Walking the Historic Streets of Akaroa

There are plenty of cute small towns on New Zealand’s South Island, but Akaroa stands out from the crowd by being the only one with a big French influence. Akaroa was founded by French settlers in 1840 and although it wasn’t “French” for very long, it still retains a certain Gallic vibe. Throw in a nice waterfront area and plenty of cool cafes and restaurants and you have one of New Zealand’s most likable small towns.

The Historic Streets of Akaroa

The main part of Akaroa is small and is best seen on foot. Park your car up somewhere and stroll around the quiet streets (or busy streets if you’re visiting on a summer weekend or when a cruise ship is in town). One of the first things you’ll notice is the French street names, such as Rue Jolie and Rue Benoit. You’ll also notice plenty of picturesque old buildings (which were mostly built by English settlers). There are a few churches to check out and you’ll see heaps of cute old homes while walking the historic streets of Akaroa.


Inside some of these old buildings you’ll find galleries, shops and cafes. It’s a good place to just wander, grab a bit to eat, do some shopping and relax. We tried a few of the food options, including fish and chips, French crepes and a variety of food from the French bakery. There’s also an interesting museum (which was free) if you want to learn more about the history of Akaroa. In short, it was founded by the French in 1840, right around the time the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. 

If you want to explore a little further, you could check out the old cemetery (which wasn’t all that interesting) or walk (or drive) to the Garden of Tane and then up to Newton’s Waterfall

The Waterfront

The waterfront area in Akaroa is a pleasant place to hang out. We stayed in a hotel with a deck looking right over the harbour which was awesome. There’s an old lighthouse nearby, which was moved from the entrance to Akaroa Harbour. The waterfront area is also where you’ll board a boat tour on Akaroa Harbour. We did the dolphin spotting tour with Akaroa Dolphin (we were hosted) and it was such a great experience – we saw dozens of tiny dolphins swimming along with the boat.

Scenic Drives Around Akaroa

Akaroa has a lot to offer. As well as the old town and the dolphin spotting tours, another highlight is driving along the hills above town. This is some of the best coastal scenery in New Zealand and there are heaps of places to pull your car over and enjoy it. There are also some nice short walks, including the Children’s Bay Walkway and the Otepatotu Scenic Reserve.

Are you planning a trip to New Zealand? Check out our two-week South Island itinerary!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who has just returned home after 6 years abroad. Join me as I see as much of the South Island as I can.
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