and lots of charm.
With its brightly painted houses tumbling down the steep hills and narrow stairs to go up and down, Lyttelton reminded me of the Chilean port of Valparaiso way across the other side of the Pacific. Whilst still the busiest commercial port and deepest harbour on the South Island, like its Chilean counterpart, Lyttelton has seen better days but still has a a lot of appeal. Solid Victorian port offices and bank buildings along the main street are reminders of a time when everything that came to this far-flung corner of the Empire passed through this port, bringing both settlers and cargo to the new colony and shipping out . Nowadays containers and coal form the bulk of goods passing through the port.
Situated on the north side of the long bay formed by the crater of one of the long-extinct volcanoes that created the Banks Peninsula, once the only way to get from the port to the city of Christchurch was via the Evans Pass over the Port Hills that divide the harbour from the flat land of the Canterbury Plain beyond - an arduous journey on foot for the first settlers until a roadway was built in 1857. Now the port is accessible in just 20 minutes by road from the centre of Christchurch via a road tunnel.
Maritime history, harbour cruises, scenic walks, cute cafes, nature trails and the spectacular views offered by the Christchurch Gondola are all good reasons to head for Lyttelton for a day.
Take the No 35 or 28 bus from Cathedral Square in the city centre.
Lyttelton Time Ball Station harks back to an historic maritime practice that was a vital part of safety at sea. Dropping the time ball is a ritual that followed the invention of the chronometer - the instrument that meant ships at sea could navigate their way across lines of longitude with an accuracy - and resultant safety - never before experienced in maritime history. Invented in 1829, the time ball's function is to give ships in harbour a signal by which to set their chronometers with complete accuracy. Once a feature of ports everywhere, first the radio telegraph and then electronic technology have seen time balls removed and nowadays there are only about 60 left all around the world.
Like the vast majority of timeball stations Lyttelton dropped its ball at 1pm. The ball was raised half way at 5 minutes to 1 to signal the ships in the harbour and then raised to the top. The moment the ball began to fall signalled the precise Greenwich time by which maritime chronometers are set. Lyttelton's timeball came into service in 1876 and continued to drop daily until 1934 when radio signals took over.
Although the castle-like building was put to various uses after that it wasn't until 1978 that it was fully restored and opened as an important part of Lyttelton's maritime history and one of only 5 functioning timeballs in the world.
Open: Daily October- -5.30pm. May-September - Wednesday to Sunday 10-5.30.
Lyttelton is a nice place to start a day trip around the harbour and to the various bays and places. Lyttelton can be approached from many directions with the most common either through the tunnel via Heathcote Valley or over the hill from Sumner.
There are several places of note to visit including the Time Ball station, old Gaol and the Wonderbar.
Once you are here you can continue on around the various bays including Rapaki, Cass, Corsair, Charteris (inlc Orton Bradley Park with Golf Course and great walks), Govenors and Diamond Harbour. Further round gets you to Purau and Port Levy.
From Cashmere we made our way to Lyttleton and it's stunning harbour. It was a very windy day and stopping at windy point look out wasn't the best idea. We were almost blown away, but the views of the harbour were great. The water in the harbour is of some special colour I had never seen before in the sea. It was funny since there was a big cruise ship of the Holland America Line, and being Dutch I thought that was quite a coincidence.
Quail Island is an island just south of Lyttelton. There's a walk that will take you all around the island (2-3 hours), but there's a lot to see, and there's signs and stories along the way.
Named after the now extinct native Quail, the island was used as a leper colony in the early 1900s and as a quarantine station by the early European settlers.
There is public transport available to Lyttelton on the number 28 bus, taking around half an hour from the central city. The ferry service is provided by Black Cat from ?B? Jetty, follow the blue dolphin signs in the walkway across the bridge. It takes 10 minutes to the island. The ferry runs year-round, in the summer it makes to calls at Quail Island, in the winter only one, so you have the option of a 2 hour stay or a 5 hour stay (only this one in winter). However, the ferry is the same that runs From Lyttelton to and from Diamond Harbour all day, and if you're caught by bad weather, and you are too wet or too cold to wait for the ferry, you may call the ferry company and ask them to make an unscheduled call at Quail Island. They did that when I was there, but then we were the only 2 people on the island that day...
Remember to bring your own food and drink, as there's nothing on the island to serve you, at least not in winter when I went there.
Lyttelton is the lovely scenic port of Christchurch. It is a wonderful sight driving into Lyttleton from the hills and looking down.
There are lots of little coves and boat moorings and you can reach Lyttelton by driving through the road tunnel or over the Port Hills.
Visit the town of Lyttelton, population of 3100, was connected to the city in 1964 by a 2 km road tunnel and is now the South Islands main port. In the middle of the harbour are the fascinating islands, Quail ,and Ripapa which have an interesting history.
Lyttelton Harbour is the northern of two sea inlets on Banks Peninsula which James Cook first sighted in 1770, thought was an island and named after naturalist Sir Joseph Banks. It had a violent beginning as a volcanic island that erupted 11 million years ago. Christchuch's first settlers landed in Lyttelton in 1850 and then made the historic trek over the Bridal Path to the "swamp", that is now Christchurch.
The town of Lyttleton and Lyttleton Harbour are situated over the hill from Christchurch. The view from Banks Peninsula is really amazing. The best way to see the view is to drive up.