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Bonjour, Akaroa – Four days in a French settlement

Updated: Jan 6

Getting there

  • You can walk almost everywhere in Akaroa so we opted not to hire a car. Instead, we booked a spot on the Akaroa French Connection, the daily shuttle service between Christchurch and Akaroa. It takes less than two hours, with brief stops at Little River and Hilltop Tavern. It was significantly cheaper, and it was great to learn more through the informative driver commentary.

The view from Hilltop Tavern with Akaroa and the Bays in the background

Staying there

  • We stayed at the Akaroa Criterion Motel on Rue Jolie. It’s centrally located, right by the Four Square supermarket and all rooms have a balcony or a patio and most with harbour views. Our room was lovely, and the staff made us feel so welcome. They also supply beach towels which is great if you want to save room in your luggage! The coffee was great too.

Akaroa Criterion Motel (photo from hotel website)

Things to do

  • Akaroa Dolphins: what an incredible experience. We set sail on a small boat to see Hector’s dolphins in their natural environment. They’re the smallest and rarest oceanic dolphins, and we were lucky to see so many. The cruise itself was excellent, great service, complimentary baking and NZ wine or beer were on offer, and Captain George talked to us about the area and the wildlife. One other highlight, and the thing that sold us on this tour, was the dolphin spotting dogs. Albie was on our boat today. MJ adored him. This attraction is a little pricier than some of the others but 100% worth it. Akaroa Dolphins is a sustainable company, devoted to enhancing and investing back into the environment. We give it a huge five stars and will recommend it to EVERYONE!


  • The Giant’s House: with its sculptures and mosaic garden is one of the top things to do in Akaroa. It’s a six-star Garden of International Significance and we dare you to try and get less than 50 photos! We took heaps. This attraction is reasonably priced and is walking distance from town.


  • Children’s Bay Rhino Walk: this family friendly track is about a 15 minute walk from the French part of Akaroa. We walked up and ran down. Great views of the harbour and some fun things for the kids to see. Took us under an hour and best of all, it’s free - and we love an affordable adventure.


  • Jurassic Steam Punk Sculpture Park & Mini Golf: a quirky twist on a family favourite, this mini golf course is set in a Jurassic steam punk sculpture park. It has 18 holes and the owner also has a gorgeous dog who loves pats. MJ grabbed a 10% discount voucher from our hotel which we used too.


Eat and drink

The Brasserie garden

  • The Giant’s House also has a café, The Artists Palate, that serves homemade light lunches, afternoon teas, and the best mint lemonade!

  • We had planned to dine at HarBar, their tacos looked awesome and it’s right on the beachfront but unfortunately, they were closed for the public holiday when we wanted to go. Should have gone the first day we saw it!

  • Best coffee is from Rona’s.


On the water

  • We were blessed with stunning weather while we were visiting and there is plenty to do on the water. Dolphin cruises are a big draw, but you can also hire stand up paddleboards and kayaks, and there are plenty of people out in their boats and jet skis. The beach is small but lovely if you can get a spot.

We loved our time in Akaroa and will visit again. Other cute things we loved were all the French street names (Akaroa was founded in August 1840 by French settlers, you can read more at nzhistory.govt.nz), the way the flowers grow, being able to see the ocean from almost anywhere, the lighthouse, all the walks, the library and cinema, and being able to walk everywhere.


- Kiki and MJ

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