Akaroa (Christchurch), New Zealand

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With a distinctly continental flair, which stands out against the country's Maori roots and British colonial history, Akaroa is New Zealand's only town to have originally been established by the French and is the oldest European settlement on the South Island. French settlers first arrived in 1840 only to discover that the British had been granted dominion of the country after the Treaty of Waitangi, but the French remained and left their mark. The long harbor of Akaroa sits along the Banks Peninsula, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Christchurch, sheltered by the crater of an extinct volcano. The bays surrounding the village have an especially high degree of biodiversity, including the largest colony of little penguins on New Zealand's mainland and the only natural habitat of Hector's dolphin, the smallest and rarest of that mammal family. The region's volcanic history also makes for dramatic geological formations, bucolic high-country farms and dazzling blue waterfronts. Should you stay within the picturesque town, you can stroll the historic rues, marveling at the colonial architecture, enjoying the French-inspired and Kiwi-made cheeses and wine, and soaking up the stunning scenery.

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