Akaroa - a Little Bit of France in NZ

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. 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 the right seemingly covered with hundreds of waterfowl and probably the largest concentration of Black Swan anywhere. Good picnic spot to stop and get close.

The traveler 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 they may be 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 a pullover with plenty of area. Then what goes up must come down so the next 7 kms is just that. One will see a lot of side roads to the various bays most of which are not recommended for buses and camper vans. Slow down or even stop to have a look at the historic Hotel Pecheurs in Duvauchelle ten kilometers out from Akaroa. For the camper van visitor one of the top holiday parks in the country is at Akaroa Top Ten overlooking the town - www.akaroa-holidaypark.co.nz.

When the traveler gets to Akaroa the two hour Akaroa Historic Walk will give one 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 the pearl and jade as a combo.

The visitor the opportunity to see the rare Hector's dolphin on a boat trip out of Akaroa. Camping grounds locally and one can park for the day at Dalys Wharf on the right as one enters the main section of town.

After Akaroa head south and remember to allow  time for the return trip to Christchurch and/or the drive south. Take the Taitapu/Lincoln Road to Route One other 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 the road reaches Route One. Turn south. Just before reaching Route One on the left is the turn off to Giessen Winery one of New Zealand's finest.  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. Of interest to fishermen it is supposed to be full of salmon at the right times of year.