Akaroa Things to Do

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    Relaxing in Akaroa with lighthouse view.
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Most Recent Things to Do in Akaroa

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    See the new Look of the Langlois-Etéveneaux House

    by Kakapo2 Updated Oct 1, 2008

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    Beige, bland, boring... Sad new look.

    Here you see what they have done to the wonderful Langlois-Etéveneaux House in Akaroa. It did not make me cry but speechless.

    The "light buff colour", as they call it, has transformed the splendid colonial cottage into a "no-one looks at it anymore" place. I stood on the footpath and apart from me nobody seemed to look at it. My husband had even walked past without turning his head although I had told him earlier that I was excited to see the result of making the house look like in the very early days. He had just not noticed it, and believe me, he knows Akaroa. Before the building had been a show-stopper, or better: crowd-stopper. The contrast of the green paint with the red bricks and the pinkish roses at the white fence was so perfect. Now it is bland, bland, bland, and all the beauty is gone.

    Still I am able to admit that the house might now look like the original. But I hate it :-)

    If you have not read my original tip about the Langlois-Etéveneaux House, here once more the explanation for the transformation: In a microscopic study of the lowest of 13 layers that coated the house it was found out that this layer was the crappy colour you see now...

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    Langlois-Etéveneaux Cottage - the oldest House

    by Kakapo2 Updated Oct 1, 2008

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    The nice colour is a thing of the past.

    You will not see Akaroa’s oldest house as beautiful as it looks on this photo. When I was there some months ago it was stripped down. And the people who have done this really seem to be called strippers LOL Anyway. A scaffolding was erected around the building, and those strippers wore blue overalls and prepared the house on the main street (Rue Lavaud) for a new coat of paint. Unfortunately this was not the wonderful greens which made it stand out but in a light buff colour – which means: as bland and impersonal as all those beige and cream and white interiors of modern homes for sale… (See the result in my next tip...)

    Also unfortunately the reason for the change of colour is sincere and even understandable although I do not like the idea at all. In a microscopic study of the lowest of 13 layers that coated the house it was found out that this layer was this crappy colour.

    Sure, in other cases where a modernisation annoys me I would say restoring a building to its original look is always the best thing you can do. As I absolutely loved the greens of the Langlois-Etéveneaux House I am no more sure about it LOL What if already the first owner applied the second layer? And anyway, the first owner perhaps had no other choice because they had only taken one kind of paint with them from France or Germany and would always have loved to have a green house? LOL

    You see why my husband sometimes says it is hard to please me ;-)

    It is not sure but very probable that Langlois-Etéveneaux House – sorry: la Maison Langlois-Etéveneaux – is the oldest surviving house of Canterbury. It was most likely built in 1841 as the ship Comte de Paris with the French and German settlers arrived in Akaroa in 1840, and the first owner, Aimable Langlois, went back to France in 1842. After Langlois’ death Jean-Pierre Etéveneaux bought the cottage in 1858. So that is where the double-name comes from.

    Long time it was believed that the house was prefabricated in France but now it seems to be clear that this is not possible because native New Zealand timbers were used in the construction. The shape of the roof and a few other features are similar to that of other cottages of the same period. It is now thought that the French look – including the louvred shutters and elegant fanlights – came up later when Jean-Pierre Etéveneaux’s son, Jean-Baptiste, made alterations.

    After that far more changes and additions were made. But in 1963 and ’64 most of these additions were removed and the cottage returned to its original size (two rooms) and furnished with French furniture. All this makes this house clearly Akaroa’s most important reminder of its French origins.

    Most other cottages are neither purely French nor purely English but a blend of French, German and English styles that have become a unique New Zealand style.

    The house is part of Akaroa’s museum next door (as is the old Customs House) but you cannot go inside – only look through the windows.

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    Britomart Memorial: Historic Place with Dream View

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 15, 2008

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    A wonderful place: Greens Point with the memorial.
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    The Union Jack was hoisted here, 11 August 1840 – and it is still blowing in the wind beside the memorial obelisk at Greens Point. (Well, most probably not the original flag although it is slightly damaged on the edges.) The memorial was erected in 1898 to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.

    The British ship, Britomart, harboured here just six days before the arrival of the French settlers. The Captain who raised the flag was Owen Stanley.

    The inscription on the memorial plaque says the raising of the flag demonstrated British sovereignty to the people on Banks Peninsula and the French Corvette L’Aube which arrived on 17 August.

