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Photograph of Akaroa harbour: N.Olliver
Photograph of Bellbird: Andre Schont (France)

The township of Akaroa is built inside the eroded crater of one of the extinct volcanos that form the Banks Peninsula. Since volcanic eruptions ceased some six million years ago, the land has been eroded and the sea has broken through the crater to form a deep sheltered harbour. Akaroa is located on the harbour's sheltered south east side so it lies into the sun. The harbour dominates the landscape and is home to a variety of sea and bird life including the worlds smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hectors Dolphin. Activities include wildlife cruises, swimming with the dolphins, boat hire and sea kayaking.

Captain Cook and his crew on their ship the Endeavour in 1770 were the first Europeans to see the Bank's Peninsula. Cook named the Peninsula after his botanist Joseph Banks. By the 1830's, Banks Peninsula had become a European whaling centre. Two significant events in the assumption of British sovereignty over New Zealand occurred at Akaroa. First, in 1830, the Maori settlement at Takapuneke was sacked by Te Rauparaha with the help of the British Captain John Stewart. The events at Takapunkeke led directly to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Then, in 1838 a French whaler, Captain Langlois decided that Akaroa would make a good settlement to service the whaling ships, and "purchased" the Peninsula in a land deal with the local Maori. He returned to France, floated the Nanto-Bordelaise company, and sailed for New Zealand with a group of French and German families with the intention of forming a French colony. However, by the time they arrived at Banks Peninsula in August 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi had already been signed and New Zealand's first Governor, Hobson, had declared sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand. The French settlers stayed on to leave their mark on the area.

(page last updated  23 January 2007)