Ron LaughlinThe Ultimate New Zealand Travel Guide
Banks Peninsula was named after Jame's Cook's botanist Joseph Banks. It is an extinct volcano with its circular shape and steep sides that creates the many bays around it. Akaroa is the oldest town in the Canterbury District and claims the oldest house in the region. It is the location of the first Catholic Church and the first vineyard in New Zealand.
From Christchurch take Route 75(easy to find and negotiate from the city) to the Banks Peninsula and the town of Akaroa, New Zealand's only French settlement, settled in 1840 by only 63 people. It is a small quaint French influenced village 85 km (1 1/2 hour drive) southeast of Christchurch. The drive is spectacular.
Lake Ellesmere is on your right seemingly covered with hundreds of waterfowl and probably the largest concentration of black swan anywhere. Good picnic spot to stop and get close. Had young swans walking around the bus driving the cats crazy.
You might want to stop at the Little River Cafe about half way along the way or stop in Barry's Bay for their excellent cheese. From Cooptown just past Little River you will find the little hills have turned to big hills (to a flatlander like me they were mountains) and a continual climb. The next seven kilometres will be winding and heading toward the top. Stopping at the crest there is the Hilltop pub and pullover with plenty of area. Then what goes up must come down so the next 7 kms is just that. You will see a lot of side roads to the various bays most of which I do not recommend for buses and/or camper vans.Slow down or even stop to have a look at the historic Hotel Pecheurs in Duvauchelle 10 kilometers out from Akaroa.
For those of you in camper vans there is only one fabulous place to stay overlooking Akaroa and a very good camp run by Kay and Dick Russell with manager Richard Sansbury overlooking the daily activities and making sure your stay is of the highest quality.
The Akaroa Top Ten Holiday Park -www.akaroa-holidaypark.co.nz
When you get to Akaroa the two hour Akaroa Historic Walk will give you a real feel for the place. Plenty of good cafes and shops in the downtown area. Definitely have a look at the artistic jade work of Graeme Wylie at: Naturally Jade
Akaroa has become the place where they do paua (abalone) farming and commercially create a beautiful blue pearl. Look at what Graeme does with them and jade as a combo.
In the centre of town at the wharf are the Black Cat Cruises that provide the opportunity to see the rare Hector's dolphin on a boat trip out of Akaroa.
One of the best ways to really get to know Akaroa is on the Historic Area Walk. There are forty-three buildings and historic sites to visit. Allow around two hours for the leisurely walk. You can get a guide book at the Information Centre.
A somewhat quirky place to stop and see is the "Giants House" named one of the xtreme homes of the world.
Take a look - Giant's House.
Lots of activities to enjoy along with the many events and festivals held each year. Check out the websites below for more complete information.
You can park for the day at Dalys Wharf on the right as you enter the main section of town.
After Akaroa we head south so remember to allow yourself time for the return trip to either Christchurch or the drive south. Going south we will take the Taitapu/Lincoln Road to Route One rather than having to go back through the city. The flat straight road goes through one of New Zealand's top University locations - Lincoln University.
Just 15 kilometres through Springston and you reach Route One. Turn south. Just before reaching Route One on the left is the turn off to Giessen Winery one of New Zealand's best. It is 56 kms now to Ashburton on a major flat and straight highway. Mountains dominate the skyline to the West and the surrounding area. is almost entirely farm land. The very, very wide glacial fed Raikai River is coming up.
The following website will provide more information on the Akaroa area Akaroa Information
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