    The site of the obelisk is wonderful, so peaceful and quiet. You can drive there but the nicest way is to walk. It is just a 20 min walk from the Town Wharf, past the lighthouse which is about half-way. Some steep stairs lead up from the road to a lawn which sits high above the cliffs like a deck, surrounded by a small pocket of bush on the hill side, and some cabbage trees, flax and toetoe on the sea side.

    When we were there yesterday it was so beautiful, with the turquoise blue harbour below and the sun shining from a cloudless sky, and mild temperatures, and a busy bellbird chatting with me… We sat down, relaxed, read the newspaper, and only two or three people showed up during the time we were there. You can watch the boats pass like from the panorama window of your castle, and if you are lucky you can spot dolphins. (If not you can see the boats stuffed with tourists standing along the guard-rails trying to spot dolphins... ;-) Truly wonderful.

    Do not get confused with Britomart Reserve and Britomart Memorial, they have nothing in common but the word Britomart. The Reserve is the lawn area between the Town Wharf and the public toilets, the Memorial is a 20 min walk from there, past the lighthouse.

    Photo 2 shows the Union Jack on the flagpole beside the obelisk.

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    Visit the Lighthouse

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 15, 2008

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    The light of the lighthouse.

    Only on Sundays you can access the lighthouse. It is open from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.

    There is a telephone number for group bookings (03 304 7347) – but let me tell you, when five people are on one of the three levels it is overcrowded!

    The mechanism which makes the light flash every some seconds is still working perfectly.

    On the wall on level 2 you can see photos of the relocation in 1978.

    On level 3 you can get out to the deck and get a very nice view of Akaroa and the harbour.

    Mind your head there and on the narrow ladder-like stairs between the three levels.

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    Taste and Buy at Barrys Bay Cheese Factory

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 14, 2008

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    The shop is open daily - cheesemaking is seasonal.

    Through a huge gallery window you can view cheese making from the shop.

    The cheese factory at Barrys Bay is the only remaining one of at nine factories that produced cheese in the 1890’s on Banks Peninsula.

    The traditional NZ cheese is Cheddar but today a lot of different cheeses are produced at Barrys Bay, from edam, maasdam and gouda to havarti and blue cheese.

    It is all a matter of taste, and I like the cheeses in NZ – but due to drastic hygiene regulations (like using only pasteurised milk) you do not get all those sensational and decadent French cheeses. The choice is a little boring somehow – but, as said, good. Some brands are forbiddingly expensive.

    The shop at the factory is a nice little delicatessen shop where you get a lot more delicious things than just cheese. They have great honeys, preserves, pickles, mustards, antipasti, and wines, and you can taste the cheeses before buying them.

    An important note:
    You can view the cheese making only during the cheese making season from October to May, and only every second day. Call (03) 304 5809 for information. You can view a short film of the cheese making in the shop.

    The shop is open daily – not totally sure until when, I think until 4pm or 4.30pm.

    (Sometimes it helps to note such things…)


    Address
    Barry's Bay Cheese, Main Road 5801, SH 75, RD 2, Akaroa

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    French Cemetery - a Surprising Burial Ground

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 14, 2008

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    No cemetery but a central burial ground.
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    This was the first consecrated burial ground in Canterbury, sanctified by Bishop Pompaillier. The willows that shade the site are reputed to have grown from cuttings taken from the trees around Napoleon's Saint Helena island grave, and François Leliève is said to have introduced them to New Zealand. (There are more of these willows on Victoria Square, along the Avon, in Christchurch. They have grown from cuttings taken from the trees in Akaroa. See tip on my Christchurch page.) Lelièvre arrived in Akaroa in 1837 aboard the whaler “Nile”.

    A short path leads to the cemetery from the top of Rue Brittan. You walk uphill through a little forest – and get to see a kind of cemetery you would not expect…

    At least I expected many old and damaged graves, with headstones hard to read. Instead they have tidied up and created an immaculately manicured lawn surrounded by a low white wall, with a memorial in the centre, a bit like a mass grave. And this it is, as the remains of the dead were re-interred in a central plot after the level portion of the hill had been cleared.

    This cleaning up of the neglected graves already took place in 1925, and the memorial was erected in 1926. Nearly all headstones had disappeared. Only rough moulds indicated the resting places of many of the French (and German) pioneers. Restoration works were carried out in 1990.

    Only the names that could be deciphered from the broken headstones and wooden crosses are inscribed in the marble slab. So a lot more people have been buried up there on the hill than the list of names on the slab would indicate.

    The earliest known burial took place in 1842. If you stand in front of the memorial, you can find an old inscription plaque on the left side. It is in remembrance of Captain Edouard Lelièvre who was captain of the ship Heva. He died on 11 May 1842 at the age of 35. It is written in French, and the last words are: Pray for him. A plaque on the right side of the slab reminds of a man named Pierre Le Bouffe.

