Top Tourist Attractions in Canterbury
The Canterbury region, bounded on the east by the Pacific and on the west by the Southern Alps, extends for some 100km from east to west and 300km from north to south. Within this area are great plains, torrential rivers and New Zealand's mightiest mountains.The region has a population of around 440,000, most of them living near the coast. The largest town is Christchurch. The density of population decreases rapidly towards the interior of the South Island and the mountains. Between 1986 and 1991 the population of the whole region increased by 2.2 per cent.
Arthur's Pass National Park is a popular park, open year round for hiking and skiing. The mountains, rivers, and waterfalls can be appreciated from the many walking trails.
Mount Cook National Park on the South Island contains a dramatic landscape with some of the highest peaks in the Southern Alps, including Mount Cook at 3753m and the Tasman Glacier.
100km west of Hanmer Springs Highway 7 goes over the Lewis Pass (907m). The mountain pass road, which links the Canterbury region with the northwest coast of the South Island, was completed in 1937. This route was well known to the Maori tribes of the region, who used it on their way to the greenstone deposits in the rivers on the west coast. Cannibal Gorge, near the summit of the pass, recalls the days when the Maori caravans making for the west coast took slaves with them as carriers; then on the way back, it is said, the slaves were killed and eaten.A number of short trails start from the summit of the pass (e.g. Tarn Nature Walk, Lewis Pass Lookout Walk). The St James Track (70km) over the Ada Pass and Anne Saddle takes 5 days.
Lake Sumner Forest Park
At Springs Junction, 20km west of the Lewis Pass, a road goes off on the south to the beautiful Lake Sumner Forest Park. There are attractive trails in the dense forest of southern beeches, round Lake Sumner, the Robinson River and Lake Christabel.
One place of interest on the road, which runs through beautiful scenery, is the Hurunui Hotel (1869, restored).
Past the Hurunui Hotel is the little spa of Maruia Springs, with hot springs.
Address: Private Bag 55014, Orchard Road, New Zealand
Opening hours: 9am-9pm
Entrance fee in NZD: Adult $7.00
Lake Ohau, in a beautiful setting 30km west of Twizel, forms the boundary between the Canterbury and Otago regions. This glacier-formed lake has an area of 60 sq.km. In good weather the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps are mirrored in its waters. It is linked by canal with Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo - all three lakes being integrated into the hydroelectric scheme on the upper course of the Waitaki River.Lake Ohau is a popular holiday resort in summer, attracting many fishing and boating enthusiasts and campers.
Visitors come to the Lake Ohau area in winter to ski on Mount Sutton, high above the lake.
Lake Tekapo is known for its turquoise colored water and its beautiful setting, surrounded by mountains.
The town of Ashburton (pop. 16,000) lies on the Ashburton River in the Canterbury Plains, 90km southwest of Christchurch. The town and the river are named after Lord Ashburton, a prominent member of the New Zealand Land Company founded by Edward Gibbon Wakefield in London. The wide Canterbury Plains, with the Southern Alps in the distance, are now the granary of New Zealand, reminiscent of the American Midwest, though only 150 years ago, when Bishop Selwyn was traveling about his immense diocese, the plains were arid, treeless and covered with brown tussock grass.
There are some interesting natural attractions in the Ashburton surrounding areas.
The two little townships of Erewhon (90km northwest) and Mesopotamia (100km northwest) were formerly commercial centers for the huge sheep farms in the area.
50km north of Ashburton is Rakaia Gorge, a popular destination for excursions, particularly in summer.
Mount Hutt Ski Area
In winter the skiing area on Mount Hutt (50km northwest) attracts many winter-sports enthusiasts.
Address: Main Street, Box 14, New Zealand
100km west of Christchurch is Lake Coleridge, a typical elongated glacier-formed lake, surrounded by mountains and open tussock grassland and which is now a Mecca for anglers. It is named after a prominent member of the Canterbury Association. The first state-owned hydroelectric station came into operation here in 1911. The water that formerly flowed into the Harper River was diverted through underground pipelines into the Rakaia River. Near here are the winter-sports areas of Porter Heights and Mount Olympus.
