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18 February 2019

a colourful guide to akaroa, new zealand

as i was planning our trip around the south island of new zealand, there were a few places i had to ensure made it onto our itinerary - the french-settled town of akaroa was one of those places. the coastal town is only half an hour or so out of christchurch, making it the perfect place to take a day trip to if staying in the centre; the day we pulled in, there was also a cruise ship that had docked that meant the town was a little more overrun with tourists than normal, but also meant that the 24 hours we spent there were absolutely thriving (and the town was on its very best behaviour, too!). here's the highlight reel...

stay at banks house

banks house was not our first option. rather, we had booked to stay in a single cabin at a backpackers that turned out to be far too good to be true, and thus found ourselves without acommodation far too late in the day to get anything super affordable for the night. knowing we had limited options, we threw caution to the wind, and negotiated with ourselves that we could afford one night of luxury so long as we cut cost corners in other areas - and that's how we found ourselves in a luxury suite at banks house, with a private balcony at the very top of the hundred year old manor, overlooking the harbour.

it was worth every cent we paid for it too. the bed was easily the most comfortable of the whole trip, and the views from our balcony durng sunset and sunrise were the sorts you want to pay good money for. we sat out on the balcony eating salad from the supermarket and drinking wine we had brought with us, and it was so peaceful and charming and relaxing, that the cost of the room didn't even cross our minds. it was exactly what we needed after the massive drive we'd taken that day. and the breakfast? stunning. we stayed fed long into the next day thanks to the spread of options offered by the wonderful hotel manager etsu.

find it here: 158 rue jolie, akaroa 7520

eat at the bach 

between deciding we weren't going to stay at our original accommodation and finding a new one, we stopped for a bite to eat. they say you should never make big decisions on an empty stomach, and deciding to upgrade from backpacker budget to luxury is certainly a big decision! the bach on the esplanade was next to our original accommodation, and looked to have a few seats outside in the sun spare (the town was heaving at this point) - so we pounced while we could. the sandwich board outside was awash with dine-and-drink options, but we settled on some fresh salads and juices to keep us going. something about being out in the sun makes me only want to eat fresh fruit and veg, and my mum is the same. we basically consisted of mainly salad (and wine) for the majority of this trip. the salads were reasonably priced, and really big too - excellent value for money for sure.

find it here: 57 rue lavaud, akaroa 7520

visit the giant's house

with the last entrance to the property allowed in at 4pm and the gardens closing by 5, we weren't sure we were going to make it to the giant's house and gardens, but boyyyyy am i glad we did! it was only about a five minute drive, or twenty minute walk from banks house, but as we were losing time we drove. it's not cheap, almost $20 to enter the gardens (you can stay in the house overnight as it's also a b&b but it's pretty much booked out until the end of time), but the moment you step foot inside the grounds, you can understand why. 

the house is one of the oldest in akaroa, originally the town's bank manager's back in the 1800s, and is part of akaroa's folklore. but now, belongs to artist, josie martin, who has taken it upon herself to transform the house and gardens into a thing of wonder - a wonderfully magic escape; a portal into another world. the house itself is painted in every colour under the sun, and every. single. thing on the property is covered in coloured glass and tiles, in the largest collection of mosaics i've ever seen.

...and mosaic gardens

the beautiful terraced gardens have been awarded the garden of significance award every year since 2012, and a garden of international significance since 2018 - and it's not hard to see why! they are scuptured and cared for within an inch of their lives, and are so well presented it's not hard to see how you could spend hours wandering them. sadly for us, we had less than an hour to cram it all in, but were easily pleased by the variety of colour and species planted within the gardens. plus, being that it was the end of the day, we didn't have to fight for our spot in the gardens - silver linings and all that!

there is a cafe in the gardens, as well as an art studio should you fancy taking home some of your own mosaics or art, but that was all closed too when we arrived. so, i would suggest going early and spending a morning there, as there's just so much to see on the property - you will want to take it slow!

find it here: 68 rue balgurie, akaroa, 7520

wander the garden of tane and town trails 

there are a variety of gentle walks and trails all around the small town, full of native birds, gorgeous views of the harbour, deserted graveyards and a creepy af playground in the middle of the forest. i had no pictures of the garden of tane forest trail as i needed both hands to steady myself on the muddy walk, but can tell you that the foliage was so thick that once inside, there was absolutely no hint as to the time of day or type of weather outside of it. you know, that proper creepy type of forest? it was very that. i had my wee mum with me, so it was ok, but had i gone in there alone i'm not sure i would have made it out. 

on more than one occasion we thought we might be lost, and there are no directions once you're in there - so do make sure you have a map or something so you at least know which direction to head to come out! beyond the forest trails there are some really pretty coastal walks, as well as historic walks in the town. they're all self-guided, though there is the opportunity to take guided ones a few times a day from the information centre in the middle of town. i'd definitely recommend taking as many as you can, as they're all really pretty and super informative!

find the info here: www.gardenoftane.co.nz 

chill on the beach

and if all else fails and you find yourself at a loss of something to do, head to the beach. it's a full-on pebble beach (more rocky than pebbles if i'm completely honest), but it's 100% beautiful. just sitting on the edge, ice cream in hand, watching the water lapping on the rocks was possibly the calmest i'd been during the whole trip - sun beaming down and nothing but the sound of kids playing in the water around: pure bliss. i'm definitely not a beach girl, but i am a seaside girl, and akaroa definitely delivers on the whole seaside town vibe. it was easily my favourite part of the whole trip, and i'm livid with myself to have not made the decision to stay longer than the one night! i'll definitely be back though, that's a certainty.

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