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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    Port Levy - still a Centre of Maori Life

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    Coming from Purau, Port Levy offers a lovely welcome with its small white church sitting at the intersection where you can choose to directly drive up the hill to the Port Levy Saddle, on the way to Little River, or go hiking to Mt. Herbert. From there BTW you have a splendid view over the turquoise blue waters of the Port Levy bay.

    The tiny township, named Koukourarata, still is a centre of Maori life.

    Once the Ngai Tahu conqueror Moki kept his prisoners there before using them – if you were lucky – as slaves or – if you were unlucky – as food… Many of the Maori slaves returned to Port Levy after the Christianisation. 250 Maori lived there when the Europeans arrived for negotiations about land.

    A stone monument on the east side of the bay commemorates the start of Christian work among the Maori in Canterbury in 1840.

    The township was named after the Sydney based trading firm Levy and Cooper.
    In the bay there are two small islands, Horomaka and Pukarauaruhe Islands. The two heads of the bay are Adderley Head to the west (to your left, when you stand at the beach), and Baleine Point (baleine = whale, in French) to the east. Adderley Head is the eastern head of Lyttelton harbour (accessible only by walking on private farmland, permission needed).

    You have the most fabulous view of this fiord-like bay when coming from Purau/Diamond Harbour and from the Port Levy Saddle where the Mt. Herbert walk starts.

    Directions
    Drive around Lyttelton Harbour to Diamond Harbour, carry on to Purau and then up the hill after having crossed the Purau Stream (90 degree right turn). After a rocky outcrop called the monument the road goes downhill again, and at the bottom is the start of the Port Levy township. Little church on the left. Turn left to the township, or carry on up the hill to the Port Levy saddle and Little River (unsealed).

    From Akaroa and Christchurch also: Drive to Little River, turn off SH 75 up the hill to Port Levy (unsealed).

    Road from Pigeon Bay only for 4 WD.

    On photo 2 you see the photo of the lovely church of Port Levy.

    View of Port Levy from a Mount Herbert track. Port Levy's lovely little church.
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    Pigeon Bay - the peninsula's largest Bay

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    The largest bay of Banks Peninsula, located between Port Levy and Little Akaloa in the north of the peninsula, got its name from the lots of pigeons which swarmed in the narrow wooded valley at its head. Early whalers and settlers hunted them for food, as had done the Maori before them. Obviously this has driven the pigeons to other shores. The only birds I have noticed there are seagulls.

    Historically this bay also has some significance. When the battered Comte de Paris anchored at Pigeon Bay on their way from France two children who had died at sea were buried on the beach. Captain Langlois here paid the Maori the second instalment for the purchase of Banks Peninsula. In 1843 Captain Francis Sinclair and the Hay family settled here to begin farming. To get cattle to Pigeon Bay a rugged Maori path was widened to two metres, so the animals could be transported the 24 kilometres from Akaroa. Those farms supplied Akaroa with dairy products. The descendants of the Hay family are still farming in the area today.

    We sometimes stop at Pigeon Bay for a picnic or a sunbath. However, if you compare it to Okains or Le Bons Bay, it pales. Pigeon Bay does not have those white sandy beaches. But you can roll out your blanket in the grass and have a nice time, watching the blue water, the smooth waves, seagulls, and inhale the silence.

    However, you can make a nice walk along the eastern side of the bay to the head of the harbour, named Wakaroa Point.

    Directions

    From Christchurch on SH 75. Turn left at the Hilltop onto the Scenic Drive, then first sealed road left. There are signs, you cannot miss it.

    From Akaroa: After some kilometres on SH 75 towards Christchurch turn right onto the Scenic Drive (Summit Road). Turn right down the hill some few kilometres after the Little Akaloa turnoff.

    The road from Pigeon Bay to Port Levy is only suitable for 4 WD vehicles.

    Photo 2 is a view to the beach of Pigeon Bay. The road that meanders up the hill behind the beach is unsealed, named Little Pigeon Bay Road. It leads to a tiny bay named Little Pigeon Bay and Pigeon Point, the western head of Pigeon Bay.

    Pigeon Point is the western head of Pigeon Bay. Picnic spot above Pigeon Bay and the beach.
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    Le Bons Bay Reserve - Birdwatching and Picnicking

    by Kakapo2 Written May 29, 2008

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    This is a lovely piece of land close to the beach. It is not only a perfect picnic spot with tables and benches, and toilets as well, but also for bird watching.

    While we had our sandwiches there we were entertained by lots of fantails, and saw a huge NZ woodpigeon and a couple of redpolls, plus some seagulls and introduced species like chaffinches.

    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).

