New Zealand travel information Tourleader New Zealand

Christchurch and Canterbury
-> Map of Canterbury

Our Christchurch travel tips:

  • Christchurch and Canterbury region Christchurch has an international airport, many travellers fly one leg between Christchurch and Auckland to save a return trip by car
  • Christchurch is putting the earthquakes behind and recreates itself with dramatic speed into a 21st century city
  • Once you've seen a satellite image of Banks Peninsula you'll have to visit these incredible green volcanic ridges with harbours in between (see map below)!
  • Christchurch travel tips - murals after the earthquakeKaikoura is one of the few spots on earth where you can watch whales and dolphins all year round
  • Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo are windows into the high alpine wonderland of the Southern Alps
  • Soak in the Hanmer Springs thermal pools on your way
  • This is one of the few places where it’s possible to surf and ski on the same day, the closest ski field is Mount Hutt

An amazing arena for adventure and indulgence


From the silvery beaches of the coast to the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury landscape is impossible to ignore. Big scenery is the order of the day - huge panoramas of ocean or mountains, great sweeps of pastureland and massive amounts of sky.

The highest point of the region is the highest point of New Zealand. The spectacular Aoraki Mount Cook stands at 3724 metres (Aoraki is Maori for 'Cloud Piercer'). At the other end of the scale, the submarine trenches off the coast of Kaikoura are thousands of metres deep, providing an ideal environment for the whales, dolphins and seals that live there permanently.

Between the mountains and the sea, the vast plains are patchworked with the patterns of rural life. Hundreds of years ago, Maori moa hunters worked these plains leaving a rock art record of their successes.

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park: This park is a land of ice and rock. Glaciers cover 40% of its area and there are 19 peaks over 3000 metres, including New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki Mount Cook. Mount Cook Village is a base for climbers and hikers.

Christchurch travel tips - the Summit Road of Banks PeninsulaAlpine Pacific Triangle Touring Route: The Alpine Pacific Triangle takes you to the gourmet area of Waipara, spa delights of Hanmer Springs and marine mammals of Kaikoura. Between destinations, enjoy the beautiful country scenery.

Banks Peninsula and Akaroa Harbour were formed by volcanic eruptions, many thousands of years ago. Originally a French settlement, the historic town of Akaroa is a place to enjoy fine cuisine and wildlife cruises.

See here for hotels in the Christchurch region.

Source: Tourism New Zealand

Highlights of the Christchurch and Canterbury region

  • Christchurch travel tips - after the earthquake in 2011Christchurch: The 2011 earthquake was devastating (see here for more info), but Cantabrians are resilient people and found enough strength for an exciting rebuild, unleashing an enormous amount of creativity and pride. The many destroyed heritage sites will be replaced with modern landmarks, but the English origin of the city is still manifesting itself in the punting on the Avon River, the Botanical Gardens around the Canterbury Museum and the New Brighton Pier. The centre around Cathedral Square is still the most interesting region, either take a restored tram or walk the area in between Hagley Park and the Cardboard Cathedral, New Regent Street and the South City Mall. Including a museum visit it's easy to spend a full day in the Christchurch city centre alone.
  • Outer suburbs: New Brighton is right behind the 18 kilometre long ocean beach, the little town centre leads towards the 300 metre long pier, which is also accessible from the modern Council library building. The 'Port Hills' south of the city have very attractive neighborhoods with great views, the drive via Redcliffs to Sumner is quite spectacular and you can continue around the headlands to visit the best surf beach, Taylor's Mistake. If the road is open you can continue over Evans Pass to Lyttelton.
  • Christchurch travel tips - LytteltonLyttelton: Christchurch needed a port to thrive, but only the practically inaccessible Lyttelton Harbour provided a safe site. It took real pioneers to build the dramatic Summit Road (and ultimately the tunnel in 1964) to make it accessible. Lyttelton was founded in 1849 and is a charming little heritage town in a beautiful location. Sadly the 2011 earthquake was as destructive as in Christchurch and many buildings had to be evacuated for renovation or demolished. One of the (temporarily closed) historic sites is the Timeball, a ball that was dropped down a mast at 1 pm sharp everyday for the sailors to adjust their chronometers. Apart from lovely but steep walks around the hills and neighbourhoods you can follow the heritage walk map that the visitor centre provides, catch a ferry to the settlement opposite called Diamond Harbour, or cruise to Quail Island for a walk.
  • Christchurch travel tips - Onuku Marae on Banks PeninsulaBanks Peninsula: On the other side of Lyttelton Harbour awaits one of the most unique landscapes of New Zealand, this peninsula was formed by volcanic activity about 10 million years ago. Catch the Summit Road for a spectacular drive over the central ridge and dive down into the many quiet harbours, sometimes the climate change between top and bottom or from harbour to harbour is astonishing. The biggest harbour is the leftover of the original crater, now home to the lovely Akaroa village. Once destined to become a French colony, there is still some of that heritage left, notably in the French street names, the French cemetery and charming French touches in historic accommodations. Take a stroll along the peaceful waterfront to see the lighthouse, enjoy the atmosphere from a cafe, go on a cruise to spot or swim with the resident Hector Dolphin population, or join the mail run to even more remote living areas. From Akaroa you can continue on the coastal road to Onuku Marae and the tiny carved church behind, a lovely sight (please respect the signs that the locals have put up). Sadly out of the way of most travellers is Okains Bay with one of the best provincial museums in New Zealand, the 'Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum', an amazing collection of Maori and pioneer artefacts and buildings.
  • Hanmer Springs: 130 kilometres north of Christchurch, only a short detour from Lewis Pass away, are the famous Hanmer Springs thermal pools. If the South Island seas are too cold and dangerous for you then you can soak and relax in peace here, or enjoy a local forest walk in the vicinity.
  • Christchurch travel tips - Kaikoura seal colonyKaikoura: Another magic spot on New Zealand's coast, the Kaikoura Peninsula is special because the underwater canyon quickly drops off 1000 metres not far from the shore, providing a rich feeding playground for fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Sperm Whales and huge pods of dolphins are present all year round (sometimes there are superpods of 1000 Dusky Dolphins around), other whales cruise by seasonally. No surprise that there are lots of exciting wildlife tours on offer, the viewing opportunities are really extraordinary here. In contrast to rewarding excursions and coastal walks there are also reminders of a grim but interesting past, such as the old whaler's cottage, Fyffe House from 1842, that was actually built on a foundation of whale vertebrae. Seal spotters are advised not to miss the gorgeous seal colony at Ohau Point, right beside State Highway 1, about 30 kilometres north of Kaikoura.
The Kaikoura earthquake from November 2016 may influence travel plans due to the many street works, see our information about New Zealand earthquakes.

