This interesting Herr Waeckerle of the Grand Hotel
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.
- Historical Travel
- Food and Dining
Go Shopping at the Former Weighbridge Building
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.
- Historical Travel
More than a nice Road Trip: Explore the Peninsula
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).
- Road Trip
Links and addresses for Akaroa info and activities
Akaroa info: www.akaroa.com
80 Rue Lavaud (opposite BNZ & Langlois-Eteveneaux House)
Open daily 9am-5pm
Ph. (03) 304 8600
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
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
Akaroa Dolphins and Harbour Cruises (dolphin watch only, no swimming)
65 Beach Road (waterfront)
Ph. (03) 304 7866, tollfree (0800) 990102
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.
The Town Wharf - Blue Pearls and Dolphin Tours
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.
- Historical Travel
St. Peter’s Anglican Church
This very enchanting church, beside the BNZ building, looks very dominant as it sits on an elevated position up on Rue Balguerie, just some metres from the main street, Rue Lavaud, and the Langlois-Eteveneaux House. It is painted striking white which looks spectacular against a blue sky.
It is a timber church, built in 1863 in the then very common Gothic revival style, and extended in 1877. Also the interior displays were nice timberwork. It was designed by A.G. Purchas, a clergyman-architect. The famous architect Benjamin Montfort (who designed several of Christchurch's most spectacular buildings) designed the transepts and chancel when the church was extended.
The first St. Peter’s Church was already built in 1852 – but in Church Street.
The church belongs to the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch. The Banks Peninsula parish includes seven churches. Those are:
St Luke's in Little Akaloa, the Wainui Community Church, Knox Church in Pigeon Bay, St John's in Okains Bay, St Andrew's in Le Bons Bay, and St John's in Duvauchelle.
Service in Akaroa is each Sunday at 9am, and in the other churches in a rotational system at 11am, as follows:
1st Sunday - Little Akaola
2nd Sunday - Duvauchelle
3rd Sunday - Wainui
4th Sunday - Pigeon Bay
5th Sunday - Okains Bay or Le Bons Bay
Vicarage, Julius Place, Akaroa 8161
Phone/Fax: (03) 304-7051
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Daly's Wharf - Home of oldest gaffed rigged Ketch
This small wharf will always catch your eye, as it is accessible from the public toilets LOL
No, really… You just walk down to the shore from the Visitor Centre, and there it is. And it is a decorative feature if you take a photo from the swimming beach, as a picturesque shed with a conical roof sits a the end of the jetty.
The wharf is still in use for tourist operations. The Fox II, New Zealand oldest gaffed rigged ketch, starts there for its wildlife cruises and sailing. (Daily at 10.30am and 1.30pm from January until May. Book at Visitor Centre or see: www.akaroafoxsail.co.nz, phone 03 369 7245.)
It is not known when exactly this wharf was built. Estimates are between 1863 and 1865. It is Akaroa’s oldest surviving wharf – but not the first one. That was the so called French jetty which sat a little further north of Daly’s Wharf.
It is also unknown when the attractive shed on the wharf was built. But it must have been in the mid 1900’s as in a refurbishment in 1913/14 the wharf had a shed with a mono-pitch roof at its end.
The wharf was named after a merchant who ran a shop near the base of the wharf.
- Historical Travel
Confusing Relations in Captain Bruce’s Cottage
The story about the name of this lovely cottage with its sharp triangular dormer is rather confusing as it relates to people named Bruce as the last name who were not related.
However, the one who built it in 1855 was an early settler, Captain Bruce, who had immigrated from Scotland. He built it for his widowed brother-in-law named John Donnet – whose daughter Isabella married a guy named William Bruce.
The house was extended in 1922, more exactly: A second building was brought onto the site by sledge from William Street and attached to the cottage.
This is one of my favourite cottages in Akaroa. Every time I walk past it I am delighted because it looks so romantic with its picket fence and the climbing plants, especially the beautiful roses all over the place.
It is located in 6 Rue Aubray. This is at the corner of Rue Aubray and Bruce Terrace. When you walk up Bruce Terrace towards Rue Jolie from Beach Road (the promenade) it is on the left side.
- Historical Travel
Once a Bakery, now Fire & Ice
This very striking yellow two-storey building in 6 Church Street was built in 1884. It looks slightly different than the surrounding historic buildings. The style was called plain Italianate when it was built in 1884 but several changes have impaired the historical authenticity of the building. So it even faced demolition in 1996, but after a passionate campaign it was saved.