    A redpoll checking out the visitors.
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    The Giant's House - Part 2 - Stay at the B&B

    by Kakapo2 Updated May 29, 2008

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    Part 2

    What fascinates me is that on a nice day you can spend a lot of time sitting in the middle of the sculptural installations, as many of them serve as long winding benches, so you can sit on Adam's lap in the Valley of Butterflies, have a chat with a lot of guys at the "Place des Amis" (Friends' Square), a fabulous arrangement behind the house, at the bottom of a fantastic staircase leading up to Magician and Angel, past the Nosey Parkers (a cat and dog leaning over the fence). You also find gymnasts balancing with balls. And lots more.

    There are so many details to explore that you might walk back and forth and around the house several times. You admire something two or three metres away from you and walk there, and on the way you think: Oh, I am walking over stories on the mosaic staircase! And back you go... ;-)

    At the entrance is a quirky little house where - if you are lucky - the artists welcomes the visitors herself. You get a brochure with a description of the garden and the art work, so you can make your way through the wonderful grounds at your own pace.

    The Giant's House also serves as a B&B, and for functions, weddings and soirées. Open daily, Dec 26-Mar 12pm-4pm, Apr-Dec 24 from 2pm-4pm. Admission $12 (as May 2007).

    Walk or drive up Rue Balguerie (opposite the Info Centre), it is to the right after 600m. I suggest walking as you will never have heard as many bellbirds sing in a township, and NZ woodpigeons flying around. It was like a trip into another world - although we also have bellbirds and fantails in the garden.

    Part 1

    The Nosey Parkers - on the way to Magician & Angel
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    Giant's House: Best Mosaic Art since Gaudí, Part 1

    by Kakapo2 Updated May 29, 2008

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    I have been in Barcelona many times, and what has always attracted me most to this fantastic city is Gaudí's art, all those colourful rounded houses with fantasy chimneys, the Sagrada Familia with its spikey spires, and last but not least, Parque Guell with the witch houses, snake-like seats surrounding squares and the mosaic-covered sculptures.

    I had seen a bit of the mosaic art in the Giant's House's garden in Akaroa on TV and in a magazine but when I finally visited reality exceeded my expectations. The mosaic borders, staircases, benches and sculptures are the most fantastic mosaic art work I have seen since Gaudí - and reminded me of him, although the things this artist named Josie Martin does are very different. She has not designed houses - the Giant's House is in fact rather unaffected in the middle of the wonder garden - but a fantasy garden. But she told me Gaudí has inspired her, and the size of the mosaics is similar, and the colours as striking as Gaudí's.

    The Giant's House was built in 1880 and named by a young girl. When looking up to the house on the hill from the seashore she thought it was so big, it had to be the house of a giant.

    You will also find the name "Linton" in a floor mosaic. From this town in England came the first BNZ manager in Akaroa who built this the house, using precious Kauri and Totara timber.

    Josie Martin bought the house in 1995, not only for its warm feel but also because it offered a lot of wall space for her paintings. Digging the garden, she found old china buried by one of the previous owners. Have a close look at the wide step in front of the house. You will find pieces of this china there. After some work with mosaics her statements became bolder, and she translated historic themes into sculptures and interactive installations. ....

    - cont. Part 2 -

    Angel and Magician. Place des Amis. Adam and Eve. The Hot Potato Troupe.
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    Banks Peninsula: Okains Bay – The Beach

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 25, 2008

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    This has to be one of my favourite spots on Banks Peninsula – but I have a lot of favourite places there LOL

    I have never been there during the school holidays in January but several times during the rest of the year, and it was mostly deserted. Another car or two, sometimes three, at the carpark on the beach, another car at the museum, but not more. If you want to get away from it all, go there or to the next bay, Le Bons Bay. To my taste, they have the most beautiful and remote white sandy beaches of the whole peninsula.

    The beach is white and wide, sheltered by dunes topped by dune grass. You have to walk about 100 metres from the carpark until you reach the beach behind the dunes. The bay itself is limited by East and West Heads. On the western side there is even another beach, called North West Bay, and this one is limited by West Head and Spy Glass Point.

    The recreational reserve is great for swimming and boating. Many people bring their inflatable boats, and float around on lilos. As it is sheltered it is also rather safe for children.

    Right behind the dunes you see some holiday homes. At the western end the Opara Stream flows into the bay. From up the hill (you can drive up there) this looks spectacular, as in sunshine it has the same turquoise-blue water as the bay.

    A new toilet block comes very handy, and camping is allowed.

    Photos 2 and 3 give impressions of the beach.
    Photo 4 is a fabulous aerial view of Okains Bay and the Opara Stream, including the bridge you have to cross to get to the spot from where you can take such photos ;-)

    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”.