    Photo 2 shows the memorial plaque for Captain Edouard Lelièvre.

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    Trinity Presbyterian Church: It Started in a Home

    by Kakapo2 Written Sep 14, 2008

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    The porch of the Trinity Presbyterian Church.

    Akaroa’s Presbyterian Church is a restrained example of the Gothic Revival style executed in timber. It sits at the corner of Rue Lavaud and Rue Brittan, on the way to the Powerhouse Gallery and the French Cemetery. On Saturdays they hold a market there.

    The first Presbyterian services were held in Akaroa in 1856 in a private home. In 1860, the young congregation built a small church for its worship (see 63 Rue Lavaud). The church was repaired in the mid 1870s, but by the mid 1880s was too small for its growing congregation. It was moved down the street and a new church, designed by Christchurch architect John Whitelaw, was built in its place. The new church opened on 13 June 1886. It is the town’s Presbyterian Church until today.

    It is the most simple church building on along Rue Lavaud, especially as it has no clock tower. It is rectangular, has a steep roof, and restrained Gothic Revival detailing – windows with triangular pointed heads, a string course and an attractive entrance porch. Inside the building is an open preaching space. The hall, at right angles to the church, was added in 1912.

    Sunday service at 10.30am.

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    St. Patricks Catholic Church with exotic Flair

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 14, 2008

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    The bell tower was added to the church in 1893.

    Although I am not Catholic I like this church – perhaps because I have always liked white buildings with green roofs (and now even live in one) ;-)

    The church sits about 50 metres from the main street (Rue Lavaud), half way between the Grand Hotel and Rue Balguerie, nicely against the backdrop of the forest. Its appealing tapered tower and the unusual coxcomb bargeboards add to the slightly exotic flair of St Patrick’s.

    The presence of the Roman Catholic Church in Akaroa dates from 1840. Not long after the original French settlers had arrived, New Zealand’s first Catholic Bishop, Pompallier, visited Akaroa from his North Island base in the Bay of Islands to minister to the settlers.

    The settlers erected two earlier chapels in Akaroa before the surviving church was built in 1865. The new church was designed by Christchurch architects Mountfort and Bury. Mountfort was Canterbury’s pre-eminent church architect. He was a master at designing the small timber churches which were all communities like Akaroa could afford but which were, nevertheless, “correct” Gothic. The decorated bargeboards were an early feature of the church, though they were possibly not designed by Mountfort and Bury. The porch was added in 1886 and the tapered bell tower in 1893.

    The building has not been altered significantly since 1893. Inside a fine stained glass window, installed in 1930, depicts the crucifixion.

    Sunday mass at 9am.

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    Take a Seat at the Fishermen’s Rest

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 14, 2008

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    Have a seat and think of Captain Thomas ;-)

    This nice place on Beach Street looks a bit like a historic bus stop, and I always enjoy to have a little rest on the bench, protected by a Marseilles tile roof, and watch people and birds - and sometimes feed the latter :-)

    However, this is no open-sided bus shelter but a kind of memorial site built by his many friends to the memory of Captain Jeremiah Huges Thomas who lived from 1815 to 1899. A nearly undecipherable little plaque on the seat informs you about this.

    The shelter was built some years after the bench had been put on the site of a former store (Latter’s Store) – and also some years after Captain Thomas’s death, as the store served as the wharfinger’s office until 1910.

    The shelter stands on the waterfront on Beach Street, at the base of the former main wharf (at the start of Church Street) which was later replaced by the Town Wharf you see now, a short way further towards the lighthouse. The old wharf had been built in 1858/59, and used by fishermen until the 1930’s. That is why the memorial shelter became the Fishermen’s Rest.

    The new Town Wharf was added in 1888 – but got its new wharfinger’s office (the Weighbridge Building) only in 1910. It is is thought the Weighbridge Building and the Fishermen’s Rest were built at the same time because they are made of the same materials and are similar in style.

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    How the Lighthouse made it into Town

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 14, 2008

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    Relaxing in Akaroa with lighthouse view.
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    This hexagonal white wooden structure has not always been where you see it now. Only in 1978 it was shifted to its site at Cemetery Point, far behind the Town Wharf. For that purpose the lighthouse was cut into three pieces and transported down the narrow Lighthouse Road from its original site at the entrance of Akaroa Harbour. There it had been sitting 80 metres above sea-level for a hundred years.

