This June has been one of the wettest on record and the cold weather and grey skies have been triggering some serious hibernation vibes in me. With the sun seemingly on an extended holiday, all I’ve wanted to do is cocoon into the softest blanket I own and read a good book.
I find that during winter it can be so tempting to become a homebody while you wait for the thermometer to get back above 9°. But if you don’t mind investing in a warm hat and coat, winter can actually be a great time to explore new places with half the usual crowds.
To break my winter funk, I called a few girlfriends and we packed into my friend’s Mazda for an outing to Akaroa. Being based in Christchurch, Akaroa is an easy day trip with beautiful scenery along the way and tons of cute places to stop for a wander.
Our plan was to drive out to Akaroa in the morning with a quick stop at Birdlings Flats. We’d sightsee, have lunch along the harbour, and be back in Christchurch by dinner time.
Here are a few of my favorite spots from our trip…
Birdlings Flats is easy to miss as you drive south along State Highway 75. A quick right turn onto Jones Road will take you through a small community of houses to a beautiful rocky beach. A dramatic drop in the sea floor close to the shoreline means that this is not the place to come for a swim, however, it is a great spot for bonfires on the beach and for adding to your rock collection.
This was the first stop on our drive and it was so foggy that we could hardly see more than a few meters in front of us. We decided to try and catch the view on the way back to Christchurch and lucked out with a gorgeous sunset. I will definitely be back in the summer with blankets and some firewood, ready to roast some marshmallows.
Barry’s Bay Cheese
One of the best parts of traveling is tasting the local cuisine. It doesn’t get much more local than Barry’s Bay Cheese where they make the cheese on site. Things are a bit quieter in winter when production is shut down for the season but you can still find an amazing selection of cheeses (including discounted offcuts) and other local spreads and wines. They’re also very generous with their samples…
The low lying fog cast a hazy, ethereal glow on the town the day we were there. Walking along the jetty, I loved looking at the sailboats drift in the calm water. It made it hard to believe that this peaceful harbour was once an active volcano.
If you’re in town for longer then a day, look into booking a harbor cruise. There are even special tours for spotting and swimming with Hector’s dolphins, a rare and friendly dolphin native to New Zealand. It’s on my bucket list but I may wait for warmer weather before willingly plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
The Akaroa Lighthouse is another great spot to stretch your legs and enjoy the views. Sure, this experience would have been a bit more zen for me if the couple next to us wasn’t taking a drone selfie, but it was still fun to watch the birds hang out by the water and we even saw a bit of action, with two kayakers narrowly avoid colliding.
Antiquing and Shopping in Town
Akaroa was originally settled by the French and to this day, still maintains it’s French charm. Many streets and shop names are in French and there are blue and red homages to the French flag all over the place.
While you won’t find any major French fashion houses selling their wares here, there’s no shortage of cute boutiques in town. Pot Pourri offers a curated (though not inexpensive) collection of homewares and nicknacks and some of the best fudge this side of the equator. I tried the chocolate and creme brulee flavours and left with a sizable bag to take home. Right next door is Another Time Antiques, which offered an eclectic collection, perfect for someone in the mood for a treasure hunt.
About a two-minute drive from there, there’s another stretch of shops and restaurants. I’d recommend popping into Lava Gallery for fun pieces made by local artists and Hettie’s Rock and Crystal Shop can help with all of your gemstone needs.
Despite its strong French influences, Akaroa maintains a connection to its Maori history and culture. Just a few minutes drive from town will take you to the Onuku Marae. In Maori culture, a Marae is a meeting house and is the focal point in the community.
Driving through, you’ll see that many of the buildings are decorated with traditional Maori carvings. If you’re interested in experiencing Maori hospitality, they do offer overnight stays, with the motto, “Come as guests. Leave as whanau (family)”.
All in all, this trip was the perfect introduction to Akaroa and I can’t wait to go back again for another adventure (and fudge).
Have you been to Akaroa? What places do you recommend for first-timers? Leave your tips in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to never miss a post (link below)!