Akaroa !!! Akaroa ??? Now how many of you have actually heard about this town at all. You may have been living in New Zealand for a long time and at some stage even move out of the country without even hearing about this place. And I won’t be surprised if that was the case. For, this town isn’t promoted as heavily as a tourism destination nor marketed anywhere as much as it deserves. And to be honest, I’m glad it isn’t. Cuz that’s what make this beautiful little French town in the Bank’s Peninsula of Canterbury region, so unique, so niche and so very pretty to say the least. Surprisingly however just after I wrote this line I found out that during the cruise season in 2018/19 nearly 190,000 visitors made it to this town <facepalm>
It’s so hard to believe that a place just about 80kms from the heart of Christchurch is so very beautiful, yet not many people know about it nor do they flock like how they do it at the cliche places like the Queenstowns and the Wanakas !! For me Akaroa is actually more beautiful than either of them. Yes there are no snow clad mountains as a backdrop, yes there are no millions of cliche stores, yes there are no umpteen adventure sporting activities to do, but the view of the valley from the top of the ranges beats anything I’ve ever seen in NZ so far. Even the drive to get to Akaroa from Christchurch (Chch) is so amazingly beautiful that it’s hard to put any words together to describe it. You pass through so many hills and valleys throughout the entire journey that you’d want to stop at every single corner to click a picture. And just around quarter of the way through, you realise that the more you click the more you are wasting your time doing so cuz it only gets more and more beautiful as you keep driving, making the previously clicked pictures almost redundant. This is what happened to me all through the way. I drove to Akaroa from Lyttleton through the coast and then via the Gebbles Pass road. Every corner literally was a stop that was photo worthy. After a while I stopped “Stopping” anymore, until I reached this tiny tiny village called Little River, about 25kms away from Akaroa. The time of the day, the time of the year and my choice of clothing all made it for a fantastic colorful frame that I had to stop to click !! Thanks to my tripod I got to set up my frame the way I want 🙂 The image below is what I’m talking about.
Furthermore from Little River probably another 2kms away I came across this farm called Chester Orchard and to my luck Spring had sprung in time for me to grab yet another lovely image. Although this time I thought it was best done on my way back cuz I knew I had a matching shirt in my bag that’d go well with the colors (It’s the cover image of this post). After awe-ing myself in this colorful orchard I ended up on a different route than what the GPS suggested which actually took me off road and onto a gravel/stony road for a good 30mins, which was getting me worried. Thankfully I had accidentally booked a 4WD SUV which drove without any hiccups. Once I got back on the “normal road” it was a bit of a relief. With a further few minutes of driving, came possibly the best spot of the day. It was the highest point on top of the hill, driving into the valley. It was very aptly named “HILLTOP” otherwise I guess people would be confused where to find it, isn’t it? The view of the entire Akaroa Valley along with the sunset, was just priceless. No amount of photo clicking would do any justice to the beauty that was in front of me. At the Hilltop is a cafe called “HILLTOP TAVERN” (Seriously?? who’s coming up with these names..another facepalm), a perfect place to grab that coffee or the beer and admire what’s in front of your eyes ! The beautiful Akaroa Valley !
Continuing the journey there are a few more tiny towns along the way but the Cabins of Duvauchelle will catch your eyes as you drive. They are such pretty colourful boatsheds which anyone would love to click. It’s a detour off the main road for a couple of kms but definitely worth it. And it’s just when you drive past Duvauchelle that you realise you are closer to Akaroa cuz everything in Akaroa is in French ! Well almost.. Most street names start with “Rue” meaning Street in French, followed by a name like Rue Jolie, Rue Lavaud, Rue Brittan etc Even the restaurants have french names like Ma Maison, La Rochelle etc. There’s a whole history behind why it’s French here; if you Google it you’ll find out more. But everything about the little town centre of Akaroa is very quaint and very pretty. There are plenty of walkways starting from the town centre taking to the hill tops for some stunning views, and during summers I believe it’s a lot more busier on the water with kayaks, SUPs etc as well as on the streets during the cruise ship season. When I walked around the town it felt like it was hit by a nuclear bomb & people had deserted the place, for there were literally no one. I could hardly count the number of people I came cross through my entire time. Even at the backpacker I stayed in, had just ME for the first night and then another equally surprised traveller for the next two ! We both ended up hanging out a bit, as we had no other choice but we also had a lot to talk about 🙂
I must say however the highlight of the trip more than Akaroa itself, was the drive to the Bays in and around the Peninsula. Each bay like the Okains Bay, Le Bons Bay, Pigeon Bay etc was about 15-30kms from the top of the Summit Road and wait a minute, The Summit Road..Woah ! What an amazing drive that is in itself. As we drove on the Summit Road, the traveller I met at the accomodation,. who was from Sheffield, UK said it reminded her of the Peak District in England, but only grander and more & more beautiful. The views of each of the bays and the adjoining valleys going down and coming back up were such stunners. The roads were too narrow to stop & click anything, without affecting oncoming traffic. I drove to a couple of bays and released each bay was only better than the other so I gave up after the 3rd bay. But the best part of this drive was reserved to the last !! On the last day on my way back to Chch from Akaroa, instead of SH75 I decided to take the “Tourist Drive”, of which Summit Road is a part of and during that drive it actually started snowing. Not a heavy snowfall but a decent sized fall that warranted me to pull over and try to capture the snowfall with a video and a photo. Couldn’t do too much justice to it but I still tried. It was a very magical experience no doubt. Felt like I was driving through the sets of Narnia, while it was in the making 🙂
Ah well after the last few solo trips including to Dunedin, Invercargill, Catlins, Nelson, Kaiteriteri and now Akaroa, my personal opinion of New Zealand being the most beautiful country I’ve ever been to (or in) so far, only gets stronger & stronger as I explore more. And to second my thoughts Stuff.co.nz ended up with an article just a couple of days before I posted this blogpost – click HERE to read that article and I bet you’d agree too.. Well that’s a pretty long post already, here are some pics from the trip for you to enjoy 🙂 For the full album CLICK HERE and until my next post Mā te wā !!