    The lighthouse was built in 1878 to 1879 and looks like many other lighthouses in New Zealand. The materials were brought by ship to Haylocks Bay, and hauled up on a purpose-built road to the top of the rugged headland. The lighthouse started operating on 1 January 1880, the keeper lived in an adjacent house. In 1977 the lighthouse was replaced by an automatic light, so it was relocated to Akaroa for decorative purposes. The position would be absolutely inadequate if the light of the lighthouse would have to be seen from the sea.

    It is a 10 minute walk from the Town Wharf.

    Photo 2 is a close-up of the lighthouse.

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    This interesting Herr Waeckerle of the Grand Hotel

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 14, 2008

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    The Grand Hotel is famous for its Sunday roasts.

    Although I have researched quite a while and on site, I have not succeeded (yet) to find out from which place in Germany the first owner of the Grand Hotel in Akaroa came from. His name was Christian Waeckerle, then surely spelled Wäckerle, and this sounds very Swabian (Schwäbisch), and sure, most of the Germans who arrived with the first French settlers on the Comte de Paris, were from the South, and Alsace that changed nationality several times in the past.

    So: This Christian Wäckerle arrived in Akaroa in 1840, and built Akaroa’s first hotel at the site of the present Grand Hotel in 1860. The first hotel was known as Wäckerle’s Hotel from 1865. Ok, perhaps Waeckerle’s… as nobody would have understood our German umlaut ;-)))

    As Christian Wäckerle was a busy man – he was also mail contractor and town mayor – he sold the hotel to his son-in-law, Robert Bayley, in 1876. In an arson attack it burnt down in 1882. To avoid another attack, the new hotel was built of brick, with plaster finish, in the Italianate design. Typical features of this style are rusticated pilasters and segment- and round-headed windows.

    The new hotel was opened in May 1883 and named “Waeckerle’s New Grand Commercial Hotel”. Since 1918 it has been known as the Grand. Some of its extensions have been criticised as not very sympathetic but it still is a good example of New Zealand’s Victorian architecture.

    When you come into Akaroa you have to make a sharp right turn to get into the town centre. Right there after this corner, on the righthand side, is the Grand Hotel.

    If you want to stay at the Grand – all rooms have balconies and harbour views. Rates are from $ 85 to 120.

    They also offer budget accommodation in apartments and a holiday home from $ 75.

    I can recommend the Grand as a good value for money restaurant. We have eaten there more often than in any other restaurant in Akaroa, as we often made weekend trips with my late mother-in-law, and went to the Grand for lunch because she loved their roast meals. They BTW are really cheap. I tested many seafood dishes and was always pleased, especially with the seafood chowder (costs only $ 8.50). They also offer whitebait fritters and, of course, fresh Akaroa salmon. The fish and seafood choices are incredible, and that is for what the restaurant is famous for. Price-wise, you get some mains under $ 20 but if you want salmon or a good steak you look at about $ 28/29.

    Open daily 12noon – 2.30pm and from 6pm.

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    Go Shopping at the Former Weighbridge Building

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 14, 2008

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    You get souvenirs and can book activities.

    On the way to the Town Wharf – the long jetty with the blue buildings where the dolphin cruise boats depart – you will walk past the former Weighbridge Building. It is rather a small building sitting right above the water at the base of the wharf. It houses a gift and souvenir shop now.

    In the early days the Weighbridge Building was needed because most goods were shipped in and out of Akaroa by sea. So in 1910 this roughcast building was erected, with a Marseilles tile roof. It housed the wharfinger’s office. Its predecessor was described as a dirty, rotten shack.

    The weighbridge was removed after World War II. Although fishing boats were still using the Town Wharf most goods were transported on the road by that time.

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    More than a nice Road Trip: Explore the Peninsula

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 4, 2008

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    Port Levy and The Monument, a volcanic vent.

    The only thing you might know about Banks Peninsula is that you should visit Akaroa, the only French settlement in NZ. As others have read this as well this charming place can be very crowded in the summer months. At other times of the year it is much more enjoyable - and in winter you might have it for yourself... ;-)

    Banks Peninsula is one of the most spectacular areas in NZ with its tussock landscape, sea cliffs, turquoise blue bays, beaches, up to 920m high mountains, native forest and fantastic 360° views.

    Take a detour to Akaroa via lonesome paths and the Summit Road. This leads up and down to turquoise blue bays and opens spectacular views from the top. Take the road from Christchurch via Governors Bay or Gebbies Pass to Diamond Harbour, Purau and Port Levy, then a narrow and winding gravel road to Pigeon Bay (only in good weather conditions!!!) and back up and down to the sealed Summit Road. If you take the main road back to Christchurch you can visit the cheese factory in Barrys Bay and have a coffee or meal at the French Farm or Hilltop Tavern.

