Akaroa (the name translates to Long Harbour in Maori) is a great day trip from Christchurch. This small town, which was once a French settlement, promises a quaint and relaxing day in its picturesque harbour.
Christchurch to Akaroa
The drive from Christchurch to Akaroa takes roughly 1.5 hours. It cut across some interesting scenery, most notably Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth. I also found this tiny settlement along the way called Little River. It looked very pretty, especially the part where we crossed a cherry blossom farm.
The last leg of the drive is scenic as it descends from on top of a hill into the valley and harbour. Remember to stop for pictures!
A Former French Settlement
Akaroa is a small town with French and British colonial history, nestled among hills and the Akaroa Bay. With a population of fewer than 700 residents, quaint doesn’t even begin to describe it!
Although Akaroa has a rich history of French settlers, apart from the street names (and the French flag on Beach Road) little remains to show for it. However, we did notice the residents preparing for a French festival due to start in a few days.
Sadly, we were there just for the day.
For a small harbourside town, Akaroa packs in plenty of things to do for a day.
Akaroa Harbour Cruise
The harbour cruise is one of the most popular activities in Akaroa. Although there are plenty of operators, tickets run out quickly.
The cruise takes its passengers away from the bay area and into the sea where they can spot Hector’s dolphins, penguins and even fur seals!
The cruise also gives you a glimpse into the volcanic past of Akaroa. Millions of years ago the Akaroa harbour was an active volcano. This is why it is surrounded by volcanic cliffs and sea caves.
The cruise should be on your list of things to do when you visit Akaroa. And you can book your tickets online, and be guaranteed a place on the boat.
Relax at Jubilee Park
If you’re not the adventure type, why not spend your day relaxing at Jubilee Park? The park is right beside the harbour and offers visitors a beautiful view of the town.
After lunch, we spent our time just lazing on the soft grass. Honestly, we didn’t feel like getting up!
Explore the town
Akaroa’s quaintness is exemplified in its shops, streets, and restaurants. We found the most incredible curio and antique shop and ended up buying way more than what we could carry back in our suitcases.
We also saw some really beautiful restaurants and cafes in the town. But the one that we went to, Akaroa Fish & Chips, we would not recommend.
Enjoy Lake Forsyth
Lake Forsyth lies 30 minutes outside Akaroa. Probably not the prettiest lake we had seen in New Zealand, but that in no way meant it was any less grand. Thanks to deforestation and leeching in the surrounding area, Lake Forsyth has been facing issues related to its quality of water for over a century now.
The silver lining – the dark colour of Lake Forsyth only added to the contrast provided by the surrounding green mountains and blue skies.
We parked our car next to some very curious ducks and black swans at Lake Forsyth.
Those are just a few of the things to do and see in Akaroa. However, if you plan to stay in the town for longer, visit the official website to see an exhaustive list of activities Akaroa has to offer.
If you’re wondering what to do in Christchurch, and have run out of options, I’d highly recommend taking a day trip to Akaroa.