Akaroa Off The Beaten Path

  • Small but lovely: St. Kentigern.
    Small but lovely: St. Kentigern.
    by Kakapo2
  • Banks Peninsula's landscape in the windows.
    Banks Peninsula's landscape in the...
    by Kakapo2
  • Picnic spot above Pigeon Bay and the beach.
    Picnic spot above Pigeon Bay and the...
    by Kakapo2

Most Recent Off The Beaten Path in Akaroa

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    Meet the God of the Wind

    by Kakapo2 Updated Nov 24, 2012
    The God of the Wind and a lady named Doris.

    You find this Maori carving at the Akaroa Reserve, high above the harbour. It depicts Tawhiri Matea, the God of the Wind.

    Really a very appropriate place for that wooden statue – although you might not get this impression on a calm day ;-)

    It was designed and carved by a local artist named Simon Rodgers from Onuku in 2000.

    Update 25 Nov. 2012

    The wooden statue has disappeared from the reserve, probably only temporarily while an upgrade of the tip of reserve is being made. If I do not see it on my next visit I will investigate what has happened to it. - The reserve is still worth a visit (if not crazy people let their half a dozen dogs run free and chase you, as happened yesterday) because from the last shelter (where the carving used to sit) you have a fantastic view of Akaroa Harbour and Akaroa.

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    The Eastern Bays

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Jan 20, 2012

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    The Eastern Bays
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    However you take the time to explore the Eastern Bays of the Banks Peninsula, you'll be well rewarded.
    If your time is limited, or you don't have your own transport, a morning spent with postman Gerry on the Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run will give you a great introduction to the tranqil bays, small hamlets and wonderful views on offer. With your own car, you could do the same run (around Summit Road and up and down into the different bays) and take time for a beach picnic and some longer stops along the way and still be back in Akaroa in time for dinner.

    More time still? Why not stay at one of the bays? You can choose from a range of accommodation that includes farmstays, B&Bs,backpackers and campsites. It may be possible to make arrangements with the mail run to break your trip if you wish to stay overnight.

    The Peninsula is fantastic walking country and there are several excellent tracks catering for all levels of fitness and enthusiasm. Contact the Akaroa Visitors Centre for more details and information.

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    some damaged structures(due to the quake)

    by AusPinay Written Apr 5, 2011
    this library was declared unsafe
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    The walking tour also gave us a perspective on how strong the tremor that hit Christchurch was! Though Akaroa was 75 kilometres from this city, some part of Akaroa was also damaged like the bridge, the library, etc.

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    Banks Pen.: Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum

    by Kakapo2 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    A history-telling wind rose at the Museum.
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    After the long drive from Akaroa, through rural landscape, and up and down the hill, you nearly cannot believe your eyes when you spot this museum on the right side of the road. It is so well presented, and as we always seem to have blue sky and sunshine when we arrive at Okains Bay – ok, ok, we do not start our trip if the forecast is for less perfect weather LOL – the property entrance and the Maori and colonial buildings even look more spectacular. They are perfectly presented, especially the wonderful Maori carvings along the fence (photo 4).

    A visit is as relaxed as you can expect at such a remote place. Normally you try to find someone, so you can pay your entry fee.

    The restored colonial buildings, the museum, the beautifully carved Maori meeting house and food store are located around a central lawn (photo 3). The European buildings include cottages, stables, a print shop, a blacksmith shop, stationary engines and a saddlery.

    In total the collection of Maori and European settlement includes more than 20,000 artefacts. In the museum you can learn a lot about Maori life, from their way of fishing, catching birds (including the terrible snares which killed the huge NZ woodpigeons), life and customs, you see their tools, weapons, clothes, homeware, jewellery, and a big selection of boats. While we were there an old chap came and asked if we had questions. Good service, I think. And if you are interested in birds, there is a huge collections of stuffed animals (photo 5) .

    Open daily 10am – 5pm (except Christmas Day)

    Entry fee $6 (children $2)

    Address: Main Road, Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula

    I split this Museum tip up into several tips because it is not just a small village’s museum but highlights the history of the entire Banks Peninsula.

