The Summit Rd winds itself around the top of the Port Hills and has some great views over Christchurch, Lyttelton, Sumner and the coast north (aka Pegasus Bay). The road itself is a bit on the narrow side and has many walkers and cyclists nearby.
Plenty of walking & MTB tracks are just off the road so be careful not to watch the action happening around you as the next corner may have a campervan on it. These tracks (all finishing on the Summit Rd) include Harry Ells track (from the Sign of the Takahe), Rapaki Track (from Rapaki Rd in St Martins) Bowenvale track ( from Bowenvale valley) and Worsleys track (from Cracroft - quite steep). There are also a number of tracks just below the Summit Rd.
With such stunning views driving here can be tricky so watch out!!
Tramping in the Port Hills
A touch of history: Bridle Path
Start at the foot of the Gondola (before the Lyttelton Road Tunnel; bus #28 from the Bus Exchange to Lyttelton). This path is steep, allow 20 to 30 minutes to the top where the Pioneer Women's Memorial reminds of the massive efforts of the first settlers who walked this way after the arrival of the first four English ships in Lyttelton Harbour in 1850.
Here you have the choice to walk back the same way or walk down to Lyttelton on the other side, have a drink or meal there and take the bus back to the Gondola station or to the city. If you climb over a stile behind the Memorial you get to the top of the Gondola within another 20 or 25 minutes. Back downhill walking or by gondola. Or do the whole trip the other way round if you are not fit enough to walk up the steep track.
From Bridle Path to the Signs of the Kiwi and the Takahe:
When the Summit Road was built a guy named Harry Ell had the idea of building those road houses where the people could buy refreshments.
Take bus #28 (Lyttelton) to the Gondola, walk up Bridle Path, turn right at the top and follow the signs of the Crater Rim Walkway. You will tramp past Castle Rock, a massive rock where you might meet paragliders, Rapaki Rock, Mts. Vernon and Sugarloaf, enjoy breathtaking views over Lyttelton Harbour and strolling through little reserves with native bush. At the Sign of the Kiwi you can still get ice-cream and other refreshments. There you head downhill, following the Harry Ell Track and finally arrive at the Sign of the Takahe which now is an elegant restaurant in the suberb of Cashmere. Bus #10 (stop right in front of this building) takes you back to the city centre. Allow 4 to 5 hours.
See more walks in the next tip
You can download walking maps here:
Godley Head: To the end of the Christchurch world
This is a nice return trip from Evans Pass and takes 3 to 4 hours. Godley Head once was a defence reserve. The defence structures, built in the Second World War, can still be seen and inspected today (take a torch for subterranean parts of the structures).
If you can arrange a pick-up service you could start at the Gondola and walk down to the nice beach of Taylor's Mistake from Godley Head. There is no bus service to and from Taylor's Mistake, and it is rather hard to walk to Sumner from there (although it is possible...).
You can also drive to the Godley Head carpark and make the short walk to the gun emplacements.
From Sumner to Lyttelton
Take bus #3 to the last stop in Sumner. Walk Captain Thomas Track uphill (not really steep) to Evans Pass. There turn to the right onto the Crater Rim Walkway which goes further uphill (a little steeper). Soon you will pass at the old gun emplacements on Mt. Pleasant. (From here is a shortcut down to Lyttelton.) Then you walk down the ridgeline along red rocks (the colour comes from moss, is not the colour of the rock), through native bush, past climbing rocks. After that you can chose if you walk down Major Hornbrook Track to Lyttelton or up to the Gondola and then Bridle Path down to Lyttelton.
A short bush walk: Jollies Bush
There is a very small car park in a bend of the Evans Pass/Mt. Pleasant road. I love this short bush walk which leads through a small reserve with a lot of huge Rangiora bushes because nearly every time I see and/or hear a lot of bellbirds and fantails and other nice birds. There are even some seats in this little forest, so you can sit down and wait for the birds to show up.
There are a lot more possibilities for walks in the Port Hills, best is to get a map or the walking guide at the Visitor Information Centre on Cathedral Square.
You can download walking maps from here:
Stop here for a coffee or icecream on the way to or from Lyttleton. Awesome views and if you're lucky you'll hear the beautiful song of the NZ Bellbird. This stone building was built in 1916 as a tea room, toll house and bed and breakfast. It feels like you're having a coffee at someone's place rather than at a shop.
There's some good walking tracks that start from here as well with great views so pack your camera.
Treat yourself to a rewarding day of sightseeing! The Port Hills is one of Christchurch's most revered landscapes, with tussock slopes and rocky outcrops rising in stark contrast to the flat Canterbury plains. There are no less than 39 reserves in the Port Hills!
Start at the stunning and historic restaurant, the Sign of the Takahe, at 200 Hackthorne Road, Cashmere. Take Dyers Pass Road into the Hills and stop at the Sign of the Kiwi for an iconic hokey-pokey ice cream in summer or tea and scones in winter.
Resuming your journey, turn left at Summit Road until you reach Castle Rock. Te Tihi-o-Kahukura is popular with rock climbers and we scrambled over rocky outcrops onto boulders to gaze out over the Heathcote Valley. The Kahukura Track circles Castle Rock. Three regional plant species, Banks Peninsula Hebe, Banks Peninsula blue tussock and Hebe strictissima, grow here. On a good day, you'll also have a great view of Christchurch all the way to the coast.
A little further down the road is the Pioneer Women's Memorial, with stunning views over Lyttelton Harbour. In 1851 the first organised European settlers travelled from Lyttelton to Christchurch over the Bridle Path, and the Memorial commemorates this physical feat.
Stay on Summit Road until you reach Evans Pass Road. You have the choice of continuing along Summit Road until you reach Godley Head with views of the gun battery, lighthouse and Boulder Bay, and towards the Banks Peninsula.
Alternatively, you can turn left into Evans Pass Road to travel down towards the coast and explore the beaches around Taylors Mistake, Scarborough and Sumner.