Story and photos by Rama Gaind
Just over an hour’s scenic drive from Christchurch, on the island’s east coast, the undulating hills beckon you to discover the gorgeous seaside hamlet of Akaroa.
Nestling in the heart of an ancient volcano, the village is abuzz with beachside cafes, boutique shops, wildlife cruises and colonial architecture.
Cafes open onto the streets and Akaroa Harbour promenades where locals and visitors enjoy the sun, food, coffee, wine and conversation. Boutique art and craft shops and galleries are bustling with visitors admiring and buying the works of local artists and craftspeople.
What’s more, this township of 550 residents has something else to boast about—The Akaroa Cooking School.
Showcasing local produce and wines, it’s a dream come true for Anthony and Louise Bentley.
After 10 years in London they opened their school in November 2009 … and have prospered!
This venture encompasses everything they enjoy in life including meeting new people, teaching them how to cook some favourite gourmet dishes, sourcing quality local ingredients and, above all, providing a fabulous lifestyle for their family.
Affectionately called Lou and Ant, the Bentleys chose Akaroa for a number of reasons to set-up their school. Lou is chef and food enthusiast, Ant is marketing manager and chief taster. The couple is also “stoked” about their school being named by Lonely Planet as the fourth best place in the world to learn to cook local cuisine.
Quality local produce
The Akaroa Cooking School, 81 Beach Road, is where people go to learn how to cook using the finest quality and the freshest of local, seasonal, produce. The Bentleys make an extra special effort to emphasise the abundance of “amazing produce” that’s right at their doorstep. A limited number of people attend the special cooking classes, so food enthusiasts can easily interact with Lou and pick up on her culinary techniques.
‘Long harbour’ highlights
There is often a slow-paced bustle to Akaroa, which in Maori means ‘long harbour’, the deep blue waters of which lap against the wharf, children fish for cod with hand lines and sightseeing boats unload excited visitors returning from encounters with Hectors’ dolphins, as well as New Zealand fur seals, little blue penguins and a myriad of bird life.
Akaroa is 84 kilometres from Christchurch, a quaint sparkling gem of sylvan Banks Peninsula, which has a touch of English settlement and French influence.
Explore on foot and see the craft shops, art galleries and a delightful array of colonial cottages resplendent with paved pathways, impressive gardens and delightfully, sweet-smelling lavender borders.
By contrast, the Giant’s House at 68 Rue Balguerie is a historic house where local sculptor and artist Josie Martin has created a surreal ambience with original artworks, terraced gardens, sculptures, mosaics and a contemporary art gallery.
Visit, and Akaroa will weave its own very special charm!
Rama Gaind was a guest of Tourism New Zealand.
New Zealand has regular flights from Australia.
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