Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand with a population of 320,000. It was established as a city nearly 150 years ago, making it the oldest city in New Zealand. Christchurch is as flat as a pancake and it lies at the junction of the Canterbury Plains, east coast beaches and the Banks Peninsula hills. It is very much an English inspired city with its Gothic cathedral and old stone buildings and attractively laid out around it Square.
I would have highly recommended this pastime being a local and having gone before until last week where I took my daughter canoeing and got rammed head on by one of the punters. As I was on the side where the boats came in I was suprised to see them heading for me. Needless to say I ending up in the Avon river. No apology, no towel, nothing - except for the comment 'oh Will just put some woman in the river". Nice. Dont expect compassion, kindness or even a sence of professionalism from these guys. I got none even although it was their fault. To make it worse I had my daughters MP3 player and cell phone in my bag. All I expected was to be helped out of the river, an apology and a towel (seeing as we had walked in to town). Obviously their attitude is once they have got your money the couldnt care less what they do!
Akaroa is a small town on the Canterbury coast, South Island. It has a very interesting history. It was the site of a French attempt to colonise New Zealand. The French settlers arrived a little too late, however, and the British beat them to claiming sovereignty over the archipelago. Today, Akaroa is a delightful harbourside town with many historic wooden buildings. Visitors can stay in botique accommodation, enjoy food and wine in a number of great little cafes and restaurants, stroll the historic streets of Akaroa, or take a cruise on the sheltered Akaroa harbour and see rare Hector's Dolphins, seals, penguins, and other marine life.
I spent a sunny spring day in Akaroa on a day trip from Christchurch (about 80km away by road). A number of companies provide bus trips to the town and/or tours that take in other spots on the Banks Peninsula. If you have a car, you'd be able to explore at a more leisurely rate. On a nice day, this is really a lovely spot.
Mount Cook National Park features New Zealand's tallest mountain - Mt Cook (Aoraki – the Maori name). You will also find the largest glacier in New Zealand here -Tasman Glacier. At the foot of the mountain is Mt Cook village and is the starting point for several hiking trails.
The Maori name, Aoraki, means Sky Father and Mt Cook stands at 3,755 making it the highest peak in Australasia. The Mt Cook National Park is a world heritage area and contains 22 of New Zealand’s 27 highest peaks. It is basically 700 sq kms of glaciers, snow and granite and an incredible area for flora and fauna.
The Store is the central item in the very small area of kekerungu. The gardens are very well maintained and an excellent place to sit and have something to eat when travelling the road between Christchurch & Blenheim/Picton. The gardens are nicely laid out and on an open grassed area right beside The Store. On a sunny day it is very pleasent to sit here and sip your wine.
The Store has a good selection of wine from Marlborough and a highly regarded menu which has led to them receiving several restaurant awards. Beside The Store are steps that take you down to a small beach with a few seals. The views are nice, up and down the coast so a good place to get a good idea of the local landscape. The Inner Kaikoura Mountains are also visible from Kekerengu with Snow tipped tops able to be seen.
According to my humble opinion the most charming little town in New Zealand.
Surrounded by hills and situated by the water.
It was first discovered by French Settlers.
So all the street names are still French and so are the names of the coffeeshops and restaurants.
Don't forget to take the historical walk and a delicious diner at La Maison.
West of Christchurch you will find Banks Peninsula.
It is a joy to just drive around there and enjoy the views of all the beautiful bays that are situated between the hills.
There are also great hikes here.For instance the hike to Whakatane Falls,which takes you about 2 hours return.
Another option is to go swimming with Hector dolphins.
Before you drive on from Arthur's Pass towards Christchurch just go a little bit further north first and see the immense Otira Viaduct.
In Otira go see Peter Jean Caley,a great artist with beautiful paintings of Maori's.He himself became a Maori and if you ask him if you could see his private collection he will show you his best work and tell you some great stories as well!
East of the beautiful Lake Tekapo you will pass a very charming little town called Geraldine.
Very nice place to have a rest before driving on. It has the oldest still running cinema of New Zealand.
