Akaroa…Tres Jolie!

The Viking Sun anchored off the shore of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand very early Sunday morning. Without a clear itinerary, Denise couldn’t resist exploring this tiny historic town from one end to the other. One of the first things she noticed is the number of buildings flying the flags of both New Zealand and France. It seems that this area was settled by both the British and the French in the 1830’s, and the influence of both countries is woven into the native Maori traditions to create a lovely blended culture with a definite French flair. Just off the main beach road is the sweet Rue Jolie, where the buildings could not be more charming. There’s an historic library, theater, private homes, B&Bs, shops, restaurants, a Masonic Lodge, and lots and lots of flowers.

We also encountered Doug…not Doug the timeless-traveler, but a large wooden bear on display on the front lawn of a private residence. Doug’s sign reads “My name is DOUGLAS W. I’m carved from a 135 year old redwood tree I’m 3 m tall and 250 kg. I love to have my photo taken but please stay off the property unless you ask permission. When posting your picture, #douglaswakaroa. We love to see where he ends up.”

Rue Jolie dead-ends at an iron gate which reads “Garden of Tane.” Although closed to vehicular traffic, the gate is open to walkers, and it looked very beautiful and inviting. According to a plaque at the entrance, the Garden of Tane Scenic Reserve started in July 1874. Over the years, many exotic trees were planted, creating a veritable arboretum, but after World War I the garden fell into disrepair. In 1964, farmer and environmentalist Arthur Ericson retired to Akaroa and over 25 years made significant improvements including planting over 200 species of native plants to complement the mature exotic tree specimens within the park. He also built a children’s playground including the “iron rocking horse” pictured below. Today the garden continues to benefit from the efforts of countless volunteers. It’s a “place of peace and shade, birdsong and mystery where lucky visitors are treated to a variety of hiking paths, the song of native birds, vistas of the harbour, a playground, and this beautiful bush reserve in the midst of Akaroa.” It was definitely a highlight of Denise’s morning, as she stopped and sat in the shade on one of the park benches to rest and finish a book. If you ever get to Akaroa, make some time for the Garden of Tane.

The temperature rose throughout the day, reaching a high of 97 degrees, but the gentle breeze along the harbor provided some welcome relief. A wooden lighthouse, built in 1800, lights the west end of the harbor, and a War Memorial stands tall at the east end to commemorate the New Zealand soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. In between, people (and dogs!) could be seen enjoying a variety of water sports from the beach and wharf.

Before we set sail from Akaroa, we got to take a scenic drive along the rest of the Banks Peninsula and the scenic Takamuta, Robinsons, and Duvachelle Bays. The breathtaking views will be beautiful reminders of a really lovely day in Akaroa, New Zealand.

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