Canterbury New Zealand Tourism
From alpine splendour to a picturesque coastal playground the Canterbury region offers activities, attractions and recreation for all. The Canterbury region is situated in New Zealand's South Island. Christchurch City is the gateway to the Canterbury region, one of the most diverse corners of the world. Here you will find sparkling beaches, extinct volcanoes, hectares of flat farmland, vineyards and sky-scraping mountains. Christchurch is officially the ninth Great Wine Capital of the world and offers a variety of wines for all palates.
Canterbury is divided into many districts such as Hurunui, Selwyn, South Canterbury and Mackenzie, each offering something completely different:
- Nature lovers can explore the Alpine Pacific Triangle, Arthur's Pass and Aoraki Mt Cook National Parks, swim with dolphins or go whale watching in Kaikoura.
- Adventure lovers can head to Hanmer Springs, Lake Tekapo, Aoraki Mt Cook and Arthur's Pass.
- Wine lovers can visit Waipara Valley wine region for total relaxation and indulgence.
- Skiing Enthusiasts will find thirteen ski fields (commercial and club) with terrain catering for beginners through to advanced levels.
- Mountain Bikers will find high speed downhill thrills to sprawling tracks through native forests.
- Surfers will find Gore Bay with wild pounding surf at one end and peaceful streams on the other.
This article covers the unique adventures and attractions that are found only in this part of the world especially in the North and South Canterbury regions. Being one of the largest regions in New Zealand it offers something for everyone. The Southern Alps that run 450km north to south, with the tallest peak being Aoraki Mt Cook (3754m), form the boundary between the Canterbury and West Coast regions.
Climate of Canterbury Region
- Average Summer temperature 20.8ºC
- Average Winter temperature 11.4ºC
- Sunshine 2030 hours per year
- Annual Rainfall 674 mm.
The Districts of Canterbury
- Kaikoura District
- Hurunui District
- Selwyn District
- Waimakariri District
- Christchurch City
- Ashburton District
- MacKenzie District
- Timaru District
- Waimate District
- Waitaki District
Christchurch City is the gateway to the Canterbury region, one of the most diverse corners of the world.
Christchurch City, New Zealand
Christchurch was first settled in 1850 by the English and soon became the 'English city of the South'. It is officially the oldest city in New Zealand, becoming a city by 'royal charter' in 1956.
Christchurch, which suffered damages due to earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 has begun a dramatic rebuilding phase with over 30 billion dollars of reconstruction scheduled to take place over the next five years. It is the central point for the Canterbury region and is well situated providing a convenient base for travelling around the region. Nightlife is well catered for with cafes, bars and shopping many of which have moved into suburban centres.
- Beaches – New Brighton and Sumner Beaches within 15kms of the city centre.
- Mountain Biking - Mcleans Island and Bottle Lake Forest Reserve
- Markets – Saturdays and Sundays
- The Air Force Museum has 28 superbly displayed historic aircraft and exhibits and includes cockpit simulators, behind the scenes tours to the restoration hangar, children's activities and a walking tour around the 'old' Air Force Base.www.airforcemuseum.co.nz
- Botanical Gardens and Hagley Park – 164 Hectares of magnificent gardens and tree lined paths that follow the Avon river.
- KiwiRail Scenic Journeys
The official website for KiwiRail Scenic Journeys, formally known as TranzScenic. Our New Zealand train services include the Overlander and the Capital Connection in the North Island, as well as the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine services.
- Tanks for Everything : your ultimate tank driving, military vehicle driving and off-road driving exp
Tanks For Everything provide off-road tank driving as well as other military vehicle driving activities. The only tank driving experience in New Zealand where YOU get to drive a tank, we also offer tank rides and military vehicle rides.
- International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch NZ
One of New Zealand's best tourist attractions, the International Antarctic Centre near Christchurch airport provides visitors of all ages with an interactive, fun and exciting experience of Antarctica.
Attractions Unique to Christchurch
The TranzAlpine Train Journey is one of the best scenic train journeys in the world. It travels from Christchurch through stunning Canterbury farmland, snow-capped mountain ranges, river valleys and rain forests and the township of Greymouth. Take a Day Excursion or stay on the West Coast and return on the TranzAlpine.
Drive a Tank – the only place in New Zealand where you can drive a tank and crush a car with a 52 tonne tank. Real military vehicles, purpose built off-road tracks and passenger rides are also available for those who don't want to drive.
International Antarctic Centre (near the Christchurch International Airport)
It has twice been acclaimed New Zealand's best visitor attraction. Christchurch is only 3825km from Antarctica – making the city the world's aerial gateway to the ice. Experiences on offer are:
- 4D EXTREME theatre – two shows: Ice Voyage and Happy Feet
- Beyond the Frozen Sunset – an Emmy Award-winning film shot from a helicopter showcasing Antarctica's dramatic scenery.
- Hagglund ride – This hair- raising ride – the only one of its kind in the world for visitors – demonstrates the all-terrain vehicle's immense capabilities in realistic surroundings.
- Snow and Ice Experience – a polar room with real snow and ice. Slide down the icy slope, experience an Antarctic Storm, 'endure' 40km winds and sub-zero temperatures. Warm jackets and overshoes are provided for this intense experience.
- Penguin Encounter – with indoor and outdoor viewing areas
The centre is also a modern-day working Antarctic campus and home to the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic programmes.
Kaikoura - Bird life, Dolphins, Seals and Sperm Whales
Dolphin and Whale Watching destination, South Island, New Zealand
North Canterbury Region (north of the Rakaia River)
From Christchurch you can explore the North Canterbury region which offers many options like driving around the Alpine Pacific Triangle in the Hurunui District and visit Hanmer Springs, Kaikoura, Gore Bay, the Waipara Valley Wine Region and the Arthur's Pass in Selwyn District.