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    Cycle on the Little River Rail Trail

    by Kakapo2 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    A ride along Lake Ellesmere and the wetlands.
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    Like the famous Otago Central Rail Trail the Little River Railtrail has been established on a former railway line which was last used in the 1960's. The first stage has been opened in May 2006. It is 20 kms long. When finally finished the trail will start in Christchurch and add another 24 kms. On 30 November 2006 stage two added 7 kms from Prebbleton to Lincoln which is still far away from the stretch of stage one.

    Stage one leads from Motukarara to the picnic area at Catons Bay at Lake Forsyth / Te Wairewa, only a short distance from Little River township.

    From Christchurch you get to Motukarara by taking the road to Akaroa, and follow the sign to the Motukarara racetrack. There you will find the sign to the start of the rail trail.

    Most of this section leads along Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth which have abundant birdlife. And "along" really means that you could fall into the water if you try to avoid some of the brainless cyclists who do not check if somebody is overtaking them before riding criss-cross on the track. This is the biggest danger on the track. As it is so easy and leads over absolutely flat land there are many unexperienced cyclists and small children on the track.

    The lake and the adjoining wetlands offer splendid views. But you should not fall into the lake because its waters are dead from excessive dairy farming.

    There are also historic brick buildings along the track. Seven new bridges have been built to replace the original bridges that were removed. The historic bridge piles and abutments have been preserved.

    You should check the weather before cycling on the track as the winds and rain can be rather rough there. When we cycled it had rained before, so the newly established gravel track was very muddy. But this should settle and become less of a problem. And always watch out for the criss-crossers!

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    Okain's Bay

    by TheWanderingCamel Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Okains Bay
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    Okains Bay is a popular camping and holiday spot on the eastern side of the Banks Peninsula, just half an hour's drive from Akaroa. It has a beautiful, wide sandy beach that , when we walked along it, a couple of days before Easter, was totally deserted. The water was an incredible blue and the sand absolutely pristine - gorgeous!
    The small township has an important Maori presence with a museum housing a number of treasures including an impressive war canoe. There are also artifacts and displays relating to the early European settlement. Before you leave, take a look at the little wooden Peace Library, built in 1919 to commemorate the end of WWI.

    If you're driving yourself, you can head back up to Summit Road or, if you're feeling a little more adventurous, look for Big Hill Road near the beach and follow it via Camerons and Laverick Roads to the next bay around - Le Bons Bay. The first stretch is a bit rough but it does improve and the views are worth the bumps.

    Le Bons has a safe Sandy Beach and a Backpackers Hostel that is renowned for its excellent facilites, its welcoming hosts and its legenday evening meals.

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    Walk to the Packhorse Hut from Kaituna Valley

    by Kakapo2 Updated Oct 1, 2008

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    View to the north on the way to the Packhorse Hut.
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    Although I have posted quite some walks to the summits of Banks Peninsula around Lyttelton Harbour on my Lyttelton page, I make an exception for this walk. Because... if you walk to the Packhorse Hut through the Kaituna Valley you clearly walk on Banks Peninsula the whole time, and do only see Lyttelton Harbour when you finally reach the hut.

    The Packhorse Hut sits in a saddle at the foot of Mt. Bradley, Banks Peninsula's second highest mountain.

    You can reach it from several starting points. One is Gebbies Pass, the second one is Mt. Herbert/Mt. Bradley, and the third one is Kaituna Valley.

    From Gebbies Pass it only becomes interesting landscape-wise when you leave the pine forest plantations behind you and reach open landscape. The Mt. Herbert option is long and strenuous, and even annoying when you have to walk through the scratchy gorse along Mt. Bradley.

    The Kaituna Valley approach is lovely and easy. I would classify it as a short and easy walk although it goes uphill. To manifest this I should perhaps tell you that when we walked back down the hill again we met a young tourist couple. It was a sunny day, and you know, some tourists think their friends and colleagues will doubt the success of their holiday if they do not come back home roasted or deep-fried. Anyway. This lady walked in a bikini and flip-flops, and I hope for her sake that she did not break her bones on the way back down. Please, do not be so foolish. You can roast and treat your skin cancer later, but please wear appropriate shoes.

