Tag Archive | Akaroa

The 10 Best Things About New Zealand

Our holiday in New Zealand was wonderful and we enjoyed every day. There were some experiences, however, which were special and made our trip even more memorable. Here, in no particular order, are my 10 best things about New Zealand.

1. Best Meal  We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary at Fox Glacier and asked the locals for a dinner recommendation. They sent us to the Matheson Café on the shores of Lake Matheson in the Westland National Park. The food was superb – New Zealand lamb and salmon with freshly steamed greens, followed by chocolate and Baileys cheesecake and homemade ice cream, and the service was excellent. It was the perfect way to end a lovely day.

DSCN5934

2. Best View  Our apartment at The Sunset Motel at Fox Glacier had a floor to ceiling glass wall facing on to the mountains and this was what we saw every morning! If you’re looking for a comfortable self-contained unit in Fox that’s not on the highway, this is the place to stay.

DSCN5939

3. Best Ride  We did a half day heli-hike with Fox Glacier Guiding. The helicopter ride up to into the remotest parts of the glacier wasn’t just a quick pick-up and drop-off, but a magnificent journey past the town and over the glacier to its highest reaches before swooping back past Victoria Falls and landing on the ice. The pilot made sure his six passengers all had plenty of camera time and he gave a running commentary during the flight. It was a fantastic way to start our day.

4. Best Experience  Our heli-hike experience was amazing and the absolute highlight was the time we spent in an ice cave. The entrance was tiny; we had to make our way down with only a knotted rope and our crampons for support. (My descent was more of an uncontrolled slide than a climb, and for a few seconds Mr ET thought my crampons were heading for his face!) Once inside the feeling was eerie and at the same time awe-inspiring. I felt like a true mountaineer, especially when I had to climb back out again.

5. Best Museum  The Lakes District Museum in Arrowtown is located in the old Bank of New Zealand on Buckingham St. It’s much more than a simple collection of local items and recollections; the history of the Māori, the first European settlers and the goldminers who came to Arrowtown is told in interactive displays, photographs and original texts which bring to life their colourful stories. There’s also an art gallery which presents beautiful local works and historical displays.

DSCN5611

6. Best Bed  We stayed one night in Picton before travelling on the Interislander Ferry to Wellington. This was one of only two nights for which we hadn’t booked accommodation and we were dismayed to find that almost every hotel and B&B had No Vacancy signs. Eventually we found the Mercure Picton Marlborough Sounds which still had vacancies. The price quoted was reasonable but the desk clerk was very apologetic because the room had a round bed! For us at this stage any bed would have done, so a round bed wasn’t a problem. It was colossal and comfortable – what more could we have asked for?

DSCN6163

7. Best Beach  Ohope Beach on the east coast of the North Island is an 11 kilometre stretch of pristine sand and clear water with views to White Island, a live volcano 48 kilometres off shore.  It has been voted “New Zealand’s Best Beach” so we’re not alone in recommending Ohope Beach as a must- see addition to your itinerary.

DSCN6771

8. Best Baguettes  I am not fond of baguettes – to me they are just long pieces of crust. This may seem sacrilegious to lovers of this French staple and for that I apologise. But at La Boucherie du Village in Akaroa I was converted. We bought baguettes freshly baked on the premises and hot out of the oven. They were truly spectacular! They also had a vast range of New Zealand meat and we bought our dinner there – delicious.

DSCN5239

9. Best Shower  And now we come to the most important best of the best: the shower. We stayed in six self-contained units in the three weeks we were in New Zealand and the showers in five of them were terrible. To be more specific the problem was with the shower heads. Some had so little water pressure that I had to run around the shower cubicle trying to catch the drops. A couple had difficulty maintaining a water temperature that was warm enough for long enough. The one shower that had great water pressure did not have a door which meant that the whole bathroom got wet, not just me. The 5 Diamond Belmont Lodge at Porirua had a faultless shower head – perfect pressure and temperature. The rest of our studio unit was really nice too but the shower was superb.

DSCN6197

10. Best Destination  We’ve had several overseas holidays and our trip to New Zealand ranks among our favourites. From Australia the flight to most other countries is very long and tiring, but it’s a just three hour flight to Christchurch. As usual, we spent a longer time in fewer places and saw everything we wanted to in each area. Even so, we’ve only been to a small part of this beautiful country and we will definitely be returning again soon. For us, New Zealand is the best destination of all!

DSCN5410

An A+ for Effort

On 2 January this year a storm front bearing driving rain, gale force winds and even snowfalls passed over the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Walkers and car drivers were trapped by landslides and bridges and roads were washed away. On the east coast at Akaroa we were blissfully unaware of the dramas caused by this unseasonable weather. The first sign of the storm for us was the heavy rain which fell on our last night. The following day as we drove from Akaroa to Wanaka we were congratulating ourselves on our good fortune in seeing the Southern Alps blanketed by fresh snow.