    Access to the beach across the dunes. Okains Bay: beach, bay and Opara Stream. On the beach. Okains Bay and the Opara Stream inland.
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    Okains Bay Museum (5): Waka Kereru and Maori Life

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 25, 2008

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    This special item – the Waka Kereru – in the Okains Bay Museum - which you see on photo 2 - made me shiver as not in a lifetime I would kill a bird. But if you see it less emotionally it is a primitive but very effective tool of the times when Maori had to be self-sufficient, and it was totally normal to feed on birds that are now strictly protected. Birds like the kereru, the huge native woodpigeon.

    Those bird troughs were partly filled with water and snares placed around the rims, and the troughs then placed on trees up to 20 metres high. When the pigeons fed on the berries of the miro tree they got very thirsty and were pleased to find water right next to them. On the attempt to drink many of them put their heads into the snares and then got strangled, as the water surface was quite a way down, and they had to stretch their necks to reach it. The dead pigeons were plucked and then cooked, then coated in their own fat dripping in the cooking process, and by doing this they could be preserved for up to a year.

    You can find a lot of other – and less tricky – tools and weapons the Maori used in the early days when they survived as hunters and collectors.

    On photo 3 you see baskets for catching all kinds of fish and seafood. The basket in the foreground was for catching crayfish.

    Photo 4 shows the so-called Tini canoe. It was built about 1865 and was used on Lake Wairewa, both with sails and paddles. It is about 7.60 metres long (24 foot, 8 inches), and made of totara wood.

    On photo 5 you see beautiful spears, with typical Maori carvings at the tips, and decorated with a ribbon of feathers.

    Photo 1 shows the Maori store house, the Whakaata.

    General info about the Museum in the introduction tip.

    Directions in the tip about the township.

    The Whakaata in beautiful surroundings. How to kill a bird... Do not do it! Handmade baskets for catching crayfish. The Tini Canoe is about 7 metres long. Carved spears with ribbons of feathers.
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    Banks Pen.: St. John the Evangelist in Okains Bay

    by Kakapo2 Written Jan 25, 2008

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    The foundation stone of St. John the Evangelist in Okains Bay was laid on New Year’s Day 1863, and the church finished on the last day of June 1863 – debt-free ;-) It cost 554 pounds at the time. It is the third-oldest stone church in the diocese of Christchurch.

    This Anglican church is the result of the labour of the first vicar of the parish, Henry Torlesse, who was ordained a deacon in 1859. He was in charge of Okains Bay, Le Bons Bay, Duveauchelle, Little Akaloa, Port Levy and Pigeon Bay.

    The stone for the construction was taken from the creek and the local quarry. The white stone is from Quail Island, in Lyttelton Harbour. The bricks were locally made, and the timber was milled in the bay. The only imported things were the slates and the stained glass from England. The funds for all that were raised from friends in the colony.

    In 1884 an American organ was bought from St. Barnabas in the Christchurch suburb of Fendalton. In 1912 the bell was hung, donated by the then vicar, W.H. Wilkinson.

    In the 1950s the church was in desperate need of repairs. So in 1955 the stonework was reappointed, the walls were tied with steel rods, and also the roof and the bell were repaired. This cost 400 pounds – nearly as much as the whole building a hundred years earlier. In 1959 the floor began to break away and had to be replaced by a concrete floor. The walls were replastered, and the building was painted.

    Opposite the church is the old library building. See on photo 2.

    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”.

    When you reach Okains Bay the church is on the left side of the road.

    The third oldest stone church of the Chch diocese. Romantic feeling: The Okains Bay library.
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    Banks P.: Okains Bay: Maori Meeting House and Waka

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 25, 2008

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    Opposite the Okains Bay Museum is a colourful Maori meeting house for daily use, and some steps further a shelter with two big wakas. Both are used for the Waitangi Day celebrations every year, and one dates back to 1867.

    Have a close look at the wakas. They are not only beautifully carved and decorated with the typical faces and shapes, as you can see on photo 3. I found the feathers attached to the outside of the canoes… well, lovely :-)

    Behind the shelter you can see the rails on which the wakas are taken to the water every year (photo 2). They lead down to the Opara Stream which a bit further down flows into the sea, on the west side of the beach.

    Before you walk around there look out for which kind of animals could be using the paddock as well, you can be sure to step into their poo if you do not pay attention. On my last visit it would have been great if I had been in gumboots LOL

    Directions in the tip about the township.

    The canoe shelter behind the meeting house. The rail system for Waitangi Day. Detail of the canoes.
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    Banks P.: Okains Bay Museum (4): Churchill Cottage

    by Kakapo2 Written Jan 25, 2008

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    This white painted cottage even dates back to 1860.

    The furniture and the huge selection of household items that you can see on photo 3 are from many different homes from Banks Peninsula, so give an impression of much more splendour than the people lived in. In fact, life was hard - but it is nice to see that some people had more than just the basics but also some lovely household items which they could bring from their country of origin to their new home country.