    I think it did not take us longer than one hour to walk up from the carpark to the Packhorse Hut. The lovliest aspect of the walk was the bellbird song which accompanied us the whole way, especially in the lower regions. Getting higher and looking back, you have great views of Lake Ellesmere and the sea. The summit views from the Packhorse Hut over Lyttelton Harbour to the Southern Alps are spectacular on a sunny day, and it is a great place to comprehend the volcanic past of this crater landscape, just by looking around.

    On the way back down the hill the huge NZ woodpigeons obviously had their race day. I think at least five of them crossed our path.

    Directions:
    You reach the carpark at the start of the walk from SH 75 (Christchurch - Akaroa). Coming from Christchurch, turn left to Kaituna Valley (it is indicated on a yellow sign) when Lake Ellesmere is on your right. (If you reach Birdlings Flat on your right, you have missed it...) After several kilometres turn left as indicated to the Packhorse Hut carpark.

    On the way back to SH 75 you might visit the tiny church of St. Kentigern (on the left, shortly before you reach SH 75). It has the lovliest stained glass windows of the whole region.

    Photo 2 shows the Packhorse Hut and the spectacular view towards the Southern Alps.

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    Le Bons Bay - another one of those lovely Beaches

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jun 23, 2008

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    Dramatic clouds over Le Bons Bay.
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    This is another one of those lovely eastern bays of Banks Peninsula not too far away from Akaroa.

    You walk to the beach over sea-grass topped sand dunes and will be amazed by the small number of people and the peaceful atmosphere. During the week you will often be the only person on the beach.

    I have seen an interesting sign there – but not checked out the offer yet. However, it sounds intriguing:

    There are Marine Nature Tours from the beach, departure 9am, and they promise to view Hector dolphins, seals, penguins and the stunning scenery.

    Call (03) 304 85 82 for more information if you are interested.

    There are many different accounts where the name Le Bons Bay comes from. Some say it is named after a sailor named Le Bon who was sent to the beach by captain Le Bas. Others say it derives from Bone Bay, reminding of the many bones lying around there during whaling times. (However, it would be strange if French whalers had given the bay an English name and it would have been translated back into French, just following the sound and not the sense.) The most probable explanation to me - and other historians LOL - is the one François Lelièvre, one of the first 82 settlers, has given: French whalers called it "Le bon bay" or so... And for that it should have been named "Le Bon Bay" without the -s of Le Bons Bay as we have it now. Well, another one of those horrible examples of faulty French in the Akaroa area LOL The word "bay" does not exist in French, it is "baie", and this is feminine, so "la baie", and therefore it would have been: "la bonne baie"/the good bay - good for whaling... Still, I think it is the most likely explanation where the name comes from.

    Directions

    From Akaroa: SH 75 to Christchurch, after several kilometres turn right onto Scenic Drive, Okains Bay, Le Bons Bay and Little Akaloa are indicated. From there the first sealed road to the right leads down to Le Bons Bay.

    From Christchurch: Turn left before the Hilltop Tavern on SH 75 onto the Scenic Drive. From there the third sealed road to the left leads down to Le Bons Bay (clearly indicated).

    Photo 2 shows an impressive view of the steep rocky hills around Le Bons Bay and some of the houses dotted behind the dunes.

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    Banks Peninsula: Okains Bay – The Township

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jun 12, 2008

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    The store provides basic food and drinks.
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    On the way to the fabulous beach you pass the township of Okains Bay. Its number one attraction is the Maori and Colonial Museum which displays historic cottages and collections from the entire Banks Peninsula. That is why most people go there.

    The rest of the village looks like a scene from a very old movie. Somehow prehistoric LOL But at the same time very romantic with its laid-back atmosphere.

    A family makes her living with running the store, the petrol station (on photo 2), and the post office (photo 3). The latter is from the day when we still had the royal mail, and the signs are still on the outside wall, next to an old sofa on the verandah.

    In the store they sell grocieries and frozen food, drinks, some fresh fruit and vegetables, ice-cream and pies which they heat on demand, so you can sit on the benches in front of the store and enjoy your modest meal.

    Next to the store is the petrol station which consists of two pumps for petrol and diesel.

