, and smallest, dolphins and only in Akaroa do you have the opportunity to swim with them! Or, go sea kayaking and enjoy the beautiful scenery at the Pohatu Marine Reserve.
The peninsula surrounding Akaroa truly has some of the best views in New Zealand. Consider this tour an overview of the best views, giving you plenty of time to explore the most French influenced seaside town in the country.
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