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By Ben Selby
Many of us have the dream of taking a classic car to the French Riviera. However, the gulf between the dream and reality for many of us is pretty vast, especially since COVID, we won’t be travelling to Europe anytime soon.
That doesn’t mean us Kiwi car fans need to miss out on the essence of that journey, especially as we have our version of the French Riviera right here in Banks Peninsula. Translated at “Long Harbour” in Maori, Akaroa is famous for playing host to French settlers back in 1840, and the town still embraces its French heritage.
The drive from Christchurch to Akaroa is also one of New Zealand’s greatest driving roads and the ideal place if you want to take your classic car out of town, but not end up driving for hours on end.
Here is how you can get from Christchurch to Akaroa and enjoy all the sights along the way. The drive itself is 84kms in length and will take you around 1hr and 18 minutes nonstop, but if you want to enjoy a few stops on the way, one would need to set aside at least 2hr and 30 mins.
Leaving Christchurch on SH75 through Halswell, you will arrive in the town of Tai Tapu. This charming community is always worth a stop for a snack from the local shop or a spot of lunch from the Tai Tapu Hotel Restaurant and Bar.
Leaving Tai Tapu, SH75 begins to twist and turn as you head towards Motukarara and Birdlings Flat. This is chance for you to really start to enjoy your classic as there is plenty of corners and fast straights to devour. However, as the road can a be popular one, be aware of other likeminded holiday makers.
After passing the picturesque beauty of Lake Forsyth, next up is the small town of Little River. While you are here, why not stop and soak up some local works of art at the Little River Art Gallery. Leaving Little River, the route begins to climb into the Port Hills. The roads get more twisty and the higher you go the scenery just gets better.
Once you reach the top, you are greeted by the famous Hilltop Tavern. Here is another great place to stop for a bite to eat, or to simply park up and enjoy the view. You are also able to see Akaroa in the distance from the carpark.
You then begin your descent down the hillside and before arriving in Barry’s Bay. Lovers of cheese simply must stop at the Barrys Bay Cheese factory for some locally made Havarti or Smoked Cheddar. The road continues through the small communities of Duvauchelle, Robinsons Bay and Takamatua.
After you pass through these you climb a hill before arriving into Akaroa itself. Upon arrival, its easy to see the French ambience, with countless French streets, and other references of the towns gallic founders.
There is no shortage of activities in Akaroa. Once you park up on the waterfront. Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the pier or out to the famous Akaroa Lighthouse. Feeling peckish? Enjoy Akaroa Fish and Chips, or have a pint with lunch at Bully Hayes of the Wharf Restaurant and Bar.
If you aren’t in a rush to return to Christchurch, there is also the Akaroa Museum. Also, oodles of shops with knick knacks and other antiques.
Christchurch to Akaroa is a time-honoured travel tradition for many Cantabrians. And, it is even more special at the wheel of which matches its heritage and style.