  • Lake Tekapo: This is a traditional traveller stop in the Southern Alps, visitors enjoy the mountain views above the milky glacier lake and the little church on the lakeshore is ideally positioned for a photo. In recent years Lake Tekapo came to fame for its amazingly clear atmosphere. At an altitude of 710 metres the air is cleaner than most places and the region was declared to be the 'Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve' from now on, light pollution is kept to a minimum and you'll be able to enjoy one of the best star-gazing experiences in the world. For more down to earth views of the region you can walk to the Mount John Lookout (3 hours return loop walk), or drive up to visit the Mount John Observatory cafe ('star tours' can also be booked in Tekapo).
  • Mount Cook Village: More amazing mountain views are waiting at Lake Pukaki. You'll follow the whole length of the lake to get to the base of the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, a world heritage site. Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain (3724 metres according to a 2014 survey), Sir Edmund Hillary's playground which challenges climbers as much as many higher Himalayan peaks. Extraordinary experiences here are of course the many walking trails, the scenic flights into the alpine wonderworld, or a boat trip to the end of the Tasman Glacier lake to get close to floating icebergs. The village is dominated by the The Hermitage Hotel, one of the most iconic New Zealand hotels with a lot of history, the first Hermitage was built in 1884.
  • Christchurch travel tips - Canterbury highwayArthurs Pass: This dramatic pass road cuts through the alps between Christchurch and Greymouth (a 230 kilometres drive). It's a fast transition from East to West Coast, but the scenery is too beautiful to just rush through. Every stop will also enhance your chance to see the Kea parrots and maybe even enjoy the honour of getting your shoelaces untied. Coming from Christchurch one of the possible detours is the Waimakariri Gorge, another jet boating hotspot. The road then meanders through the Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park with some walking opportunities. Close to Highway 73 you'll be able to stretch your legs in the Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area (also called Castle Hill), a film location because of its impressive limestone formations. Launch your private caving expedition in the Cave Stream Scenic Reserve - consult with the Department of Conservation for necessary preparations. The Craigieburn Forest Park has a short nature trail and many other walks through beech forests and grasslands. In Arthurs Pass Village there is a petrol station, you'll also find accommodation and restaurants. The most popular walk in the Arthurs Pass National Park close by is the 1 hour return walk to the Devil's Punch Bowl to see the base of a 131 metre waterfall, but there are of course many more options for a keen walkers.

