An Unexpected Visit

Akaroa was an entirely unintentional foray. After waking up slightly damp after Cayley’s roof leaked in a storm, we were unable to go “onward” past Arthur’s pass because the self containment sticker was still in the postal system – and due any day back in Christchurch. So leaving the angry squall nestled in the mountains behind us, we headed back to the sunshine that glistened over the Canterbury plains. Akaroa had been on the periphery of our planning, as somewhere ‘nice’ to go, but not “nice enough” to make it onto our must do itinerary. It made up for the rather dismal start we’d had thus far in Cayley and set us up for the rest of the trip.

A French Resort

Nestled in the heart of an extinct volcano, Akaroa has a french influence, a nod to an interesting past. In 1838, a passing French Captain, made a provisional purchase of the Banks Peninsula, before returning to France. When French settlers turned up at Banks Peninsula in 1840, they found that they had been beaten to it by the Brits. Instead they settled nearby in what is now known as Akaroa.

We stayed in a beautiful campsite Duvauchelle, which was almost entirely empty. Akaroa depends on rainwater for to feed its mains water supply, and signs about water usage were therefore everywhere! Akaroa’s “feel” will depend entirely on when you visit the small town. A major stopping point on the itinerary of many cruise ships and a holiday home favourite the population can swell from its permanent population of around 600 to an impressive 5,000 over the summer months. When we visited it, it felt like a sleepy town – although the queue for the local fish and chip shop  still ran out the door! Definitely worth the wait, it was one of many fish and chip shops we would frequent over the coming months.

Harbour Nature Cruise

We booked on a Harbour Nature Cruise with Black Cat Cruises so we could see a little more wildlife! Akaroa is situated in a natural harbour, formed by the crater of an extinct volcano. This means that visitors can enjoy a vast display of marine wildlife, in relative comfort;  without the need to journey into the high seas! The money spent on the two hours touring the harbour is worth it, for the skipper’s commentary alone! Funny and informative we had a wonderful time seeing wildlife, learning about the area and it’s history. To Ian’s delight we even got to play Captain for a bit!

The harbour, and surround waters are home to one of the planet’s rarest dolphins. Resident only to Southern New Zealand, the Hector Dolphins are the smallest in the world. With distinct black facial markings these guys are pretty cute, but reproduce very slowly, resulting in their low population. Alongside several friendly pods, we also saw our first penguins, the little blues – also the smallest of their kind, but a little more adventurous – living around the coast of both New Zealand and Southern Australia. We also saw a great variety of birdlife -shags, oyster catchers, terns and gulls – as well as a fur seal colony!

You can also go swimming with the Hector Dolphin’s in Akaroa – there are a few tour operators that offer it. Given the smile’s on a group we saw returning, it is certainly worth it. If you suffer from sea sickness, Akaroa maybe better than Kaikoura due to the Harbour’s sheltered waters! If you want to see a picture of how badly seasick I was during that trip click here!

The area surrounding Akaroa is beautiful; given a few extra days would have made for some lovely explorations – it’s on the list for next time!