Akaroa, South Island – March 30 to April 1, 2017
We left Pegasus Town and headed south to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. It’s an historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano — previously an island formed by a volcanic cone. The volcano last erupted about 6 million years ago!
It’s the only place in New Zealand that France tried to colonize, but the British beat them to it. Despite their failed plan, the French settlers stayed, and many of their descendants are still residents of Akaroa today! In addition, the French influence can be seen on the street signs (Rue Jolie, Rue Benoit, Rue Grehan, etc.) and names of shops, cafes, and other businesses.
On our way to Akaroa, we stopped for a few minutes in Little River for a snack and a quick look around. Right next to where we stopped were silos converted into silostays!
Just outside Little River (about 15km from Akaroa), we ended up taking the Summit Road (aka Tourist Drive route) — thanks, Google Maps. While the views were spectacular after the fog (!) gave way, it was a narrow, unsealed (slightly muddy) road from the top to the bottom with no guard rails! I was not a fan…at all. In fact, I even offered to walk. Seriously.
(Mike Note: Jody may be taking a bit of poetic license in her use of the phrase “offered to walk”. Maybe “demanded a reduction in speed” might be more accurate. I will confirm this was the worst road and conditions we’ve faced, but also the most rewarding views).
About an hour later (it was probably really only 10 minutes) Mike drove us safely down to our house. It was a little red bach (pronounced “batch” and in NZ means a modest holiday house) perched up on a small hillside overlooking the village and the harbor with a spectacular view! The manager of the property met us there to give us the rundown. In addition, he pointed out a sign and informed us about what to do in the event of an earthquake and/or tsunamis! (Given the fact that Akaroa felt the quake in Kaikoura in November, aftershocks are still a real possibility.) It was good info to have but was still a bit unnerving for us landlocked folk.
Here we are with a view from our balcony during the day…
and here’s the view in the morning as the sun comes up!
In side our “bach” was this painting of Popeye and in the harbour was a boat called “Popeye!” 🙂
By that time it was time for lunch, so we headed into the village and had a delicious lunch (saffron seafood chowder and blue cod fish and chips) at Ma Maison, which also happened to be right next to a playground! 🙂 On our way to the restaurant, we noticed this sign on a bridge referencing the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (2 June 1953)!
The rest of the afternoon was spent roaming around the beautiful village, stopping at the tourist info center, walking to the wharf, having ice cream, visiting the library to use the wifi (very well organized and welcoming with lots of info and reading brochures. They even had a sign by the door where people place pins indicating their hometown/country), checking out the small cinema (only 36 seats in one theater and 15 in the other with a full coffee shop and bar for drinks and snacks).
After a lovely dinner on our balcony of ½ price savories from the French bakery, we walked back into town to check out another playground I’d found on the map. We took a few moments to do chin ups and have a few laughs and check out the moon coming up and out from behind the clouds. We also walked past the Coronation Library (built in 1875), which was renamed after renovations in 1911 to commemorate the coronation of King George V. The playground, ended up being at the Akaroa Area School playground which was set on a beautiful campus for grades K-12.
The next morning, we did a short hike to Stanley’s Peak on a fairly steep path up through some sheep pastures for some amazing views. We looked down over the town and the harbor and decided that below us everything looked miniature – like a set from railroad track village or a Grandma Moses painting!
On the way back to our “bach,” we stopped at Le Boucherie (butcher shop) to pick up some sausages and a baguette. We had a quick lunch of ham, chicken, cheese, jelly on baguette (each person choosing their fillings), gathered our things, and then headed to the pier for a 2½-hour sailboat cruise!
Before we left the dock, we got to see a couple of stingrays swimming around. They are huge!! They were still there when we got back, only this time they were eating some fish remains that a fisherman had thrown in, so we watched as they floated on top of the fish and then disappeared below with the fish.
The sailboat cruise was wonderful!! The wind wasn’t as cooperative as we and the captain would have liked, thus requiring the use of the motor a few times, but we did have the opportunity to sail a bit, too. It was so quiet and peaceful!
Both G and L had nice long turns at the helm. There were 8 of us on board, not including the captain – our family, a mother and daughter from Germany/Bavaria, and a couple also from Germany.
We saw lots of Hector’s Dolphins, an endangered dolphin only found in New Zealand, who loved to catch the waves and surf a bit right next to the boat.
We also saw beautiful cliffs and a point called Elephant Point because it looked just like the head of an elephant. Mike won a chocolate fish for guessing the correct name! 🙂 We all ended up with a chocolate, though, which was nice.
We also saw a beautiful cave called Cathedral Cave.
We also saw a few little blue penguins, who live in a cave on the other side of the harbor.
We saw the opening of the harbor out to the sea and learned that it would take 5 weeks to sail to Antarctica (3,000+ nautical miles), but heading out in that direction would bring you there!
We saw a salmon farm and a mussels farm and learned more about the history of the bay and settlers and just generally enjoyed the ride and the scenery!
We got off the boat and headed to Murphy’s Fish Shop (the same Murphy family that settled in Akaroa in the 1800’s) – a food stand on the jetty – and shared a cup of seafood chowder and an order of salmon and chips. We took the salmon and chips down to the waterfront, where the 4 of us polished them off in about 30 seconds!
G and L walked down to the beach to skip rocks. L helped G as she wasn’t quite getting them to skip. 🙂
On our last morning, we packed, cleaned, and checked out of the bach and then walked into town to the Autumn Harvest Festival at “The Old Potter’s Garden.” It was a benefit for a health care center in the area and had all sorts of foods to sample/purchase, music, and tables to sit and enjoy all amid an absolutely magical garden with various paths off into more wooded areas, a giant vine covered pergola, etc., including a cooking demonstration.
And then we were on our way to Hanmer Springs.