    In front of this house you find an old oven in which bread can still be baked today. You can see it on photo 2.

    General info about the Museum in the introduction tip.

    Directions in the tip about the township.

    Churchill cottage and the baking oven. A detail of Churchill Cottage. A look inside.
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    Okains Bay Museum (3): Slab Stables and Workshops

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jan 25, 2008

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    Those stables were built by a guy named Johnnie Moore in 1871. The homestead of this early settler family had been built by pit-sawn totara, and the remaining totara were used for the construction of the stables. They had been in continuous use until they were donated to the Museum by Johnnie Moore’s descendant George Moore.

    On the walls you can see the awards the family won at A & P shows, dating back to 1922.

    The shells of the stables are still in very good condition. However, not everything is original. The roof shingles have been replaced, and the floor could not be shifted to Okains Bay. Originally the stables’ floor was made of flat stones, taken from the nearby river. This was replaced by red rocks from Laverick’s Bay. This bay is located between Okains Bay and LeBons Bay.

    My photos provide a look into a saddlery and a blacksmith's shop.

    General info about the Museum in the introduction tip.

    Directions in the tip about the township.

    A look into the saddlery. Blacksmith' shop with an incredible lot of tools.
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    Banks Pen.: Okains Bay Museum (2) - Slab Cottage

    by Kakapo2 Written Jan 25, 2008

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    This tiny cottage gives a lovely insight into the modest life of the second generation of settlers on Banks Peninsula.

    It was built in the 1880s by the Jensen brothers from Kaituna Valley (closer to Lyttelton Harbour). The construction materials were totara posts, slabs and shingles.

    The Jensen brothers ran a dairy farm until 1896, making butter and cheese. The land was sold in 1898 and then used as temporary accommodation for seasonal workers. By 1930 it was run down and only used to give shelter to hikers and boy scouts. In 1968 a terrible storm totally wrecked the cottage. After that the remains were given to the Okains Bay Museum. There it was re-erected in its former shape.

    Photos 2 and 3 provide a look inside the cottage.

    General info about the Museum in the introduction tip.

    Directions in the tip about the township.

    The cottage is made of totara, slabs and shingles. The simple life... One bedroom for the whole family.
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    Very Little Post Office

    by HuggieSam Written Sep 8, 2007

    In Robinsons Bay you will find a very small post office. It is on the side of the main road on you way to Akaroa so there's no chance of missing it - it looks like a child's playhouse because of it's size.

    The little post office The plaque by the little post office door

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    Pohatu/Flea Bay

    by cholley Written Jun 13, 2007

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    There are four ways to get out there:
    1) Drive yourself. The drive to Pohatu is steep and winding, and if you go on a good day you can see fantastic views of Akaroa. It's recommended that you take-on the route in a four wheel drive vehicle, and I can vouche for that tip, as I've seen the results of attempting the drive in a small rental car.
    2) As part of your penguin tour (booked through Akaroa Information Center), Shireen and Francis Helps, the owners, will pick you up in their tour van and bus you out.
    3) Walk the road. It'll take you about three hours and if you've got a good day, you'll be fine. You'll be completely exposed to the elements, so make sure you're prepared.
    4) Tramp the Banks Penninsula Track. This is a 4 day - 3 night tramp on one of the most senic tracks in New Zealand. The Helps are firm on the fact that they've got the best section of the track in terms of scenery. Private huts are located on the track. You'll have to bring all your own food and sleepingbags, but a stove is provided. You also have the option of having your packs transported out to the huts for you which allows for more time exploring around the huts.

    Activites: Sea Kayaking. This was The Best part of my entire trip, by far. Flopped over the craggy rocks are the New Zealand Seals (which is actually a sea lion.) If you're lucky, you'll get to see and speed along with the Hector's dolphins, as they love to swim with the kayaks. Also in residence in the bay are the main attraction: Penguins.
    Penguin Viewing. Flea Bay is home to its very own species of penguin: the White Flippered Penguin. They're cousins of the Blue Penguin but don't get them confused! The Helps have built hundreds of breeding/nesting boxes all over the hills to keep these creatures from dying out. There are daily tours (depending on the time of the year) where you can view the birds up close.

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    • Birdwatching
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Kayaking

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    Okains Bay

    by mishkah Written May 27, 2006

    The hills around Akaroa are filled with tiny, tiny towns dotted along the coast. Okains Bay must be one of the smallest of these; the town shop was up for sale but could only be bought if you promised to also enrol your children in the local school.

    I loved the blustery grey stillness of the town so much I was vaguely tempted to procure a child and take up the offer myself.

    Jetty carcass Mussels! Hungry? Strong?

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