Authentic content from The Seventh Generation Akaroa French descendant and local.
Table of Contents
Your 7 Akaroa French Questions answered
Why is Akaroa French?
Akaroa French heritage comes from the only successful French settlement in New Zealand and was an attempt by the French to claim and colonise the whole South Island.
Is Akaroa a French word?
No it’s Maori, originally Whangaroa and shortened by Europeans to Akaroa. The French planned to call Akaroa, Port Louis Philippe after the French King.
When did the French find Akaroa?
In 1836 the first French whalers started to come to Akaroa Harbour, but French explorers had visited prior to that.
Francois Etienne Lelievre
Etienne Francios Lelievre arrived in 1837 and was the first European to build a hut in Akaroa. He also had the original Duvauchelle Hotel.
Why did the French choose to settle in Akaroa?
The harbours and bays of Banks Peninsula were a hot spot for the French whaling ships, with up to 16 French ships a year.
Why they preferred Banks Peninsula is up to speculation, perhaps it was the beauty, similar perhaps to the French Riviera, or the abundance of whales, or perhaps ‘safety’ in numbers.
Still today Akaroa is popular with ’modern’ French settlers, who come here and fall in love, either with the place or with a local resident and choose to stay, the local schools are alive again with native French speakers.
Who were the French settlers of Akaroa?
The French settlers arrived on the Comte de Paris, with German and a Dutch settler also on board. They were poor folk who were looking for a better life and the chance to own land, arriving with their packets of seeds and garden hoes.
What was the ’Race for Akaroa’?
The French had purchased Banks Peninsula and when Governor Hobson discovered the French settler ship was on the way to Akaroa, he instructed the demonstration of sovereignty in Akaroa to show the French that it was under British sovereignty via the Treaty of Waitangi, the French were pipped at the post by only 5 DAYS!
The Race for Akaroa is seen today as being an exaggeration, but in the context of the time, the French settler ship was already on Banks Peninsula in Pigeon Bay when the British first demonstrated sovereignty over the South Island, and it was believed by the British that the French settlers would already be in Akaroa. In fact they were delayed by two events of bad luck that considerably slowed them down….
French things to do in Akaroa?
Understand the French History from a French descendant with The Seventh Generation Tours, visit cafes, waterfront restaurants such as Ma Maison, a glass of local New Zealand wine overlooking the waters-edge at the Akaroa Waterfront Motel.
French inspired cooking classes at the renowned Akaroa Cooking School, and French inspired art at the famous garden of international significance The Giants House, or wine tastings at one of the beautiful Akaroa wineries such as French Peak.
There are so many things to do in Akaroa, HERE are some more suggestions.
Akaroa has some of the most remarkable history and STORIES in New Zealand. It’s almost unbelievable how incredible this little town is, hidden behind it’s quaintness, it’s beauty, and it’s charm are some of the most important historic sites in New Zealand, with national and international consequences.
Did you know the first European involvement in Maori intertribal warfare happened in Akaroa and this led directly to the First British Resident to New Zealand, the little known Declaration of Independence and ultimately the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
The French purchase of Banks Peninsula in 1838 by Jean Francois Langlois, a French whaler, precipitated the ’race for Akaroa’, in which the British hurried to claim and demonstrate sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand before the French could establish a foot-hold. WOW.
What incredible history, and that’s before the Akaroa French settlement was even established. Then came the first planned European settlement, the first church in the South Island, the first hospital, the first European child born in Canterbury…
Akaroa is RICH in History. Don’t miss out on building your understanding of New Zealand’s story.
Why would you go anywhere else in New Zealand, Akaroa is the only French town, so easily accessible and filled with experiences to extend your learning. The Seventh Generation covers all sorts of educational experiences from school history groups to conference and university groups.
Thank you so much for your expertise with our students on the recent trip, it very much added value (and the weather sent us a little extra adventure). I was able to see the light bulbs go on as our students started to connect what they had heard in class with what you were saying, and the places they were in.Fiona Clayton, Marion College
French cafe experience, with authentic French speaking waiters? Question and answer time with our French librarian? A French film? French cooking class? It is ALL possible within this amazing little French town in the South Pacific.
Read more about our tours here. These tours have 5 ⭐️ reviews from teachers and Marie will take all the worry out of the day, helping you to organise and book your trip, as well as arranging the schedule and giving you loads of ideas, that are all flexible on the day if the weather turns.
Akaroa French Character
Akaroa is filled with amazing French heritage buildings, cute narrow French streets with French names with Rue for Street. Everywhere you look you will fall in love with the quaint character buildings set upon a stunning backdrops of steep mountain peaks and often calm clear blue water.
Of course, some of that magic was down to the hard work and preservation efforts of the local community and building owners, it is said that Akaroa is one of the best preserved historic towns in New Zealand, with much work from the Akaroa Civic Trust. The French Street names were re-established in the 1960’s and careful management of the town character through appropriate signage and street lamps have helped to preserve the ambience.
Akaroa Street Map
Many businesses in Akaroa have embraced the French language and are called by a French name, even the police station has a French name!
The French cemetery is worth finding if you have the time to wonder and get off the main street, there it has the story of Francois Lelievre (my G.G.G. Grandad) and how he bought Napoleons Weeping Willow to New Zealand, a famous story for another blog… click here for the google map link.
Comte de Paris Descendants Group
The Comte de Paris descendants group is an active group that promotes and celebrates the connection to the first settlers who arrived on the Comte de Paris from France back on the 17th August 1840. It works actively to preserve the historic cemeteries of Akaroa and create a sense of connection for the descendants to their place of arrival in New Zealand.
It is amazing how many families from the first settlers still reside on Banks Peninsula, with many of the inter-generational farms being run now into the seventh generation, including many people who don’t directly connect their families to that first ship. Several Akaroa businesses are also proudly descendants such as Akaroa Dolphins, The Common Cafe and Bar and of course The Seventh Generation Tours – where the name says it all.
Etienne Francois Lelievre and Justine Rose de Malmanche, alone, are said to have over 2000 descendants alive today!
Akaroa French Festival Biannual Celebration – 2023
Don’t miss out on this festival of celebration of all things French in New Zealand, it’s a wonderful chance to visit Akaroa, engage in street markets, antique fairs, live music and endulge in Akaroa History. Don’t miss out, book your trip now!
Akaroa Farmers Market
If you are in Akaroa on a Summer Saturday then do pop along to the Akaroa Farmers Market as well, filled with locally sourced treats, sweets, olive oils and smoked salmon, you might even find Elise selling crepes and you can try out your French. With an extremely picturesque and historic setting, where isn’t in Akaroa!
The best way to travel from Christchurch to Akaroa is by using the Akaroa Bus, travelling daily. Arriving in Akaroa around 11:30am – departing 4pm, which leaves you just the perfect amount of time to stop in a French cafe then take an Akaroa History Tour with The Seventh Generation.
Often overlooked, French Farm is important historically as it is the place where the French man-of-war the Aube established it’s French Farm to feed the crew and supply surplus to the French Settlement of Akaroa. It has one of the oldest standing buildings in New Zealand, in desperate need of repairs.