    There is even a public phone in a red royal booth which is in perfect working order – and not only the hiding place of the store people’s young son ;-)

    The gems of the place beside the Maori and Colonial Museum and the wakas which are used on Waitangi Day are the Anglican church St. John the Evangelist, the third oldest stone church in the diocese of Christchurch, and the old library opposite the church. Not a lot more to tell you – just that it is very remote, laid-back, and peaceful.

    Update June 2008
    The owner has given the store to the museum - but the store will keep on operating. The gesture should only underline the historic significance of the store.

    Directions:
    There are several ways to get to Okains Bay. Coming from Christchurch on SH 75, you can either turn left onto the Tourist Drive at the Hilltop Tavern, and then turn left where Okains Bay is indicated, or carry on until after Duveauchelle, and then turn left where indicated. Finally you can turn to the Tourist Drive shortly before Akaroa (I would do this after a visit to Akaroa on the way back to Chch), indicating “Eastern Bays”.

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    Where the name St. Kentigern came from

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    View of the church through the lychgate.

    As the name of this saint after whom St. Kentigern in the Kaituna Valley is named after, sounded unfamiliar to me I read a bit about it and found the history very interesting.

    As I do not know about the roots and history of this saint I just recite from the information I found in the church:

    Most of what is known about St. Kentigern is a mixture of fact and fiction as the only information is from the 11th and 12th century. The folklore predates the written documents.
    Kentigern died in 612. It is said he was the illegitimate grandson of a British prince, was a monk of Irish tradition, and a bishop of the Strathclyde area, and that due to political upheaval in the kingdom he was exiled to Cumbria. His nickname was Mungo.

    The legends about him include his mother being thrown from a cliff in a wagon and being set adrift in a coracle before giving birth to Kentigern.

    A story of his later life tells that the Queen came to him in distress because she had given her husband’s ring to a lover . When the King found out and reclaimed the ring he threw it out of the window and told the Queen she had three days to find it or else. Kentigern told her not to worry because one of his monks had found the ring in a salmon he had caught. This story is the reason why the ring and fish are part of the Coat of Arms of the city of Glasgow.

    In art St. Kentigern is a bishop with a monk at his feet, presenting a salmon with a ring in its mouth. A Queen with a ring, and a King with a sword are near him. At times he is portrayed meeting St. Columbia with a column of fire above him, or holding a mulberry leaf.

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    Be Delighted by unique Windows of St. Kentigern

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    Banks Peninsula's landscape in the windows.

    This little Anglican church in the Kaituna Valley, a valley turning off the Christchurch – Akaroa highway, has enchanted me. St. Kentigern has the lovliest stained glass windows I have seen for a long time. Perhaps not the best ones – well, I cannot say that as I am not an expert. But they are so heart-warming, depicting the landscape of Banks Peninsula, including cabbage trees, sheep, flowers, the rolling hills and the ochre tussock grass areas.

    Whereas in other churches you see this saint doing this, and Mary that, and Jesus something else, those little windows are the perfect blend of the local’s everyday’s life and the world they are living in and their belief in God. Absolutely lovely.

    Those windows above the altar have been given by the Parkinson family who were among the first Europeans in the Kaituna valley.

    The text under the three-fold windows reads: “To the glory of God and in affectionate remembrance of the Parkinson family – pioneers of the Kaituna Valley”.

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    Take a little Detour to St. Kentigern

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    Small but lovely: St. Kentigern.

    For several reasons I have a soft spot for this little church in the Kaituna Valley, which starts at a turn-off from SH 75 between Christchurch and Little River.

    First of all I felt welcome by the welcome swallows – yes, really! – that flew around me when I stepped out of the car, as if they wanted to tell me to have a look inside. Second, it is the lovely setting, and the beautifully framed churchyard. Thirdly, the nice church itself. And fourth, the absolutely wonderful windows.

    The first church services in this area were held in a woolshed in 1858. Anglican services began in 1866 and were held in the homestead of T.H. Parkinson. In 1912 the first meeting was held about building a church but it took 20 years until it was authorised and land given by W.F. Parkinson.

    The foundation stone of the slate and gable towered church was laid on 1 July 1933 and the construction completed in 1934. The church was dedicated on 12 May. On 29 July 1951 St. Kentigern was consecrated.