13km north of Twizel is Lake Pukaki, the second largest glacier lake in Canterbury region (81 sq.km). The mighty Tasman River, fed by meltwater from great glaciers, flows into the north end of the lake, which lies 500m above sea level. The lake's high content of rock flour (finely ground particles of rock held in the glacial meltwater) gives its water a milky turquoise color.
Highway 80 (Mount Cook National Park Route)
The asphalted road to Mount Cook National Park (Highway 80) branches off Highway 8 southwest of Lake Pukaki and runs along the western shore of the lake. In good weather there is a magnificent view of the majestic mountain peaks to the west.
The Chatham Islands (pop. 750) lie in the south Pacific some 800km east of Christchurch. There are three main islands: Chatham, Pitt and Southeast Island.There are scheduled flights to Chatham from Christchurch and Wellington.
The largest of the islands, Chatham, has an area of 900 sq.km and a population consisting mainly of fishermen and farmers. Its most striking feature is the large central lagoon (180 sq.km), and there are also a number of shallow lakes. The chief place on the island is Waitangi (pop. c 300).From Chatham the other islands (mostly bird sanctuaries) can be visited in local fishing boats. There is little in the way of accommodation - a tourist lodge, a modest hotel and a few rooms in private houses. There is no restaurant or baker's shop and only two small general stores.There is a small museum in Waitangi containing Moriori artifacts and documents from the arrival of the Europeans and the Taranaki Maoris. There is also material on the career of Te Kooti.At some places on the main island, particularly on the west side of the central lagoon and on the east coast, there are rock drawings scratched on the limestone cliffs, almost all depicting seal-like figures.The tree carvings of the Moriori were always of human figures.
The little agricultural market town of Geraldine lies 35km north of Timaru, between the plain and the highlands. Early settlers planted European species of trees here.
Peel Forest Park
23km north of Geraldine is Peel Forest Park, 600ha of largely unspoiled woodland with romantic waterfalls and attractive picnic areas.Nearby are the old buildings of Mount Peel Station, a sheep farm established in the 1860s.
Orari Gorge Farm
16km northwest of Geraldine is Orari Gorge Farm, established in the mid-19th C. The farm buildings, including a cottage of 1859, are protected as national monuments (restored by the Historic Places Trust). The farm is still occupied and there is only restricted public access.
Vintage Car and Machinery Museum
The Vintage Car and Machinery Museum in Geraldine displays vintage and veteran cars, tractors, a Spartan Biplan from 1929, as well as other engine and motor equipment.
Address: 178 Talbot Street, New Zealand
Opening hours: Oct 25 to Jun 5: 10am-4pm
Entrance fee in NZD: Adult $5.00, Child FREE
Useful tips: Concessions available.
St Anne's Church
In Pleasant Valley, 17km west of Geraldine, is St Anne's Church (1862; Anglican), the oldest church in South Canterbury.
Waihi Gorge (Te Moana Gorge)
Two local beauty spots are the Waihi Gorge (13km northwest) and the Te Moana Gorge (19km west).
50km south of Timaru is Waimate, the commercial center of a large agricultural area. On land that in the 19th C was covered with totara forests grain is now grown, as well as flower bulbs and berry fruits.
Studholme Farm (The Cuddy)
The first farmhouse, the Cuddy, was built by the Studholme brothers in 1854 of wood from a single totara tree. A sheep-shearing shed and a wool shed were built at the same time. The buildings, still in private ownership, are protected as national monuments.
Useful tips: Group tours with a minimum of four people are available.
St Augustine's Church
St Augustine's Church (Anglican) was built in 1872 of rough-sawn wood, with a striking little tower over the crossing. The interior bears witness to the prominent position of the Studholme family in the local community.
This museum of local history is housed in the old courthouse (1879).
Address: 28 Shearman Street, New Zealand
Opening hours: 1:30pm-4:30pm; Sun: 2pm-4pm; Closed: Sat
Entrance fee in NZD: Adult $2.00, Child $.50
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
In Seddon Square, the well looked-after village square, there are monuments to Michael Studholme, the Maori chief Huruhuru and Dr Margaret Cruickshank, New Zealand's first woman doctor, who cared for the town's people until 1916.
From the summit of Mount John (446m), in the nearby Hunter's Hills, you can get some idea of the vastness of the Canterbury Plains.