As a major gateway to the South Island, Christchurch airport has daily flights direct from all major Australian hubs. While the city is emerging as a powerhouse centre for the arts and culinary creativity, it still attracts a crowd itching to explore the great outdoors. Here are five destinations beyond the city limits worth adding to your Christchurch holiday itinerary.
Nestled in a long harbour (spoiler alert: that’s what the name Akaroa means) on the Banks Peninsula, this quaint town has a certain je ne sais quoi. That’s because, although New Zealand became a British colony, the French settled in Akaroa in 1840, giving it the gallic flare its known for today. Surrounded by rolling green hills and hugging the Akaroa Harbour, it’s the ideal destination for a day trip or weekend escape from the city. An hour, 20 minutes drive from Christchurch, come for the scenery and stay for the food - you’ll find some of the best fish and chips at Murphy’s on the Corner. Be sure to hop aboard a Black Cat cruise to see the world’s smallest dolphins, the Hector’s Dolphin, and explore the ancient volcanic rock formations that shape the harbour.
New Zealand might be famous for its Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, but Waipara wines are fast becoming a delicious reason to explore the Canterbury region. Located 40 minutes north of Christchurch, the Waipara valley is home to a cluster of vineyards. Highlights include the family-run Pegasus Bay Winery, which also has an exceptional restaurant on site, Waipara Springs Winery, which has some of the oldest Mendoza clone chardonnay in New Zealand, and organic vineyard Black Estate.
If you’re heading to Akaroa, there are also a handful of wineries taking advantage of the microclimate the Banks Peninsula affords, producing delicious drops.
Queenstown and Rotorua aren’t the only adventure mountain towns worth a stop in NZ. Hanmer Springs, just under two hours drive from Christchurch, is a mountain town few foreigners know about, but should. At the centre of town you’ll find the Hanmer Springs, thermal pools fed by natural hot springs. Nestled in an alpine valley, the surrounding mountains offer all levels of hiking and biking, skiing, fishing, and an array of adrenalin activities like bungy-jumping, jet boating and quad bike touring.
Arthur’s Pass via the TranzAlpine
Considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, the TranzAlpine journeys through the Canterbury Plains and into the Southern Alps to the highest point on the South Island. The TranzAlpine rail stretches all the way from coast to coast of the South Island, starting in Christchurch and finishing in Greymouth - a total of 240 km. While the full journey takes four hours and 30 minutes, the journey to Arthur’s pass is just two and a half hours one way.
Two hours, 40 minutes north of Christchurch, Kaikoura is a hub for wildlife experiences. Situated along the coastline where the mountains meet the sea, you can breathe in fresh air with an array of hikes, and sample some of the freshest seafood in New Zealand. Be sure to taste the crayfish the region is famous for!
The main reason, however, Kaikoura should be on your must-visit list, is because of the marine life. Just off the coast of Kaikoura is a deep sea canyon, which is a permanent feeding ground for sperm whales, and also attracts dolphins, seals and albatrosses. While the sperm whales are residents year round, the weather is best between October and March for a whale watching cruise.