Canterbury, South Island
If you happen to head from Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura, or if you travel north from Christchurch, take the inland road (SH70) south of Waipara through the back country. We have done it both ways but driving from the south to the north offers more spectacular views on the alpine scenery of Kaikoura, as you drive towards them the whole way.
As Hanmer Springs with its thermal pools, the Waipara wine region and Kaikoura with its unique wildlife and scenery are all places of special interest, the complete touring route is called the Alpine Pacific Triangle; it is 370kms long.
On scenic SH70 - which is approximately 100kms long - you cross many rivers, the road is very winding in parts and goes up and downhill. First it passes the Amuri Range, and later winds its way along the Seaward Kaikouras, through river gorges and native bush, wide pastoral hill country, and you always have those fantastic cloud-piercing mountains in the background. Over much of the year they are snow-capped. At almost every turn you have new and exciting views, and from some points you can also see the sea.
You also pass Mt. Lyford which is one of the South Island's newest skifields for skiing, snowboarding and heliskiing, and 4WD tours and horse trekking as well. Some kms before Kaikoura you reach Mt. Fyffe, a great tramping destination.
Kaikoura's location is breathtaking. Not only that the sea floor falls down 3000 metres from the shore. The often snow-capped mountains north-west of the town raise to nearly this altitude and are visible from as far as Christchurch. The Inland Kaikoura Range's highest peak is Tapuae-o-Uenuku with 2885m, the Seaward Kaikouras are up to 2596m high (Te ao Whekere). From the peninsula you have a spectacular panorama with the blue sea in the foreground and those majestic mountains in the background.
If you are fit and love cycling SH70 is a great and safer alternative to busy SH1.
BTW The Cathedrals at Gore Bay, from SH1, are much tinier than expected and sometimes submerged in bush, so no must-see.
Christchurch is supposedly known for being 'the most English city outside of England'. This English girl has never been able to fathom out why that is!
However, it's international airport is just one reason why many international visitors will be flying either into or out of this great garden city and likely spending a few days here at either end of their holiday. It was my first taste of New Zealand and a short while later home for 3 months.
There is plenty to keep the visitor occupied. Right by the airport is the Antarctic experience, whilst closer to the city centre is beautiful Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens. In the city centre itself is the Cathedral, the Arts Centre, and plenty of shops, cafes, bars and a decent nightlife. Christchurch is also a good base to explore the Canterbury Plains from.
Although not on our original itinerary, Akaroa was a late addition to the lineup when we realized how close and convienent it was from Christchurch. With a 3pm departure from ChCh airport, we decided to take a morning trip out to the land of the French Settlement that is now Akaroa. While most people would say that Akaroa is a beautiful town to spend a couple days in, we were slightly pressed for time and could not make that determination. What I can say however makes it a must see is the drive there. Beautiful windy roads from Chch to Akaroa and the mountain pass are well worth the petrol consumed, and then the Eastern Bay tourist drive is a must for those with time to see the sights. You can see clearly to the Western Glacial Mountains from the tourist drive.
Do not give this one a pass, make sure you stop in and see Akaroa!
Built in the 1850's, the cathedral in Christchurch is truly a distinguishable landmark. For many decades, this was the skyline when you looked about in Christchurch. Since many high rise buildings have now overshadowed the church, the skyline may not be the same, but do not underestimate the beauty of the cathedral.
There is a very nice square located around the cathedral, and plenty of activities to do and see in the heart of this beautiful town!
Take a minute, an hour, or a full day and enjoy downtown Christchurch's magnificent cathedral.
There can't be a tour bus on the road that doesn't detour off the main Christchurch-Queenstown highway at Lake Tekapo for a photo stop at the tiny grey stone Church of the Good Shepherd. It's not surprising, it really is very picturesque, sitting right by the lake with a wonderful view of the lake and the mountains through the window behind the altar. Most will only stop to snap the church - and take a little walk to the statue of the sheep-herder's best friend - his faithful Collie - just along the way, though a day or two spent in the village here will give you pleanty of opportunity to explore the beautiful countryside, take a flight over the Southern Alps and even pay a visit, day or night, to nearby Mt John Observatory.
Take a look at the lake on the webcam here.
Christchurch, capital of New Zealand's South Island, is a pretty little city with some interesting things to do. A day or two spent here will give you time to check out some of the following -
Be sure to visit the International Antarctic Centre, out near the airport - it is a first class discovery centre with excellent exhibits.
The Avon River winds through the city centre, between grassy banks and under willows and some attractive little bridges. Taking a drifting ride in a punt is a very pleasant way to while away an hour or so.
Artists and artisans have studios at the Art Centre, where there is also a good craft shop and restaurants.
The Museum is worth an hour or so of your time and the new Art Gallery is definitely worth a look if only for the stunning building that houses the collection.
Cathedral Square is a great place for people watching. You can climb the Cathedral tower for a small charge and good views over the city.
The Botanic Gardens and Hagley Park are attractive places to walk among trees and flowers - they'll confirm for you why Christchurch is known as The Garden City.
There's something about trams that makes travelling on them fun -take a tram ride around for a bit of general sightseeing.
Its small size, attractive buidings (lots of Victorian Gothic) and relaxed atmosphere really do make Christchurch an appealing place. You'll find a good choice of restaurants, cafes and bars, there's accommodation to suit every budget - you'll enjoy yourself.
The pretty little harbour town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula may only be 85 km from Christchurch but it really is a world apart. The bay it sits on is formed by the drowned crater of an extinct volcano and the land around the town rises quite sharply to form a high ridge that rings the harbour before it falls away again to the sea in the tumble of wooded gullies, steep cliffs, waterfalls and deep inlets on the volcano's eroded outer rim.
Named by Captain Cook for his botanist, Joseph Banks, the peninsula had long been settled by Maori by the time Europeans first came here. The first white settlers were a group of French whalers and much is made of this French connection, with streets and many businesses having French names, but New Zealand became a British colony just days before they arrived in 1840 and Akaroa was never under any sort of French control. They were, however, the first European presence on the South Island and by the time the first English settlers arrived in 1850 their little settlement was well established.
Christchurch soon overtook Akaroa in size and importance and the town sank back into quiet obscurity. This, as so often happens, proved to be to the advantage of the town as it left the quaint buildings and picturesque streets free from the zeal of developers, either Victorian or contemporary, and nowadays its historic charm is valued and preserved.
This charm is not Akaroa's only drawcard. Nature-lovers come here in the hope of seeing the Hector's dolphins (the world's smallest cestaceans) that are only found here. Hoihoi and little blue penguins also make the peninsula their home and there is a fur seal colony at Goat Point that can be visited. Needless to say, this is prime bird-watching territory too.
It's a very popular holiday getaway so booking is advisable, especially at peak holiday times.
drive through natures delight, Lupins before you arrive at Mt Cook....the scent is sweet, but be aware of the Bee's they like it too:-))
Highcountry lots of hiking, skiing and fishing or just driving. the National Park around Mount Cook and Lake Ohau on the way.