In the early days it was used as a bakery by the Brown family that had immigrated from Scotland, and was quickly erected when the bakery next door burnt down.
Since the bakery closed the building has housed several kinds of businesses. At the moment it is a shop named Fire & Ice. They are specialised in natural crystals, gemstones and minerals, gold and silver jewellery. The also import pure Aromatherapy essential oils. Open daily.
6 Church Street, Akaroa
Phone (03) 304 7804
- Historical Travel
Admire the Picture-perfect Cottages
You will find few places in New Zealand with such a big number of picture-perfect cottages from the early days of European settlement. There are so many - plus spectacular two-storey buildings of the same era - that you sometimes feel like walking in the scenery of a historic film.
First of all, the people of Akaroa are proud of their history, second, the tourism board and the business owners care a lot about the spotless French touch, and third, a big number of people living here are not poor – as many of the houses are just weekend or holiday homes of people who can afford it.
More so: In 1969 local residents founded a Civic Trust to preserve Akaroa’s history and character. The Trust supports new developments which are in harmony with the town’s historic character and encourages appropriate adaptive new uses for the town’s historic buildings.
In some side streets you will see cottages which would urgently need a painting job but that’s a very small number. There are no bad areas in Akaroa, as in most other cities and villages. Of course, there are locals who struggle to make ends meet and therefore neglect the necessary exterior works. Those are people who have been living there forever when buying or building a property did not cost a fortune. Everybody who has been purchasing in Akaroa in the past decade is not poor, as property values have risen sharply. You will not get anything really nice and spacious under NZ$ 1 million.
The one you see on my photo is in 63 Rue Lavaud and is now part of the Backpackers Bon Accord.
The life of this building began in 1860 as Akaroa’s first Presbyterian church. When it became too small for the growing congregation, it was sold and relocated down the street in 1885, so a new church could be built at its site. It then had multiple commercial uses. It got its pair of doors crammed between two flanking windows when it was divided into two separate offices.
The name the building is the same as in its early days as a church. Bon Accord it the motto of the town of Aberdeen in Scotland.
- Arts and Culture
- Hiking and Walking
Feel the Wow Factor of the Hilltop
This is a very special spot on all trips to Akaroa, halfway between Christchurch and Akaroa on SH 75.
Having driven up the slopes of the former volcano, you can suddenly look over the crater rim, and the magical beauty of Akaroa Harbour unfolds in front of your eyes. A thinnish long peninsula named Onawe Peninsula reaches into the fiord-like harbour. On a sunny summer day the water is so intense turquoise blue, you cannot believe what you see. The colour looks like enhanced on your PC. And BTW – on a beautiful day Lyttelton Harbour and all the bays around Banks Peninsula have the same magic feeling.
The inner slopes of the ancient crater spill like thick custard into the water, displaying all shades of green.
If travelling by car, you might not be aware of the abundant bird life on the peninsula. I know about it and always look out for birds but on a recent motorbike ride I got aware of the relentless singing of my feathered friends, the chirping of the fantails and the full chorus of the bellbirds. Somehow magically, nearly every time we drive back to Christchurch on the State Highway, and down the curves from the Hilltop, one or more of those giant NZ woodpigeons cross the road.
If you do not turn left onto the Scenic (Tourist) Drive, make sure you stop at the Hilltop Tavern just some metres after the highest point of the State Highway for a first magic view of Akaroa Harbour.
- Road Trip
Wining and Dining in Akaroa
The town has some very good restaurants including the upmarket “C’est la Vie au Bout du Monde” (That’s life at the End of the World) in Rue Lavaud. The best local fare you can order is fresh Akaroa salmon and other fresh seafood, locally grown olives from Robinson's Bay and cheeses from Barry’s Bay.
Other great places are L’Hôtel, Bully Hayes, Harbour Seventy One (all on Beach Road = the promenade), Ma Maison (Rue Jolie) and Vangionis (Rue Brittan).
The Grand Hotel (start of Rue Lavaud) is the biggest place, suitable for functions. The roast meals on Saturdays and Sundays are good value for money.
Ma Maison Deli (Beach Road) and By the Green (Rue Lavaud) are – as the first name suggests – more deli, pub and bakery style cafés for breakfast and lunch. Ma Maison Deli is also famous for its freshly made real fruit icecream which means: vanilla icecream mixed with real frozen fruit. Delicious!
