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Port Louis-Philippe
Akaroa township and its Main Wharf
Akaroa township and its Main Wharf
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Country New Zealand
Region Canterbury Region
District Christchurch City
Ward Banks Peninsula
European settlement 18 August 1840
Founded by Jean François Langlois
 • Total 2.03 km2 (0.78 sq mi)
 (June 2021)
 • Total 790
 • Density 389/km2 (1,008/sq mi)
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu
View of Akaroa harbour; the long, thin peninsula extending out into the harbour is Ōnawe Peninsula, and the middle of the volcano
16 Akaroa, New Zealand - free stock photo
Akaroa Main Wharf
Akaroa Head Lighthouse
Akaroa Head Lighthouse (built c. 1878)

Akaroa is a small town on Banks Peninsula in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand, situated within a harbour of the same name. The name Akaroa is Kāi Tahu Māori for "Long Harbour", which would be spelled Whangaroa in standard Māori. The area was also named Port Louis-Philippe by French settlers after the reigning French king Louis Philippe I.

The town is 84 kilometres (52 mi) by road from Christchurch and is the terminus of State Highway 75. It is set on a sheltered harbour and is overlooked and surrounded by the remnants of a miocene volcano. Akaroa is entirely dependent upon rainfall on the hills.

Akaroa is a popular resort town. Many Hector's dolphins may be found within the harbour, and 'swim with the dolphins' boat tours are a major tourist attraction.

Ōnuku marae, a marae (tribal meeting ground) of Ngāi Tahu and its Ōnuku Rūnanga branch, is located in Akaroa. It includes the Karaweko wharenui (meeting house).


Akaroa is 84 kilometres (52 mi) by road from Christchurch and is the terminus of State Highway 75. In the 2013 New Zealand census, the permanent population was 624, an increase of 9.5% since 2006. The town has a high (31.3%) ratio of residents aged over 65

It is set on sheltered harbour and is overlooked and surrounded by the remnants of a miocene volcano. Akaroa is a popular resort town and in summer the temporary population can reach 15,000

Many Hector's dolphins may be found within Akaroa harbour, and 'swim with the dolphins' boat tours are a major tourist attraction.


Church Akaroa
Saint Peter's Anglican Church (built c.1864), situated 10 Rue Blaguerie in Akaroa

In 1830 the Māori settlement at Takapuneke, just east of the current town of Akaroa, became the scene of a notorious incident. The Captain of the British brig Elizabeth, John Stewart, helped North Island Ngāti Toa chief, Te Rauparaha, to capture the local Kāi Tahu chief, Tāmaiharanui, his wife Te Whe and his young daughter, Roimata. The settlement of Takapuneke was sacked. Concern over the complicity of John Stewart, amongst other lawlessness among Europeans in New Zealand, led to the appointment of an official British Resident James Busby to New Zealand in 1832 – the first step in the British involvement that led to the Treaty of Waitangi.

In 1832 Te Rauparaha, fresh from his successful three-month siege of Kaiapoi, took the on the Ōnawe Peninsula at the head of Akaroa Harbour.

English settlement

After being informed of the French intent to colonise Akaroa and use further as a whaling port, the English ship Britomart was despatched in order to proclaim sovereignty for the Crown. The Britomart arrived in Akaroa on 16 August (although the captain's log shows this arrival date as 11 August 1840), Captain Stanley raised the British flag and held a court at each of the occupied settlements.

James Robinson Clough, also known as Jimmy Robinson, had arrived at Akaroa several years before. He acted as interpreter for Captain Owen Stanley at the flag-raising of 1840, and was the first Pākehā to travel up the Avon River in 1843. Clough's descendants are still prominent on the Peninsula today.

The following English immigrants settled in both Akaroa and German Bay (Takamatua) along with many German farmers who set up dairy, sheep and cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) farms. The great majority of the artifacts currently held at Akaroa Museum are of the early farming community and their lifestyle of the time.

French settlement

Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage, Akaroa (c.1843)
Langlais-Eteveneaux Cottage, Akaroa (built c.1843)
An Akaroa street sign showing French street names
The Gaiety, Akaroa (c.1879)
The Gaiety, Akaroa (built c.1879)

In 1838 Captain Jean François Langlois made a provisional purchase of land in "the greater Banks Peninsula" from Tuaanau. A deposit of commodities in the value of £6 was paid and a further £234 worth of commodities was to be paid at a later period. On his return to France, he advertised for settlers to come to New Zealand and ceded his interest in the land to the Nanto-Bordelaise Company, of which he became a part owner. On 9 March 1840, 63 emigrants left from Rochefort. The settlers embarked on the Comte de Paris – an old man-of-war ship given to them by the French government – for New Zealand. The Comte de Paris and its companion ship the Aube, captained by Commodore Charles François Lavaud, arrived in the Bay of Islands in the North Island on 11 July 1840, where they discovered that the Banks Peninsula had been claimed by the British. The French arrived in Akaroa on 18 August and established a settlement.

The area still has a French influence, reflected in many local placenames.

Before 1840, the area of the current Akaroa town was also known as Wangaloa, and the subsequent French settlement was known as Port Louis-Philippe, named after the French king of the time.


Akaroa is defined by Statistics New Zealand as a rural settlement, and covers 2.03 km2 (0.78 sq mi). It had an estimated population of 790 as of June 2021, with a population density of 389 people per km2.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 591 —    
2013 645 +1.26%
2018 756 +3.23%

Akaroa had a population of 756 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 111 people (17.2%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 165 people (27.9%) since the 2006 census. There were 288 households. There were 375 males and 378 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.99 males per female. The median age was 55.3 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 63 people (8.3%) aged under 15 years, 108 (14.3%) aged 15 to 29, 339 (44.8%) aged 30 to 64, and 240 (31.7%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 82.5% European/Pākehā, 6.0% Māori, 0.8% Pacific peoples, 11.9% Asian, and 2.8% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 34.9%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 44.4% had no religion, 34.9% were Christian, 1.6% were Hindu, 4.8% were Muslim, 1.6% were Buddhist and 4.4% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 126 (18.2%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 87 (12.6%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $31,800, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 327 (47.2%) people were employed full-time, 111 (16.0%) were part-time, and 9 (1.3%) were unemployed.


Akaroa's first primary school opened in 1857, and the first high school followed in 1883. The high school was for boys only in the first year but became co-educational in the second year. However, in 1900 it closed due to a lack of paying students. The next year, it re-opened as a free District High School. It moved to the current site in 1935. In 2007, the primary school was merged with it to form Akaroa Area School. This is now a co-educational composite school covering years 1 to 13, with a roll of 127 as of July 2016.

Notable residents

  • Jessie Buckland (1878–1939), photographer
  • John Buckland (1844–1909), politician
  • Bob Parker (born 1953), former mayor of Banks Peninsula and former resident
  • Hugh Wilson (born 1945), botanist living at Hinewai Reserve over the hill from Akaroa
  • Frank Worsley (1872–1943), sailor and explorer who served on Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1916, as captain of the Endurance
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