Besides exploring the fascinating city of post-earthquake Christchurch, there are also plenty of places to see in the Greater Canterbury area. Here are some to visit for a day, either on a tour or independently.
Akaroa is a small, idyllic seaside town located on Banks Peninsula, about 90 minutes south of Christchurch. Settled by the French in the 1840s, Akaroa preserves much of its French history and does so charmingly. While tours will take you to the peninsula, for a truly scenic trip, opt for a drive instead. Along the way, pass through Governors Bay and see Lake Ellesmere and Lake Forsyth, both beautiful spots to take photos.
Waipara Valley, a 45-minute drive north from Christchurch, is one of New Zealand’s premier wine-growing regions. Known for its distinctively rich-tasting pinot noir and riesling, the valley boasts 74 vineyards, 31 wineries, 12 cellar doors and 4 winery restaurants.
Visit Black Estate for a wine tasting, and don’t miss out on lunch at the on-site eatery which serves up a mean roast duck leg and quinoa salad. After a wine tour, take a wander through Iron Ridge Quarry Sculpture Park.
Kaikoura is two and a half hours from Christchurch by car and is probably most famous for its whale watching tours. It’s also a place for all kinds of wildlife encounters and you can expect to see fur seals, dolphins and a wide variety of coastal birdlife.
Also, don’t miss Nins Bin, a tiny beachside establishment located 20 minutes north of Kaikoura. The white and blue caravan has been there since the seventies, selling the best and most reasonably priced crayfish and mussels every day of the year. Nins Bin is a bit of an institution for locals.
Arthur’s Pass is a small town halfway between Christchurch and the West Coast. There’s one cafe, one grocery store and a huge number of walks. All the walks are easily accessible from Arthur’s Pass Village; follow the big green signs for the tracks and you can’t go wrong. Don’t miss the Devil’s Punchbowl – an easy hour-long return hike that takes you to the base of a giant waterfall.
Insider Tip: If you’d rather not drive, take the TranzApline train which takes two and a half hours to get to Arthur’s Pass and is a wonderful way to take in the scenery along the way.
Hanmer is an alpine resort 130 kilometres northwest of Christchurch with hot mineral pools for some serious relaxing. You can also indulge in a game on the golf course, trek the forest and mountain walks, go horseriding or ride your bike on some great trails.
Thrill seekers should also attempt a bungee jump off the 135-year-old Ferry Bridge or go on a canoe safari along the scenic Waiau River.
Note: Some activities listed may be affected by Covid restrictions.