Akaroa – A ‘oui’ taste of France

With memories of a long ago visit to Akaroa still lingering, SARAH ELLIS was excited at the prospect of a return visit with her husband and friends. But would the romance of yesteryear still be there?

Memories of Akaroa had become a bit hazy over the years and for that very reason I was keen to renew my acquaintance with this French-influenced seaside township renowned for its seafood and quaint streets.

It would be fair to say the day didn’t turn out exactly as expected. Although the drive from Christchurch would normally take about an hour and 20 minutes, it took us longer as there were many picturesque places to stop along the way.

One of those was Little River, with its disused Railway Station which still had old carriages sitting on the tracks. The station house had been converted into a museum and memorial to the district’s fallen soldiers – a particularly appropriate place for us to visit as Anzac Day
loomed.

A contemporary art gallery and café plus Silo accommodation in this little town also impressed. Meandering on we also stopped at the Hilltop Tavern to take in the absolutely gorgeous view – it’s not to be missed.

And, for a self-confessed ‘cheeseaholic’ the award-winning, Barry’s Point Cheese Factory was another great attraction. Yes, we brought cheese to snack on – who could resist?

Arriving in Akaroa we were in time for the local markets – crafts and produce galore and, naturally, we had to walk some of the streets with their typically French names – Rue Benoit,
Rue Lavaud and Rue Blaguerie to name a few.

Sitting on the edge of the Akaroa Harbour is, of course, a lovely spot for lunch and we were spoilt for choice when it came to the array of cafés and bistros overlooking the water

Sadly our ‘stab in the dark’ choice, The Trading Rooms, was not up to scratch. We ordered seafood chowder but it was luke warm, salty and not what we had hoped for.

But it was a gorgeous Easter Saturday so we just chalked that one up to experience and left
regretting that we hadn’t known the cafe lie of the land better.

On the other hand, our visit was all about relaxation, soaking up the history, feeling the sun on our faces and its warmth on our backs as we took a leisurely stroll after lunch.

Without doubt Akaroa is still beautiful although it’s now more Kiwi country town than French provincial village. Given time we might have taken a harbour cruise to see dolphins and penguins and we might have tried our luck at another cafe for dinner. But our day outing was at an end – it had been as much about the journey, as the destination.

It may not have been quite as I remembered but Akaroa still knows how to turn on the charm.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY:

Akaroa is the only area in New Zealand to be settled by the French.

In 1838 Captain Langlois, a French whaler, decided the harbour would be an ideal place to stop and service his whaling ships. While there he made a less than scrupulous deal with local Maori to acquire it. But ‘karma’ seemed to be in play.

When he returned two years later with his native Frenchmen, The Treaty of Waitangi had been signed and Hobson had claimed sovereignty over Aotearoa.

However, the French colonists did stay on and settle this part of the harbour, imparting a little bit of their culture to create a unique fusion of Kiwi and French lifestyles.