Akaroa, Aotearoa – The French Town That Stole Our Hearts

An hour and a half south east of Christchurch, tucked away on a secluded bay on Banks Peninsula, lies the sunny french settlement of Akaroa. Little time was wasted, and before I knew it I was falling in love with this place. Akaroa will be one of those places full of stories I will tell when I speak about my time in New Zealand.

Our first few nights on Akaroa Harbor were spent at the Duvauchell Holiday park with a beachfront spot. Dreams of reading in a hammock, beach waves crashing in the background, cocktail in hand were quickly cut short when a wind storm with 85 km/hour winds swept in and didn’t let up for three days. We did our best to enjoy what we could and after a full day and night of hunkering down in the tent decided to go for a bike ride to French Farm Winery. The pace was cruisy and the views were seaside the whole way. Purple Lupines were in full bloom and littered the coast with peek-abo shots of the harbor. The pops of purple against sea breeze blue is what I used to dream of when I imagined traveling New Zealand.

Sadly, the hours listed online were out of date and the winery was closed when we got there. The property was beautiful and after biking a large hill with a headwind, I felt we had earned a glass of wine. Refusing to let one set back end a day of adventure, we u-turned back towards and camp and stopped at Barrys Bay Cheese Factory, purchased some peppered cheddar, and settled for beer. As we arrived back at camp, the winds picked up and we called it another early night and sought refuge in our tent and settled in with cheese, crackers, and fruit for dinner.

After toughing out the wind for a couple days and spending far too much time in our small home, we headed to the proper town of Akaroa where there was a bit more to do. No longer beachfront and now tucked away in the trees on the hill, the wind was much more manageable. We traded windless nights for a very big hill. Since our tent lives on the root fop of our car, bikes are our mode of transportation. Having a home mid way up the ridge of a caldera is one way to earn all the delicious french food and wine in the region, plus we had a killer view of town just outside our tent.

Our first foodie stop was The Brasserie, a beautiful garden that was in full bloom for spring. We snagged lunch and coffee for two and then spent the day enjoying the sun on our bikes and decided to give another winery a try. 2km out of town and a 121 meter climb, we were promised sweeping views on the Meniscus Vineyard. Again, sadly the tasting room was closed. We assumed Covid had something to do with it but later found out the owner had suffered a stroke and his daughter was working on taking over the vineyard for him and turning it into a photography gallery and tasting room. I can’t wait to check it out when we visit again.

After giving up on wine tasting the previous day and showing up to two wineries only to find out they were closed, we gave Takamatua Valley / Akaroa Winery a call before climbing the rest of the way up the caldera wall. It was absolutely worth it with the incredible views and the delicious wine. The owner of the winery was almost stuck in Italy when lockdown hit but just like us, made it in under the wire but had to leave his son and wife in Italy. His wife is the scientist behind the wine blends and has been guiding her husband from afar. Vineyards often rely on backpackers for free or cheap labor to help during picking season, but this year it may be a one man job. Who knows maybe we will come back and volunteer to help pick in exchange for wine. 

It took us three days but we finally scratched our wine tasting itch and were looking forward to a Penguin Wildlife Safari and swimming with hectar’s dolphins over the coming weekend.