If you’re thinking about New Zealand, we’re pretty sure that Christchurch is on your list of places to visit. And why not? Christchurch is a gorgeous, quirky and resilient city, filled with world-famous street art, lively green botanical gardens, the silky slide of the Avon River, cathedrals, museums, theatres, seasonal markets and more. However, have you thought about stepping outside the confines of Christchurch, into the Canterbury region? If so, then boy, do we have some good news for you. It’s time to step into a wider world…
Canterbury, also known by its Māori name – Waitaha – is a region in South Island, New Zealand. Although the largest city is Christchurch, this region also includes cities and towns like Timaru, Ashburton, Rangiora, Rolleston, Kaiapoi, Lincoln and more. Canterbury is a diverse region with English, British, Dutch, Australian, Chinese, Indian, Philippino, Samoan residents (to name a few), along with the local Māori and European New Zealanders. Covering an area of 44,508 square kilometres, Canterbury has a lot of experiences to indulge in and secrets to divulge…let’s find out what they are.
Located on the east coast, this peaceful town is your gateway to meeting some of the most magnificent denizens of the deep – whales. You can get close to them in the water or watch them swim from a helicopter. Kaikoura is one of the few places in New Zealand where you can see sperm whales, all year round. Orca and killer whales surface from December to March, while Humpback whales breach during June and July. If you’re looking for dolphins, you’ll find them anytime you visit! Kaikoura has a busy sea calendar all year round.
Fresh air, unbeatable views and the quiet company of nature – that’s just the basics of what Aoraki/Mt. Cook has to offer. New Zealand’s highest mountain spears right up from the heart of Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park. It’s joined by 140 peaks and 72 glaciers – all part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site named Te Wahipounamu. There’s miles and miles of trails to trek, like the Hooker Valley Track which leads to a glacier lake, or the simple but beautiful Governors Bush Walk. At night, tip your head back and take in a crystal-clear view of the stars, planets and constellations – all thanks to the world’s largest Dark Sky Reserve located in this region. There are also plenty of great restaurants, lodges and cafes in the area, where you can drink in the amazing view and satisfy your tummy at the same time.
The next stop on New Zealand’s natural guidebook is definitely Arthur’s Pass. The eastern side of the park boasts of wide, shingled riverbeds and rustling beech forests, while the western side is a wild tangle of dense rainforests and deeply gorged rivers. Hiking and mountaineering in the summer turns into skiing and snowboarding in the winter – this is a place for all seasons. If treks are on your mind, you can explore well-known trails like Arthur’s Pass Walkway, Goat Pass, Bealey Spur track, Cass-Lagoon Saddles Tracks and the hike to Avalanche Peak.
You’re going to need a great camera for this one. The Lake Tekapo region is absolutely stunning. Not just the deep turquoise waters, with the mountains and clouds in the distance – everything here is worth a picture. Spend your time gazing at the diamond-like stars at the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, visit the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd, wander in a field full of perfect pink and purple lupins, take a flight over the Southern Alps from Lake Tekapo Airport, unwind at the Tekapo hot springs. What you can’t take a photograph of, commit to your memory – this scenery is absolutely unforgettable.
Want to slip away from the relentless pace of the big cities? Why not head to Twizel? Enjoy the scenic view of the Southern Alps as you take a boat ride or fish at its many lakes. If you’re a cyclist, then the stunning and scenic Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail passes through Twizel. Finally, the cherry on top of the cake – Twizel was one of the filming locations for the Lord of the Rings! You see, even the smallest of towns can keep a big secret.
Yes, you can hike here and take in some incredible views. Moreover, Mt. Somers truly has some amazing experiences to offer. Skate on a frozen lake in the middle of the forest, watching the sun rise over the mirror-like surface of the areas’ lakes, feel the world swoop and swirl around you as you go white water rafting. One word – unforgettable.
Every vacation needs a breather - a chance to slow down, catch your breath before you dive back into all the holiday fun. If you’re looking for the opportunity to do that, stop by Timaru. Not only is it home to one of New Zealand’s biggest wineries, it also boasts of lovely walks and trails. Sit back at Caroline Bay and just breathe in the sights and sounds of the area. If you’re there at dusk, you can watch herds of small blue penguins waddling up the shore. Adorable!
The charm of Canterbury is clearly reflected in the town of Akaroa. Whether it is at Giant House – a huge piece of artwork made of sculptures and mosaics that cascade over a hillside, or the delicious Turkish poached eggs on Ciabatta and acai and poke bowls at Rona’s, or the quaint Akaroa Museum. It’s not hard to fall in love with Akaroa.
These are just some of the experiences that await you in Canterbury. So, if you’ve planned a visit to Christchurch, make a little bit of room (or a lot) to explore the region. Everything from whale watching, to snowboarding to stargazing to fine dining is yours for the taking, if you open your heart to Canterbury.