Akaroa vs the South of France

Arguing that the small New Zealand town of Akaroa is comparable to the South of France is a bold statement to make, especially since to many, the South of France is one of the most luxurious vacation destinations in the world.

But I am here to do the unthinkable and make the statement that Akaroa offers everything (and more) that the South of France is famous for. 

Culture:

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Eze, South of France

South of France: The laid back French way of life can be experienced walking along the harbor en route to an espresso and croissant. The cities in the South of France have a quiet and rustic atmosphere that provides a peaceful vacationing experience. Just make sure you have mastered the basics of French language to avoid hostility among the proud Parisians.

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Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa:It is a common misconception that the British were the first western civilizations to discover New Zealand. In fact, French whalers were the first explores to set up base in Akaroa. And to this day, French influence still remains throughout the streets of this old whaling port. Just like in the South of France, you can take a stroll along the harbour on Rue Laverend and enjoy an espresso and croissant at a water front cafe. And the zen-like atmosphere that is found in the South of France is intensified in Akaroa with the “stress-free” kiwi mindset. And locals are also a lot more forgiving if you haven’t mastered the French language yet

Landscape:

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Sainte Tropez, South of France

South of France: The  rolling hills lined with French villas and sparkling blue waters filled with yachts galore is what makes the South of France so special. 

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Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: Also boasting a landscape of rolling hills and sparkling blue waters, Akaroa has been dubbed the most scenic place in the Banks Peninsula. And catching the landscape in the early morning makes it even all the more spectacular.

Beaches:

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Nice, South of France

South of France: In addition to beautiful villas and super yachts, the South of France also offers the magic of the Mediterranean ocean–warm water and sandy beaches (except for Nice, which has rocky ones). But with this also comes the risk of most likely having to share this slice of paradise with hundreds of other beach goers. 

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Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: Okay, so the South of France might win in regards to water temperature, because the water in Akaroa is notoriously cold (perks of being so close to Antartica!). But Akaroa makes up for this with its private beaches. Accessible via a kayak or boat, there are both sandy and rocky beaches that you can enjoy in total seclusion! Added bonus, it is highly likely you will encounter a dolphin or penguin out on the water. 

Cuisine:

South of France: France is known for its splendid cuisine and superior wines. And in the South of France these delicacies can be enjoyed at the beach clubs. It’s hard to beat a selection of crepes other savories with a glass of proseco to compliment the salty taste of the sea.

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Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: The best fish and chip shop offers a top-selection of battered fish, oysters and burgers (and with the best vegetarian burger you can ever have also available) is available to eat on the water front. But Akaroa also offers some fine dining experiences that feel as though you are in France! With a vineyard in the hills, you can enjoy a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in a rustic courtyard that had all the South of France feels. 

The annual bike race:

South of France: The Tour de France very well may be the most popular cycling event in the world. And chances are that if you are in the South of France towards the end of June you will get to see the event live!

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Nice, South of France

Akaroa: While it may not be as globally known like the Tour de France, every year Akaroa hosts Le Race, a 100km bike race from Christchurch to Akaroa, with the last 30km being a tough uphill challenge. But to the hundreds of competitors, it is well worth the views and spectator support when crossing the finish line by the water.

Viewpoints:

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Eze, South of France

South of France: One of the most scenic views on the French coastline is found in Eze, in which the magical contrast of rock and water will take your breath away. One glance from the top of Eze will make it difficult for any other viewpoint to beat. 

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Akaroa, New Zealand

Akaroa: in my humble opinion, Akaroa offers one of the few points in the world that can compete with Eze. Seemingly untouched by humans or wealth, the birds eye view of  is one that will surely make you fall in love with the French-influenced town of Akaroa.

Finding the French in New Zealand

Purchasing croissants at L’Escargot Rouge, strolling down Rue Lavaud, or cheese sampling at La Boucherie—sounds like a typical day in France? Many would be surprised to discover that all of these things can be done in the small town of Akaroa, which is located in the Banks Peninsula of New Zealand (and is only an hour and a half away from Christchurch.)DSC01562

Akaroa was originally settled by the French with the hopes of being a major hub for whale hunting; in 1838 Captain Jean Langois purchased Akaroa for a mere 248 pounds. This is quite the bargain considering that most properties owned in Akaroa now-a-days are valued at well over a million dollars. After Captain Langois’ purchase of this land he returned to France to encourage other Frenchmen to settle in his recently purchased land. However, when they arrived back to New Zealand two years later they discovered that the British had already began colonizing the area. Nevertheless, a large French influence remains in Akaroa to this day.

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Akaroa is the perfect location for a day trip, weekend trip, or hiking adventure. Halfway from Christchurch to Akaroa is the small town of Little River. Make sure to stop at the most popular attraction—the General Store—to try one of their coffees, which are possibly the best in all of the South Island. After having re-charged with the coffee and exploring the free art museum, the rest of the journey is an upward one over the winding green hills.Visitors are greeted at the top by an aerial view of perfection (with a perfectly located Pizzeria on this lookout as well).

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The town of Akaroa is fairly small—with only about 500 residents, most of which are aged over 65, visitors are greeted by a calm atmosphere and peaceful harbor waters. The clashing of colors in Akaroa during spring-time is ridiculous: the sparking teal waters clashing with the bright green rolling hills that are sprinkled with rows of yellow flowers is a view that pictures do not even do justice.

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One of the main attractions in Akaroa is the opportunity to swim with the Hector Dolphins, which are only found in New Zealand. These dolphins are the smallest of their kind and are often very playful with visitors. However, these dolphin tours can be pricey; a cheaper option is to rent a kayak near the wharf for twenty dollars (there is only one so it is impossible to miss!).

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Renting a kayak gives you the opportunity to adventure anywhere in the harbor, as well as flip into the water at a moment’s notice when the dolphins arrive.

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If the water is not your thing, then there are still plenty of active activities to do in Akaroa. From the wharf to the lighthouse is only a fifteen minute stroll and it is also possible to book a tour to go inside the lighthouse in the town center. While in the town center don’t forget to check out the world renowned Akaroa Fish and Chips shop; you can’t miss it as there is almost always a line onto the streets, one that is well worth the wait.

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Once at the lighthouse don’t forget to go up the hill for those extra-special hill views.

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Halfway up the first hill is a beautiful cemetery for residents who have lived and died in Akaroa since the first European settlement.

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For the extra-adventurous hiker, a three-day adventure hike can be planned from this route, which will ultimately take you to the Port Hills in Christchurch.

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However, since dolphins are my thing, I opted for the water adventure during my gloriously sunny day in Akaroa.

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So if you are looking for a French-filled, sunny, and peaceful getaway with the bonus of dolphins and scenic views then Akaroa is the place to visit.  Oui Oui!

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