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The town oozes charming French heritage everywhere you turn. Colonial architecture, French street names and an abundance of French-inspired restaurants dot the tiny settlement; Akaroa is the oldest colonial town in the South Island and casts a spell on all who visit. Soak up the ambiance by spotting historic cottages as you stroll the streets, or take a leisurely walk beside the harbour. Akaroa also has fascinating wildlife in abundance; the Hector’s Dolphin – the world’s rarest – frequently visits the harbour, and the yellow-eyed penguin colony out on the headlands is exciting to see up close.
In 1838, two years before New Zealand became a British colony, French whaler Captain Langlois deemed Akaroa the ideal location for a town that could service the French whaling ships. He then claimed the peninsula for France following a shady deal with the local Maori chiefs, before returning to France to arrange for a collection of French and German families to travel to New Zealand and create the new settlement of Akaroa.
Only months before Langlois arrived back in Akaroa, the British declared sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand after signing the Treaty of Waitangi in February of 1849. When Langlois and his settlers arrived in Akaroa in August of the same year, they found the Union Jack flag flying above the town. Undeterred, they decided to stay, and New Zealand’s first and only French settlement was born.
The world’s smallest dolphins & penguins
Akaroa is one of the only places in New Zealand where you can view or swim with the rare and playful Hector’s Dolphin. The world’s smallest dolphin, there are thought to be a mere 8,000 left in the wild – so it’s a real honour to be able to see these creatures up close. The Banks Peninsula is also a mecca for both the Yellow-eyed (hoiho) and the Little Blue Penguin. The best time for penguin viewing is the breeding season, between January and August.
Akaroa’s stunning natural environment and passionate locals offer delicious culinary experiences. Fresh local salmon and deepwater groper – cooked with a French twist – are specialities. Local wineries produce delicious Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Reisling, and much of the food here is always fresh and locally sourced. The cheese factory at Barry’s Point offers beautiful, French-inspired cheeses to sample.
At First Light Travel, we’re passionate about showcasing the very best experiences New Zealand has to offer – and the charming French town of Akaroa is one of them. We’d love to help you plan your dream kiwi vacation. Find out more on our website, or contact us now.
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