Akaroa is a peaceful, quiet, and french-inspired little town just an hour east of Christchurch toward the peninsula. A majority of travellers/backpackers bypass this town, stopping or flying into Christchurch then continuing north or south on their tours. But this quaint place deserves a visit, if not for the dolphin watching/swimming, then for the french bread and quiet getaway for a night or two! Akaroa is a tourist stop over no doubt, but it’s so lightly visited it feels like the place to relax, have a romantic getaway, try the famous fish & chips, and eat from the local award-winning butcher&deli. Blessed with perfect weather on the two nights we were there, a few things made me name Akaroa my favourite town within a couple of hours of arriving.
Nothing defines tranquility like quiet. It wasn’t like dead quiet, but it just felt so calm. Some families with children roamed about, and tourists were in and out of gift shops and cafes but just so sparingly to keep with the uniqueness of the town. It didn’t feel touristy at all. This was a place you strolled a long the shores, took a nap on the wharf as you watch the dolphin cruise boats come in and out, read your favourite at the many cafes, or take a stroll up the park with a birds-eye view of the sea.
THE FRENCH VIBE
I’m not a big Frenchie fan, but I like being in places with a foreign feel. Just like Singapore has a ‘Little India’ or Sydney has their ‘Chinatown’, Akaroa is NZ’s little France. To me the town doesn’t quite replicate the French neighbourhood in terms of building and architecture, but there were French restaurants, bars, cafes, and a bakery resembling French culture & couture. Plus basically everyone here spoke French! I imagine a lot of the backpackers that come through here do because they’re French. The people in campervans were French, the hostel workers were french, and the French bakery workers were also French. We picked up a hitch-hiker who was also French – a French chef in-fact (Hopefully he found a place to settle and found a job!). The only thing missing from this town was maybe french poodles and Dachshunds.
Oh my lord the food. I didn’t try any restaurants/cafes to be honest, but from what I got from the local butcher, and the coconut ice-cream I had, and just visiting the French bakery, I could tell food in any of the places here would be good. There was even a restaurant called ‘Ratatouille’. There were unique in that each restaurant was boutique and fancy-looking. The kind you could go for a candle-lit dinner or date. When I went walking at night, it was like no-one lived here, but restaurant windows were lit with a dim yellow lights, and filled with customers enjoying a good meal. Back to that local butcher though – I got beer-crafted crackers, goats cheese, French herb pate, and a slab of the most tender Salmon I’ve ever had. DIVINE.
Being NZ, of course it was beautiful. Akaroa’s shoreline was like a sea inlet with a back drop of mountains that created gorgeous sunsets. Imagine how I felt meditating for 20 minutes, only to open my eyes to this:
Akaroa reminded me a lot of Annecy in France. A village with a clean blue sea and mountains of greenery surrounding. I just loved it.
Given all that, Akaroa would’ve been the town I chose to stay. When I initially thought of travelling to NZ i wanted to stay 2-3 months, travelling and doing workaway or helpx experiences. NZ makes it so easy to find work. We stayed at Bon Accord Backpackers where I met one of the ladies who was in her 3rd week of volunteering. She was on a 6 week work break actually and was getting free accommodation and food in exchange for 3.5 hours work. She also worked for $20/hr for 8-10 hrs a week down at one of the local gift shops. How neat is that. It never costs so much to take life at a chill pace anywhere in the world, while earning yourself a few dollars. This lady was also a hairstylist so she offers hair-cutting services to people while on the road too! Making $200/wk would be more than enough to just stay for a long while here in Akaroa.
For anyone passing through Christchurch, I’d highly recommend visiting Akaroa if you have a couple of days to spare. The dolphin cruises are the main tourist draw, but a lot of tourists come here to feed their curiosity of a French town. If i ever get around to doing helpx or workaway in NZ, I know where Im going!