Camping in Akaroa

Akaroa is a beautiful historic 'french' village located on Banks Peninsula, 75 kms from Christchurch. It's in the news a fair bit at the moment given that freedom camping around the boat ramp (on the right just before you enter the town) is increasing. I'd heard reports of 20 or more campervans being parked there on any one night, however on the Saturday evening just gone I counted 7. What probably exasperates the problem is the increase in visitors from cruise ships, with overcrowding, congestion and use of facilities in the town by tourists recorded as being the number one issue as seen by residents, shown in a Lincoln University study from May 2013. Akaroa Freedom Camping at the Boat Ramp The freedom campsite at the boat ramp is a bit of a grey area at present. The increase in popularity has led to upsetting a few residents, particularly as this is the area where you launch boats from. It's certainly a hot topic amongst the locals at the moment and the local community board are keeping an eye on it. It remains free, but for how long is unsure. Despite this, the town is still amazing and definitely worth the visit. If you want to avoid the problem altogether you can stay at the nearby Akaroa Top 10 or as we did, the Onuku Farm Hostel/Campervan Park which is 6kms past the township. We'd heard about these 'stargazer' huts, where for $20 per person you can sleep in a hut with a perspex roof that allows you to 'sleep under the stars' while still remaining dry. We'd arrived on fairly average weather, so we took this option and stayed in the 'Peacock' hut (the one middle right in the photo).Onuku There are a bunch of options for staying here. Unpowered sites for backpacker campervans with hot shower, kitchen and common room are $15 per person per night or $25 per person for two nights. For whatever option you choose, there are good facilities for the different areas (hostel, huts or campground). It's also a working farm, so you'll have a variety of animals walking around which gives it a real nature feel. The huts we stayed in come with a comfortable mattress and pillow, the showers are heated by gas and good pressure. The kitchen facilities do the job and the toilets are clean and tidy. In terms of activities, there are a couple of walks you can do in the area. As we had a fishing rod, we decided to do the walk to 'The Fishing Beach', a 45 minute walk across the farm to a spot near the Akaroa Heads (harbour inlet). Fishing Beach It's a little bit of a trick to get down to the water. We got here at about mid tide and all the mussels were pretty small, so unless you've got the elastic to tie it onto your hook, then I'd suggest that you bring your own bait. I'm told you can catch Blue Cod here, which would've been amazing but no luck today! It's still a nice walk though and luckily for us it cleared up and we managed to see the sun for the first time that day. We headed into the township and had fish and chips instead, a must do if you're in Akaroa. It's a popular place so you might want to ring up and order first. The evening was great, not so many stars out but we were pretty tired so barely stayed awake past the 9pm sunset! Checkout time is anytime before 10am, we got up fairly early and decided to check out another favourite spot; Tumbledown Bay about 45 minutes drive back toward Christchurch from Akaroa. photoTB We were the first to arrive at this spot (about 10.30am) and they've opened up an area closer to the beach where you can now park (you used to have to walk a little further). This place reminds me a little of Kaikoura, with so much sea life. There were about 5 seals lazing about in the sun on the beach, and a few youngsters playing around in the water at about ankle depth. I like the relationship between the rock formation in the background and the seal standing to attention. They are generally pretty friendly and are more frightened of you, it's best just to avoid getting too close to them anyway. The beach is here is safe for swimming in, it's generally calm conditions about from southerly swells that angle right in here. Seals If you're looking for surf around here you need to go back a few bays (toward Christchurch) where you'll get to the famous Magnet Bay surf spot, a left hand break which can pump at times. We spent the best part of an afternoon here. If you get here first, the best place is on the right hand side in one of the little caves where you can take shelter from the sun and the wind of it picks up. Overall, a great weekend spent on the Banks Peninsula. If you're in a large campervan, I'd avoid Tumbledown Bay as it's quite a skinny road with a cliff on your right hand side. It's not to say it couldn't be done, it;s just that if you encounter a vehicle coming the other way, it would be quite difficult to pass each other comfortably. If you've spent some time here, let me know through Twitter or Facebook. [mc4wp_form]