And don't forget to buy the best ham/bacon/eggs muffins in the world at the local bakery....:-)
North of Twizel you can make the drive to New Zealand's highest mountain,Mount Cook or Aoraki.
Prepare yourself that you won't be able to see the top cause most days of the year the top is covered in clouds.
Closeby you will find The Tasman Glacier (the longest glacier in New Zealand with it's 29 km) and Lake Tasman which you can see from up close after a short hike.It is impressive!
Near Geraldine in Peel Forest you will find the Rangitata River. The part of the river over here is excellent for white water rafting and there are rapids up to grade V!! In rafting there are six grades in total and grade VI is unraftable. So this river will give you the ultimate adrenaline shots. There is one company operating on the river and they are called Rangitata Rafts. They can pick you up from Geraldine if you happen to be dropped of there with you tour bus or they can even come and get you all the way from Christchurch!
For the price you pay you get a lunch, three hours of rafting, hot showers and a traditional kiwi barbeque afterwards. If you want to stay overnight the accommodation is only 15NZD. The price of the rafting package is 154NZD but there might be discounts if you travel on a tour bus like Kiwi Experience or Magic Bus. For example if you book with Kiwi Experience you only pay 135$ and get free accommodation and breakfast! In Queenstown for example you pay 130 but that's just for the rafting.
Right next to Lake Tekapo you will find the Church of the Good Sheperd. The church was built in 1935 of stone and oak. Further along is the statue f a collie dog, which is a tribute to the sheepdogs which helped develop the MacKenzie Country.
It is always quite busy here, so it might be wise to visit after the last tourist bus leaves. Right next to the church is Lake Tekapo and amzing weird coloured lake. I never thought a lake could have this colour, but quite astonishingly it is possible.
After a few days of heavy rain in Franz Josef and the rest of the West Coast the Haast Pass was closed on the day we had to use the road there to get to Wanaka. I was disappointed because now we had to take a different route and miss out on the Fox Glacier, Lake Matheson and the Haast Pass. The route we took, went all the way up the West Coast to Greymouth, from where we took Arthurs Pass towards Christchurch. There we drove down towards Queenstown via the Canterbury Plains and at Cromwell turned right to go up again to Wanaka. The normal distance would be around 250 kilometres, but it took us 9 hours and over a 1000 kilometres, with hardly any stops along the way.
One lucky thing though at that is that we did make a stop at one of the lakes where we had a truly magnificient view of Mount Cook. There was a blue sky and not a cloud in the sky. The busdriver said that although we missed out on the sights on the West Coast, we were very lucky to see Mount Cook like this. At Lake Matheson, where you can see beautiful reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman we probably wouldn't have been able to see a thing because everthing would've been overcast. I guess he was right. On our way from Queenstown to Christchurch we passed the lake again and there were no views of Mount Cook whatsoever, just a bunch of clouds....
Arthur's pass is 924 metres long and was the route originally used by the Moaris to reach Westlands. It received its current name from Arthur Dobson, who discovered it in 1864 while searching for a crossing over the Southern Alps from Christchurch during the gold rush.
There is a small settlement with the same name about four kilometres away, where there is a park museum and visitor's centre.
I had been sleeping all the way from Franz Josef Glacier, but once we start to climb up through Arthur's Pass, I defy anybody to sleep. It is so steep, with the edge of the road having been swept away in landslides.
It all looks very perilous, with the road snaking itself up the mounatin, clinging to the hillside by its bare teeth. Quite an experience. I am convinced that road is NOT safe!
You can go from Christchurch to Greymouth, across the Southern Alps, in what is regarded as one of the best train journeys on earth. It starts by a not-that-thrilling crossing of the Canterbury Plains until it reaches the mountain range. The views, then, are remarkable.
Near the end of the trip, the train makes a brief stop by postcard-famous Moana Lake. Despite the fact that you are not advised to jump out, you have time to take some pictures.
You can easily get to the train station at Christchurch by making arrangements at your hotel. There are many shuttle services in town. Plan B? Taxi!
For more info and current schedules, visit the TranzAlpine website!