DSCN5399

It was only on 5 January in Wanaka that we found out that the storm might have played havoc with our travel plans. At the Tourist Information Centre we saw a travel warning: State Highway 6 was closed north of Harihari. Several spans of a major bridge over the Wanganui River had been washed away and it was not known how long the road would be cut.

Our plan after leaving Wanaka on 7 January had been to travel west to Fox Glacier and spend a day there before a full day’s drive north east to Picton along that same highway. After receiving some local advice we decided that as much as we wanted to see the glacier it would be wiser to make our way up the east coast instead. Luckily we were just a few hours inside the full refund deadline for cancelling our accommodation at Fox Glacier.

We had almost convinced ourselves that our new itinerary would just as enjoyable when on 6 January we started hearing reports that the bridge would be repaired and reopened by 8 January. In Australia the words “roadwork” and “haste” are never heard in the same sentence so we were sceptical when we heard the bridge would be passable just six days after being so badly damaged. Those same locals whose first recommendation had been not to take the risk now said that if the New Zealand Transport Agency stated the bridge would be fixed, then that’s what would happen.

So it was with bated breath on the morning of 7 January that we phoned the owner of the holiday apartments in Fox Glacier to ask firstly if they’d heard any news about the bridge and secondly if we could re-book our unit if the road was open. She answered yes to both questions.  Not only was the bridge being repaired but it would be ready a day ahead of schedule. Our west coast adventure was back on track!

After an incredible visit to Fox Glacier we headed north along State Highway 6 on 9 January in pouring rain, passing roadwork which continued on regardless of the conditions.

DSCN6127

These photos were taken through the windscreen of the car.

DSCN6132

DSCN6131

DSCN6133

If it hadn’t been so wet and cold I would have stopped and thanked these workers and given gold stars all round. Their efforts were truly worthy.

Bienvenue à Akaroa!

At a distance of more than 18 000 km New Zealand and France are almost as far apart as it is possible to be. Visit the little town of Akaroa on the South Island of New Zealand however and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve somehow ended up in France.

DSCN5243

On the drive south from Christchurch to the Banks Peninsula your first view of Akaroa and its harbour is breathtaking. The harbour was formed 9 million years ago in a volcanic eruption and is one of the world’s best examples of an eroded crater.

DSCN5187

Maori people were the first to settle on the Banks Peninsula about 700 years ago. In 1769, Captain James Cook and the crew of The Endeavour were the first Europeans to sight land here although they continued on their voyage without stopping. They were followed by European whalers in the 1830s. In 1838 Captain Jean François Langlois persuaded the local Maori to sell most of the peninsula to him for 1000 francs. He returned to France and established a company with the purpose of setting up a French colony on the peninsula. By January 1840 the ship Comte-de-Paris set sail from Rochefort with 53 French and German colonists on board. A naval warship L’Aube, under Captain Charles François Lavaud, sailed from Brest to provide protection for the settlers.

The colonists arrived in Akaroa on 17 August 1840 only to find that their plans for a French settlement had been thwarted by the English, who had claimed the South Island of New Zealand as a British colony under the Treaty of Waitangi. Captain Owen Stanley of the Britomart had raised the Union Jack at Green’s Point just six days before.

DSCN5345

DSCN5343

The colonists were undeterred and decided to stay, and Akaroa became the only town in New Zealand to be settled by the French. Today their influence is evident in the names of the streets and businesses in the town.

The old French burial ground on L’Aube Hill is marked by a plaque which acknowledges these pioneers and their contribution to the town.

DSCN5260

DSCN5255

DSCN5257

So as you wander along Rue Lavaud munching on your freshly baked baguette, or sip a coffee at one of the many cafés, close your eyes and for a moment you might just be transported to a tiny village in the heart of France.

The Giant’s House

Once upon a time in the land of New Zealand, a small child looked up at a beautiful house on a hill above the town of Akaroa. The child announced that the house was so large a giant must live there, and “Linton” became known as “The Giant’s House”.

DSCN5309

Linton was built in 1880 for the town’s first bank manager. Its entrance hall features a mahogany staircase which was specially imported from France and in keeping with that the rest of the house was decorated in French style. The house is now a luxury B&B owned by renowned artist Josie Martin.

DSCN5272

Josie’s presence is evident in the garden surrounding the house. Terraces of roses, perennials and summer annuals mingle randomly with vegetables and fruit trees. The garden beds overflow with colours which are mirrored in the amazing mosaic sculptures on every terrace. Staircases patterned with mosaicked creatures lead from one level to another and around every corner are more larger than life characters.

DSCN5267

DSCN5295

From the highest terrace the views of Akaroa harbour and the hills of Canterbury are as expansive as the house.

DSCN5286

What more could a giant ask for?