Akaroa is a place of enchantment. It is a beautiful settlement tucked away in an almost complete volcanic crater harbour at the end of the Banks Peninsula, about 1-1/2 hours from Christchurch.
The settlement’s French heritage is evident as you disembark your tender at the town’s tender wharf — sometimes you will be met by the Town Crier in his bright, French Revolution uniform, but as soon as you start finding your way around, you will spot the names of the town’s streets, displayed in French. Venturing into town, you might even spot the boulangerie.
However, it isn’t only Akaroa’s heritage which is so fascinating, but also its many attractions and activities. Our first stop was Linton, or as it is more commonly called, “The Giant’s House,” a name given it to this gracious house by a wee girl who thought the house itself looked soooo big. The house has its own fascinating history, but it is the work of its current owner, Josie Martin, which makes it the eccentric, whimsical, imaginative and colourful attraction it is today for so many visitors.
Digging up her garden, Josie found bits and pieces of old china buried there, and decided to try her hand at mosaic work. That experiment has led to more than a decade of creating mosaiced walkways, playful figures, mirrored arches, rainbow steps, musical instruments and dozens of other forms intriguingly placed around the house’s grounds and up its hillsides. The grounds can really only be described as the theatre of an artist whose imagination makes her mosaiced figures and objects the real actors in a play which isn’t nearly finished … Josie’s work continues as she designs and builds new figures, always delightful, always fascinating and always pure fantasy escapism.
We also had the pleasure of visiting another place for escapes, Tree Crops Farm. Nestled in a rural setting just above the town, Tree Crops is a retreat in a natural setting with wonderful, rustic and wild gardens surrounding its historic house and cottages. It’s seclusion belies its proximity to town.
Very much the expression of another creative woman, Lynne Alexander, Tree Crops is furnished in a time gone past, or, as our mates in Auckland might say, “shabby chic.” In fact, you would be quite forgiven for thinking you were on a Lord of the Rings filmset, and indeed, several of the LOTR crew stayed at Tree Crops when they were filming in some of the South Island locations.
This wonderful place, often featured in television programmes and gardening and tourism magazines, is full of surprises, including its fascinating library, tree hut and fabulous, eccentric café. We were treated to a coffee on the verandah, getting to know Tree Crops’ wonderful, warm, creative owner. A bit off the beaten track, and perhaps not everybody’s taste, but a glimpse into another creative, eccentric New Zealander’s vision.
Wendy R. London is a HAL Mariner and corporate affairs manager and founder of CruiseBubble.com, sailing aboard Oosterdam.