If you do not want to spend a lot of money for a lunch, there is a fish’n’chips shop with outdoor seating area at the start of Beach Road, and in the corner building you find a bakery café with very reasonably priced food.
The only thing I absolutely do not understand about the bakery café is that even in the peak season they close at 3pm or 3.30pm when you still feel in the mood of having a coffee and a cake. But obviously they make so much money in the earlier hours that they can afford to shut out lots of potential customers.
- Food and Dining
Get your Painting done by Charles Meryon
Charles Meyron (1821 to 1868) was lieutenant on board the French navel ship “Le Rhin” (The Rhine), and on station in Akaroa from 1843 to 1846. But he was also a well-known artist and an engraver whose later works in Paris reflect the influence of his stay in New Zealand. One of his etchings named “Pointe Dite des Charbonniers” is on display in the Akaroa Museum.
This sculpture is a lovely hommage to this artist which perfectly fits into the French atmosphere of Akaroa. It could not be more French, giving a feeling of Montparnasse ;-)
It is located at the “Place de la Poste”, next to the War Memorial – and you will surely walk past as the public toilets are between Rue Lavaud and the waterfront LOL
Look through the frame and get your portrait Akaroa style – as you can see it on Photo 2 ;-)
At times you might not spot Charles Meryon but only his painting tools. In this case he will not be back after lunch. It happens when he needs some thorougher restauration ;-)
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
Explore Akaroa on little Walks
Akaroa is small enough to be explored on foot. There are several carparks and parking along the streets – and this can be very busy on summer weekends.
The esplanade (Beach Road) is the main area for enjoying the seaside combined with the convenience of having a coffee or meal. Although slow one-way traffic is allowed the wide footpath along the waterfront and along the shops, cafés and restaurants invite to a stroll, or sit down and enjoy the views and the sunshine. The Norfolk pines, thick palm trees, and pohutukawas add to the very picturesque atmosphere.
At the end of this promenade is the wharf where the dolphin tours and cruises start. You see it from afar as a striking blue building sits on the wharf. There is a blue pearl shop and outlets of the tours (the wetsuits for Swimming with the Dolphins are stored there).
A little further down the harbour is a boat ramp and the historic lighthouse, operated from 1879 and relocated from the heads of the harbour to its present site in 1981.
The following stretch is a waterskiing area (Glen Bay), and at the end of this you find the Britomart Memorial, at Greens Point. This is the site where the British claimed sovereignty over Banks Peninsula.
The French settlers’ landing place was at the start of the promenade, roughly opposite the Fire Station.
The beach between the promenade and the War Memorial and Visitor Centre is called a swimming beach but I do not consider it very exciting. It is just a narrow pebbly stretch which disappears at high tide. Canada geese love to forage for food there. A footpath along the main road leads to the northern part of Akaroa (where you came from, when arriving from Christchurch).
This part of the town has taken off lately, with little restaurants and cafés all over the place. Some years ago there were several interesting shops and galleries, the upmarket restaurant named “C’est la Vie au Bout du Monde”, and the Grand Hotel, but now you find food and refreshments everywhere. In this area (Rue Lavaud) you also find the famous Langlois-Eteveneaux House, the historic Court House, the Museum and Visitor Centre, and several nice old churches.
Walking up Rue Balguerie (opposite the Visitor Centre) you get to the Giant’s House which is a place of sensational mosaic art, and also a walk up Rue Grehan, mostly along Grehan Stream, is very nice.
On my “aerial” view photo in General tips I have added the names of some of those places, so you get an idea of the layout of the town.
Photo 2 is a wider shot of the promenade. It highlights the Norfolk Pines along the street.
- Hiking and Walking
Stop at Lookouts along the Scenic Drive
As said in my information about the roads on Banks Peninsula (in General tips), stop instead of crash if you really want to fully enjoy the spectacular views of Banks Peninsula, especially along the Scenic Drive which is a summit road that meanders around Akaroa Harbour at high altitude. In some parts you have the view of the harbour on one side and to one or more of the northern and eastern bays on the other side of the road.
Taking the fantastic scenery into account, quite some special lookouts with nice seats have been created along the road, as it is rather dangerous and sometimes impossible to stop for taking a picture. Have a break, soak in the fresh air, and enjoy the unforgettable views.
- Road Trip
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