Day 24: French heritage of Banks Peninsula

It kept on raining and raining. According to weather forecast it was supposed to stay like this until the end of the week. Great. It was our last week in New Zealand and we had to hide in the van. Bad weather and late ferry messed up our plans. New Zealand is all about outdoors and so there isn’t much to do on rainy days. Yet we kept to our plan and went to explore Akaroa in Banks Peninsula. It turned out to be a great choice on a rainy day like this. It would be a great choice on a sunny day too, because there are plenty of tracks and sporting activities, but a rainy day in Akaroa wasn’t hard to fill up with things to do either.

Akaroa is the first French settlement in NZ dating back to 1850s. Since then people there and all the rest of Banks Peninsula have kept it as French as possible, giving French names to streets, houses, cafes and shops and keeping their architectonic style as close to French as possible. Akaroa indeed is a very charming village with great cozy cafes, heaps of good art galleries and shops stuffed with unnecessary but irresistible accessories. For a little village like that it was on a high cultural level with it’s art house cinema, two libraries and a culinary school. We visited a few art galleries in Akaroa and another one in Little River and we were overwhelmed by how many good artists chose Banks Peninsula for their home. No wonder though. With its idyllic countryside and vicinity of the second largest city in NZ, the area offered everything an artist could ask for.

Banks Peninsula was formed by two volcanic eruptions 8 million years ago and scenic drive so popular among tourists and locals themselves goes around the edge of the original crater. It is almost perfectly round with bays cutting in its edge all around the peninsula. Today its terrain is mostly used for farming and the sight of cows, sheep and green hills really gives it a European feel.

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