    Have a look at the map here.

    Typical Tourist activities in the area are:
    Swim with the Dolphins in Akaroa; Harbour Cruises in Akaroa and Lyttelton - you can see Hector dolphins, the smallest dolphins in the world, in both harbours, in Lyttelton also tours to Quail Island (nice for a walk); Penguin Watching at Flea Bay near Akaroa (guided tours only); Scenic Mail Run (Akaroa).

    Banks Peninsula offers superb tramping opportunities, including the commercial Banks Peninsula Track (approx. NZ$200pp).

    Mt. Herbert (920m) - either from the wharf in Diamond Harbour (ferry from Lyttelton), 5 to 6 hours return, or from Port Levy/Little River Saddle, 1 to 2 hours one way, or even from Orton Bradley Park. From there shorter walks are possible.

    Packhorse Hut - start from Gebbies Pass, 2 hours one way. The Packhorse Hut offers bunk beds to spend the night.

    More walks and infos in Mark Pickering's booklet (available at Tourist Info and shops).

    Some links:

    www.dolphinsakaroa.co.nz

    www.bankstrack.co.nz

    www.akaroa.com

    http://www.bankspeninsula.info/

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    Links and addresses for Akaroa info and activities

    by Kakapo2 Updated Aug 7, 2008

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    The Black Cat tours start at the main wharf.
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    Akaroa info: www.akaroa.com

    Visitor Centre
    80 Rue Lavaud (opposite BNZ & Langlois-Eteveneaux House)
    Open daily 9am-5pm
    Ph. (03) 304 8600
    Email: info@akaroa.com

    Swimming with Dolphins

    Black Cat Cruises have just purchased the competitor Dolphin Experience (Oct. 2007). So there is no competition anymore. Black Cat Cruises operate from both premises.

    1.) Black Cat Cruises
    Main Wharf (building with blue roof)
    Ph. (03) 304 7641
    Email: akaroa@blackcat.co.nz
    Departures: 6am, 8.30am, 11.30am (only May-Sep), 1.30pm
    Prices (as Feb. 2007): $105/children $85, watching only $55/30 (full refund if you do not see dolphins, part refund if you cannot swim with them)

    2.) Black Cat at office of Dolphin Experience
    61 Beach Road (waterfront)
    Ph. (03) 304 7726, tollfree (0508) 365 744
    Email: dolphins.akaroa@xtra.co.nz

    Akaroa Dolphins and Harbour Cruises (dolphin watch only, no swimming)
    65 Beach Road (waterfront)
    Ph. (03) 304 7866, tollfree (0800) 990102
    Email: cruise@akaroadolphins.co.nz

    Pohatu Penguin Tours and Sea-Kayaking (at Flea Bay):
    Option 1: You watch little white-flippered penguins from kayaks. Sometimes you can also spot a Yellow-Eyed Penguin. Best season Sep. - Jan.
    Option 2: Viewing penguins from land. Pickup from Akaroa ($55pp) or self-drive to Flea Bay (4WD only) and there guided tour ($16pp). No public access, bookings essential (Akaroa Visitor Centre).
    Ph. (03) 304 8552

    Eastern Bays Scenic Mail Run
    (link http://www.akaroatours.com does not work)
    Rob Burleigh, a former ranger of the Department of Conservation, takes you on a 120km trip on Banks Peninsula in a red Rural Post van and visit ten bays, tour includes beachfront picnic. They call it "The Prettiest Mail Run in the World" and do not recommend it for children. Departure Mon-Fri 9am at Akaroa Visitor Centre (back at 1.30pm).
    Booking with the Akaroa Visitor Centre (Phone 03 - 304 8600) or Rob and Jo Burleigh after 5pm, Phone (03) 304 8526.

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    The Town Wharf - Blue Pearls and Dolphin Tours

    by Kakapo2 Written Jun 23, 2008

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    View from the beach to the Town Wharf.

    I have not met a tourist in Akaroa yet who has not walked to and on the Town Wharf. The blue sheds of the Blue Pearls business are too intriguing to not be checked out, and the harbour cruises and swimming with dolphins tours start there. And tourist boat tours are the main use of the wharf today. Coastal shipping and fishing industry do not play a big role anymore.

    The Town Wharf was built in 1877 and 1879, and opened on 22 August 1888. The base is made of concrete, the wharf itself is made of timber.

    It succeeded the Fishermen’s Wharf which was demolished in the 1930’s.

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