Alpine Pacific Triangle – Driving Tour (370 km)
The Alpine Pacific Triangle is one of the 101 Must-Do Weekends. The key destinations on this route include the Waipara Valley wine region, the alpine wonderland Hanmer Springs, and the whale watching hotspot of Kaikoura. Each twist and turn provides a picture-perfect scene of towering mountains, inviting coastline, rolling hills and flowing rivers.
Kaikoura (180km N of Christchurch)
Kaijkoura is famous for dolphins and whale watching. The unique marine geography of Kaikoura is comprised of a series of extremely deep marine canyons situated off the coastline, a perfect environment for whales which cohabitant close to land whilst hunting deep sea squid. At any time of the year you can see sperm whales, dusky and common dolphins, albatross, seals, little blue penguins and octopi. Other activities available are:
- Horse trekking
- diving and snorkeling
- quad biking
- 4WD motor biking
- sky diving
Gore Bay (121km NW of Christchurch)
Gore Bay, near Cheviot, is a safe surfing beach and at the southern end of the bay are the Cathedrals, called this for their pipe organ shapes.
Hanmer Springs (134km NW of Christchurch)
Hanmer Springs in Hurunui District is a beautiful and very popular alpine village. The village is surrounded by forest covered mountains and offers:
- mountain biking tracks
- walking tracks
- village cruisers (four wheeled pedal cars)
- quad bikes
- off-road adventure rides
- bungy jumping
- jet boat ride
- skiing on the local 'Hanmer Springs Ski Area'
- white-water rafting
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spas – is the most well-known and popular spot which utilises the area's natural hot spring, and is perfect for relaxing and unwinding after your adventures. Discover the healing qualities of the open-air thermal pools, three sulphur pools, or the private thermal pool.
Waipara Valley Wine Region (58km N of Christchurch)
Waipara Valley in Hurunui District is one of New Zealand's fastest growing wine regions with several top-notch wineries. Riesling and pinot noir are specialities, but anything from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris to gewürztraminer and cabernet sauvignon are also produced. There are more than 20 wineries and the summertime wine trail offers eight cellar doors, you can drop in to taste wines or perhaps enjoy a meal or lunch platter.
Arthur's Pass National Park (153km NW of Christchurch)
A beautiful, mountainous national park, Arthur's Pass in Selwyn District is ideal for trampers, mountain climbers and nature lovers. With many peaks over 2000m in height, its mountain ranges have been popular with mountaineers since the late 19th century. The Arthur's Pass village has all the facilities for accommodation and dining needs of visitors and is a stop-off for the TranzAlpine Train Journey that travels between Christchurch and Greymouth daily.
During the winter, Arthur's Pass becomes a winter playground with its six ski fields, offering different terrains. The closest field to Christchurch is Porters Ski Area. The six ski fields have various snow events over winter.
OnePassNZ is the multi mountain pass that lets you ski and snowboard at 8 of the South Island's best ski resorts. Check out our hot ski deals and ski passes here.
- Ski Selwyn Six
Ski Selwyn Six is an initiative of Sensational Selwyn. Check out this website for information on the various snow events over winter.
- CHILL Multi-Mountain Ski Pass.
Ski or snowboard 11 epic South Island ski areas in New Zealand with only 1 Pass.
- Mt John Earth and Sky Observatory
We provide stargazing tours and astrophotography in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand's Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. Explore the Milkyway, Southern Cross and distant planets.
South Canterbury (south of the Rangitata River)
Known as 'the food bowl' of the wider Canterbury area, South Canterbury has a diversified economy supported by a stable highly skilled workforce and modern communications and transport infrastructure.
The MacKenzie District has the highest mountain in New Zealand called Aoraki Mt Cook, 3754m, with the clearest skies in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand's longest glacier called the Tasman Glacier, and the biggest hydro-energy system in New Zealand.
Lake Tekapo (226km from Christchurch)
The MacKenzie Country lies in the shadow of Aoraki/Mt Cook and the giants of the Southern Alps. Aeons ago, glaciers carved their way across the land, littering it with lakes and rivers as they retreated. The MacKenzie Country towns of Fairlie, Tekapo and Twizel provide the base for many activities for every fitness levels. Lake Tekapo is a ski resort in winter and an aquatic playground in summer. The region's lakes offer:
- canoe treks
- ice skating
- jet boating
Aoraki Mt Cook National Park (World Heritage Site)
The Mount Cook Alpine Village is in Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, offering accommodation to suit all, from budget to luxurious. The Aoraki Mt Cook national park offers the entire range of alpine activity:
- glacier exploring/skiing
- guided skiing on the Tasman glacier
- rock climbing
The Aoraki Mt Cook National Park covers more than 70,000ha of alpine scenery. There are over 750 varieties of native flowers including the famous Mt Cook Lily, the largest buttercup in the world. The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre is located at the Hermitage Hotel. The centre is a tribute to the late Kiwi explorer and mountaineer. Stable weather patterns, generous sunshine hours and low wind speed make the perfect recipe for a dazzling Lake Tekapo night sky. The internationally recognized Mt John Observatory is the best spot to take in this after-dark activity. There are also daytime options where you may be able to view the sun through a special solar telescope.
The Canterbury region offers many options for everyone and for all ages. There are many cities and towns, mountains and lakes, glaciers and national parks which cannot be covered in this article. I have highlighted some of the rare experiences and adventures one can have only in this region. The Canterbury region requires more than one visit to experience it fully.