Freedom camping in Akaroa

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi was only a matter of months before the first European ship arrived in Akaroa to annex New Zealand’s South Island for France. Had they been successful we might well have been singing La Marseillaise and eating escargot. However, while the French missed out on claiming New Zealand, the small Banks Peninsula town of Akaroa has still been claimed for France, albeit unofficially. When we visited, the town had recently celebrated its 175th anniversary and the bunting was still up, giving the town an even more festive air.

Akaroa highlights

One of the highlights of our visit was to the Giant’s House. Created, owned and run by Josie Martin, it is a garden with a difference. It brought out the small child in us as we explored the garden. We found oversized treasures all over the place. There is an opportunity to stay in the house as it is also a B&B. I would rate it second to the Akaroa Harbour cruise which we went on a couple of years ago, and were accompanied by dolphins. The historic Akaroa Lighthouse is open on Sunday and for a $2 donation, we could climb up inside to enjoy the view. It was moved from Akaroa Heads to its present site on 2 August 1980 by the Akaroa Lighthouse Preservation Society.

Dining in Akaroa

The choices of places to dine in Akaroa are many and varied. We decided to try The Little Bistro and had a delicious light lunch – a double baked blue cheese soufflé for me and gin Gravelax (cured salmon) for my husband. The helpings were perfect sizes, not leaving us feeling overly full – just right. Akaroa has a farmers’ market and a craft market on Saturday mornings. The shops are treasure troves of gifts and garden art. It was busy with weekend visitors and when the cruise ships are in, the place must fair hum.

Freedom campsites in Akaroa

The Council provides a freedom camping area for self-contained vehicles at the north end of the harbour carpark. It is limited to five vehicles, so if you are not one of the first five, enjoy your day in Akaroa and stay at one of the campgrounds around the harbour. Our favourites are freedom camping at French Farm or Wainui on the other side of the harbour. This time we also stayed at a new NZMCA Park over Property, owned by Graham Duder in Takamatua, just before Akaroa. Hard as it was, we eventually loosened Akaroa’s hold, and moved to the beachfront in Wainui for a couple of nights, enjoying the visit of a cruise ship in the harbour. Freedom camping is allowed for a maximum of two days. Read the full article in issue #140 of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations magazine (on sale now!). Subscribe here.
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