Akaroa is a small and very pretty tourist-oriented town of about 800 people on Banks Peninsula, with a unique French connection which it takes full advantage of. It’s situated within Akaroa Harbour and overlooked by the harbour crater rim, about 80 minutes from Christchurch on State Highway 25. It’s an easy walk around the waterfront with a number of cafes, restaurants and shops. Hector’s dolphins, seals and penguins can all be found around the harbour with the help of commercial eco tour operators.

For a small town, it has an interesting history. Akaroa means “Long Harbour” in the local Māori dialect and was important to local Māori. By the 1830s, it was one of many whaling stations along the coast of the South Island that coexisted and traded with Māori.

Then around 1830, the nearby Māori settlement at Takapūneke was sacked by Te Rauparaha (the “southern Napoleon”) with the help of a British sea captain, John Stewart. Such incidents of lawlessness by Europeans led to the appointment of the first official British representative, James Busby, to New Zealand in 1832. This turned out to be the first step in the process that led to the Treaty of Waitangi /te Tiriti o Waitangi in 1840.

The Akaroa French connection arose in 1838 when Captain Jean François Langlois purchased land from twelve Ngāi Tahu Banks Peninsula chiefs. On his return to France, Langlois promoted his colonial venture and in 1840, 63 emigrants left from Rochefort on the ship Comte de Paris, given to them by the French government. This coincided with the signing of the Treaty and they found themselves subject to British law when they arrived.

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