    In 1991 the lychgate in front of the church was added, and in 1993 the stone wall to both sides of the lychgate, everything funded by the Parkinson Family Trust. The altar was given by descendants of the Rhodes family who were the first owners of the Kaituna Run which was sold to T.H. Parkinson in the early 1860’s. The stone of the altar and the credence table were locally sourced, made of Otahuna stone from nearby Tai Tapu.

    A service is held every fourth Sunday of the month at 9.30am.

    Contact: Vicarage (03) 329 4790 (Diamond Harbour)

    You can combine a great outdoor activity with a visit of this lovely church. Some kilometres further down the road you come to a carpark where an easy track to the Packhorse Hut starts. It is the fastest way up to the Packhorse Hut from where you have spectacular views of Lyttelton Harbour, and past the Port Hills to the Southern Alps, and behind you views of Lake Ellesmere and the sea.

    Directions:
    From Christchurch, drive on SH 75 towards Akaroa. When the road leads at close distance along Lake Ellesmere, look out for a road sign to the left that indicates Kaituna Valley. The church appears after a while on the right side of the road.

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    Fantastic Views and Birds at the Akaroa Reserve

    by Kakapo2 Updated May 29, 2008

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    Every time I drive on the Scenic Drive on Banks Peninsula I stop at the Akaroa Reserve, as it offers fantastic views of Akaroa Harbour. If you come from Akaroa, it is on the right side of the steep and winding road, at the end of the climb. And you also reach it after a moderately long uphill walk from Akaroa, as it sits at the end of the Woodills Track.

    Apart from the great views it is a nice spot for bird watching. The reserve has been planted with natives not too long ago, and they attract birds like fantails, bellbirds, NZ woodpigeons etc. A big panel just some steps from the carpark gives you information about the birds you will be able to see if you are patient, and sit down at the picnic tables or the shelter at the lookout point of the reserve.

    At certain times of the year swallows will be busy building nests, skylarks sit on fence posts, bellbirds gather pollen from flax blossoms, and fantails keep you entertained with their aerobatics and chatty nature.

    For your convenience there are toilets in the reserve.

    Photo 2 shows the panel with the birds you might spot at the reserve and all info about them.

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    Test your Fitness on the Akaroa Woodills Track

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    View of Akaroa from the end of the Woodills Track.

    This track that links Akaroa and the Akaroa Reserve high above the harbour is not difficult at all but there is a lot of up and down until you reach the summit, so a good level of fitness is required. At the top you can sit down in a shelter or at the picnic spots and enjoy your refreshments (if you carry any…). The hike takes 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the direction you take, up or down.

    The walk starts at the bottom of Woodills Road, at the northern end of Akaroa – that is in the 90 degree right-hand turn shortly after reaching Akaroa, next to the Grand Hotel. The track goes up into the hills behind Akaroa, and returns down to Rue Balguerie. So you also get up to Reserve by just walking up Rue Balguerie from the Visitor Centre on the main street (Rue Lavaud). You should probably get a leaflet at the Visitor Centre, and just follow the signs.

    If you are not interested in such a hefty exercise take your car and drive up to the Reserve ;-) The splendid views are the same ;-)

    There are many other sea to summit trails. Brochures at the Visitor Centre.

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    Study the Plants of the Akaroa Reserve

    by Kakapo2 Updated May 29, 2008

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    Kaka Beak.

    Such nature reserves like the Akaroa Reserve are not only great for their wildlife but also for studying the native plants.

    The ones you might already recognise are the cabbage tree which many tourists mistake as a yucca palm, and the huge flax bushes with their high red to orange flowering stakes. If you travel at the end of our winter/early spring you might see yellow-flowering kowhai everywhere. The flowers look a bit like bells.

    A flowering tree you might not recognise because it is not very wide-spread is from the same family. It has red flowers that have about double the size of kowhai flowers, and as they have the shape of parrot beaks they are named Kaka Beak after one of New Zealand’s endemic parrots. The latin name is Clianthus puniceus. It flowers from late winter to spring. You rather see this shrub in gardens than in the wild. It is a short-lived plant, dying down after five to ten years.

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Akaroa Off The Beaten Path

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