The best Christchurch walks

  • Botanic Garden & Hagley Park, centre of Christchurch
  • Godley Head - Taylors Mistake Walkway - coastal walk (3 h return), Godley Head car park, Taylors Mistake Road, Sumner
  • Christchurch travel tips - container protectionOtepatotu Scenic Reserve - walks with bush and views up to 755 m altitude, on the Summit Road between Okains Bay and Le Bons Bay, Banks Peninsula
  • Round the Mountain Walk - steep walk above Akaroa, map available from the i-SITE (4-7 h return), starts at Woodills Road, ends at Rue Balguerie, Akaroa, Banks Peninsula
  • Quail Island Walkway - island loop (2,5 h), ferries from Lyttelton, Quail Island, Lyttelton Harbour
  • Lyttelton Reserve Circuit - loop walk high above Lyttelton, a combination of the Major Hornbrook Track, Crater Rim Walkway and Chalmers Hill Track (3-4 h return), access from Somes Road, Lyttelton
  • Governors Bush Walk (45 min return), access from the Public Shelter, Aoraki Mount Cook Village
  • Kea Point Walk - with glacier and mountain views (1 h return), Hooker Valley car park, Aoraki Mount Cook Village
  • Millennium Walk - to the Avalanche Creek waterfall (10 min return), from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre
  • Devils Punchbowl Waterfall - a 131 m high waterfall (1 h return), Punchbowl Road, Arthur's Pass
  • Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill Conservation Area - rock formations (30 min return), south of Castle Hill Village, Arthur's Pass
  • Craigieburn Forest Park Nature Trail (20 min return), near the Environmental Education Centre, Broken River Ski Field Road, south of Lake Pearson, Arthur's Pass
  • Rakaia Gorge Walkway - river walk (3-4 h return), north side of the Rakaia Gorge Bridge, State Highway 72, 11 kms north of Methven
  • Mt Somers - a range of walks, for example the Nature Trail (30 min return), Woolshed Creek car park, along Ashburton Gorge Road and Jig Road, west of Methven
  • Peel Forest Park - a range of walks, for example the Kahikatea Walk (1 h return), from Peel Forest Campground, Peel Forest Road, 22 kms north of Geraldine
  • Hanmer Forest Park - a range of walks, for example the Nature Trail (20 min return), Mullans Road car park, Hanmer Springs
  • Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway - a range of walking tracks along the Kaikoura Clifftop, access from the South Bay car park and the Point Kean car park
  • Ohau Stream Walk - short walk to a waterfall where seal pups play in autumn (20 min return), State Highway 1, 27 km north of Kaikoura

The best Christchurch viewpoints

  • Mount Cavendish - via the Christchurch Gondola (945 m), Bridle Path Road, Christchurch
  • New Brighton Pier, Christchurch
  • Summit Road - wonderful views from the Port Hills ridge, Christchurch
  • Summit Road - also wonderful views along the ridges, Banks Peninsula
  • Views above Lyttelton, Somes Road bzw. Ross Terrace, Lyttelton
  • Akaroa Lighthouse, Beach Road, Akaroa
  • Mt John Summit - by car or via the Mt John Summit Circuit Track (1 h return), access from the Tekapo Springs, Tekapo
  • Conical Hill Lookout (1 h return), access from the end of Conical Hill Road, Hanmer Springs
  • Kaikoura Reservoir, Scarborough Street, Kaikoura
  • South Bay Viewpoint, South Bay, Kaikoura
  • Point Kean Viewpoint, end of Fyffe Road, Kaikoura
  • Viaduct Lookout & Otira Gorge Rock-Shelter Lookout, Arthur's Pass

The best Christchurch museums

  • Canterbury Museum, Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch
  • Quake City, Cashel Street, Christchurch
  • Christchurch Art Gallery - Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Montreal Street, Christchurch
  • Air Force Museum of New Zealand, Harvard Avenue, Wigram, Christchurch
  • Christchurch travel tips - Okains Bay Museum - Banks PeninsulaInternational Antarctic Centre, Orchard Road,Christchurch Airport
  • Arts Centre of Christchurch, Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch
  • The Physics Room - contemporary art and critical discourse, Tuam Street, Christchurch
  • Lyttelton Historical Museum - vorläufig noch geschlossen, Lyttelton
  • Okains Bay Maori & Colonial Museum, Main Road, Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula
  • Akaroa Museum Te Whare Taonga & Court House, Rue Lavaud, Akaroa, Banks Peninsula
  • The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre, Terrace Road, Aoraki Mount Cook Village
  • Kaikoura Marine Centre, Esplanade, New Wharf, Kaikoura
  • Ashburton Museum, Baring Square East, Ashburton
  • Ashburton Aviation Museum, Ashburton Airfield, Seafield Road, Ashburton
  • Geraldine Historical Society Museum, Cox Street, Geraldine
  • Aigantighe Art Gallery, Wai-iti Road, Timaru

Map of the Christchurch region


View large New Zealand map

Back to New Zealand regions

 
Banner