"The blissfuly beautiful Banks Peninsula" Top 5 Page for this destination Akaroa by TheWanderingCamel

Akaroa Travel Guide: 251 reviews and 628 photos

A French Connection

Named by Captain Cook (who mistakenly thought it was an island) for his botanist, Joseph Banks, the Banks Peninsula had long been settled by Maori by the time Europeans first came here. The first white settlers were actually French and much is made of this French connection, with streets and many businesses having French names, but New Zealand became a British colony just days before they arrived in 1840 and the peninsula was never under any sort of French control. They were, however, the first European presence on the South Island and by the time the first English settlers arrived in 1850 their little settlement at Akaroa was well established and there were other small groups in other places as well.
The pretty little harbour town of Akaroa, the penisula's biggest settlement, may only be 85 km from Christchurch but it really is a world apart. The bay it sits on is formed by the drowned crater of an extinct volcano and the land around the town rises quite sharply to form a high ridge that rings the harbour before it falls away again to the sea in the tumble of wooded gullies, steep cliffs, waterfalls and deep inlets on the volcano's eroded outer rim.

Once British settlers began to arrive, Christchurch soon overtook Akaroa in size and importance and the town sank into quiet obscurity. This, as so often happens, proved to be to the advantage of the town as it left the quaint buildings and picturesque streets free from the zeal of developers, either Victorian or contemporary, and nowadays its historic charm is valued and preserved.

  • Last visit to Akaroa: Apr 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (22)

Comments (14)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    May 20, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    Leyle, gorgeous page with brilliant photos of the fascinating coastline. I especially like the Okain's Bay. Greetings from now sunny Germany.

  • kokoryko's Profile Photo
    Feb 14, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    It is really très joli, Leyle; I enjoyed reading French words describing this end of the world place. Besides the beautiful landscapes, the nice little churches, the picturesque streets, there seems to be excellent food! Wonderful!

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Jan 3, 2010 at 11:11 PM

    Nice page Llyle. The daily post run would be great value. We visited in January1997, we were staying at Mt Hutt and drove to Akoroa for a day trip, really needed longer. Happy travels in 2010.

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Oct 31, 2009 at 7:32 PM

    This is a nice little place. You are right, the landscape on the Akaroa Harbour and the Onawe Peninsula is awsome! A ride with the mailman is something I had never heard elsewhere! What a surprise to find here a French settlement!

  • Bwana_Brown's Profile Photo
    Jun 24, 2008 at 7:34 PM

    An extremely well-done page on this magnificent and rugged part of New Zealand! Akaroa and its crater makes Rabaul look like a rank beginner! I also liked the sound of that sundowner as you watched the water lapping on the shore.

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    May 25, 2008 at 11:09 AM

    Loved your wee Kirk :) the name Hay is a popular one here in the North East of Aberdeenshire

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Mar 30, 2008 at 2:07 AM

    I did not have time to visit Akaroa. Did not know about the French heritage. Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing :)

  • globetrott's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2008 at 12:53 AM

    an interesting page and great pics about this wee place !Thanks for sharing !

  • juliewong's Profile Photo
    Apr 9, 2007 at 8:19 AM

    Great pictures you have! Making me drool...

  • kyoub's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2006 at 3:05 AM

    Very interesting page. Nice photos and tips. The South Island looks like a great place to visit.

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