Akaroa Harbour © Robert Young
Situated on a peninsula just 45 miles (75km) south of Christchurch, Akaroa is a historic colonial settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano. The Maori name Akaroa means 'long harbour' and the small French-influenced town sits on the shore of a long finger of water that extends into the interior of the land. It is Canterbury's oldest village and its French character, due to the first European settlers, is evident in the street names, quaint historical architecture and French inspired cuisine. The pretty town and its lovely bays and harbour offer an enormous range of activities for tourists. With its beautiful colonial architecture, cafes and restaurants, Akaroa is an easy place to spend a relaxing day, and for the more active the surrounding area offers fantastic walking trails, sea kayaking and sailing. Akaroa Harbour is also the only place in the world where visitors can swim with the world's smallest and rarest dolphin, the Hector's or New Zealand dolphin. The drive to Akaroa from Christchurch takes around one and a half hours, and takes in some spectacular scenery.