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Exploring the Town & Harbor

A small museum, made up of four historic buildings on Rue Lavaud (tel. 03/304-1013; akaroa.museum@ccc.govt.nz; admission is NZ$4 adults, and NZ$8 families), has lively displays and good Maori collections. It's open daily from 10:30am to 4:30pm. The Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage was partly prefabricated in France around 1846 and is probably the oldest in Canterbury. The Old French Cemetery was the first consecrated burial ground in Canterbury and is just off Rue Pompallier. The old lighthouse, which was in service from 1880 to 1980, is also interesting.

If you're artistically inclined, pick up the brochure for the self-guided Akaroa & Bays Art Trail, which leads to the homes and studios of 18 local artists and craftspeople. You'll need at least a day, as many of them are scattered farther afield in the surrounding bays. One of the most striking and unusual artist environments is the Giant's House - Linton, 68 Rue Balguerie (tel. 03/304-7501; www.linton.co.nz), where sculptor Josie Martin has created one of the wackiest and most inspiring gardens you'll find anywhere. She's surrounded her gorgeous historic home (B&B accommodations available) with landscaped gardens and a myriad of amazing mosaic sculptures that are bound to delight. Children will love it, and it's bound to be one of your lasting Akaroa memories, too. The garden is open daily from noon to 4pm December to March, and from 2 to 4pm from April through November. Admission is NZ$15 for adults, NZ$7 for children, and there's a cafe on-site. For a sample of local village culture, visit Akaroa Cinema & Café, 4 Selwyn Ave. (tel. 03/304-7678; www.cinecafe.co.nz), which has two tiny theaters showing the latest foreign and art-house films. It's a great experience!

One thing every visitor should do is experience the harbor firsthand. Pohatu Sea Kayaking  (tel. 03/304-8552; www.pohatu.co.nz) offers excellent guided kayak tours in the Flea Bay Marine Reserve, which should yield views of lots of penguins. Your tour guide is one of the volunteers working on penguin conservation and protection, and the evening tours cost NZ$75 per person.

Pit Stop -- If you'd like to take a break before crossing the hill, stop at the Little River Gallery, Main Road, Little River (tel. 03/325-1944; www.littlerivergallery.com), where you'll find a variety of New Zealand-made arts and crafts. Beside the gallery is the excellent Little River Store & Café. Both are open daily - the gallery from 9:30am to 5:30pm, the store from 7:30am to 7:30pm, and the cafe from 9am to 6pm.

The Big Cheese

As you drop down from the hills into Barrys Bay on your drive to Akaroa, keep an eye out on the left for Barry's Bay Cheese (tel. 03/304-5809; fax 03/304-5814), makers of mouthwatering traditional cheeses - everything from award-winning cheddars to Maasdam, Gouda, Edam, and havarti, to name just a few. During the cheesemaking season (usually Oct-Apr), you can watch cheesemaking activities every other day, through the viewing gallery window. There's a shop, and I advise you to stock up! They're open daily.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.