Canterbury Activities

Christchurch is the South Island's largest city, a vibrant, cosmopolitan place heralded as the 'garden city'. Visit the Christchurch Activities section to see the main activities and attractions in Christchurch

Banks Peninsula

Banks Peninsula was formed eight million years ago by the violent eruptions of three volcanoes. Akaroa and Lyttelton Harbours are the eroded craters of two of these volcanoes.

Akaroa, on Banks Peninsula, is Canterbury's oldest village and was originally settled by the French. However, it is also steeped in Maori, whaling and British history. Remnants of its French history are still visible in French street signs, early architecture and the French cemetery. Visit the Akaroa Activities section to see the main activities and attractions in Akaroa.

Lyttelton Harbour

  • Ripapa and Quail Islands: Lyttelton Harbour, just 15 minutes from Christchurch, is home to two islands, each with an incredible link to Canterbury's past including Quail Island's links to Antarctic exploration
  • Wildlife cruise: take a cruise from Lyttelton Harbour to view Hector dolphins and notable historic sites around the area

Waimakariri District

Just to the north of Christchurch is the district of Waimakariri, with the main centre Rangiora. The Waimakariri district takes its name from the most significant river in the area, and the word from Maori translates as 'river of cold rushing water'.

  • Horse Trekking: enjoy a horse ride up the Lees Valley
  • Jet Boating: experience the thrill and adrenaline rush of a jet boat ride through the spectacular Waimakariri Gorge
  • Fishing: the Waimakariri River is an excellent fishing ground for quinnat salmon and brown trout

Hurunui District 

The Hurunui district extends from Leithfield, 30 minutes north of Christchurch, to the Conway River, just south of Kaikoura. Most of the area is within 90 minutes' drive of Christchurch International Airport.

Included in the region is Hanmer Springs Thermal Reserve, one of the most popular thermal spa resorts in New Zealand. The Thermal Reserve has been used for generations, being one of the resting areas for Maori on their journeys to the West Coast for greenstone. The Waipara Valley, a 50-minute drive north of Christchurch, has developed a worldwide reputation for cool-climate wines. Wine trails enable visitors to learn about and taste a wide variety of wine and to dine at one of many vineyard cafes or restaurants. Visit the Hanmer Springs Activities section to see the main activities and attractions in Hanmer Springs.

Waipara Valley

  • Waipara Wineries: Waipara has ideal conditions for growing quality grapes. Stop for a tasting and a meal at a handful of wineries in this area.

Selwyn District

Selwyn district is known for its wineries, golf courses, high country lakes and rivers and Arthur's Pass National Park, which is in the heart of the Southern Alps. The Park has a diverse landscape, with forests, waterfalls, snowy peaks, walkways and trails, and rare wildlife including the endangered and reclusive kiwi and the kea, the cheeky mountain parrot.

  • Arthur's Pass National Park: A network of tracks leads into remote valleys and high alpine passes. In summer these are suitable for groups of average fitness and experience. In winter more skill is required as snow may lie deeply even in the valleys and weather conditions can be difficult. Two of the most popular are the Cass Saddle hike and the Mingha/Deception hike over Goat Pass.
  • Ski Areas Canterbury: Temple Basin, Craigieburn, Mt Olympus, Porter Heights, Broken River and Mt Cheeseman, all have good skiing between July and October


Kaikoura hugs a narrow strip of coastline that lies between mountain peaks and the Pacific Ocean, approximately three hours north of Christchurch. A variety of rare marine mammals converge here - sperm whales, New Zealand fur seals, dolphins and penguins.

  • Whale Watching: join a trip to see these magnificent creatures, by boat or air, all year round
  • Dolphin Encounters: swim with or observe dolphins
  • Crafts: watch craftspeople at work creating jewellery items from paua, bone and mussel shell
  • Scenic Flights: see the whales from the air and enjoy mountain and coastal views
  • Diving / Snorkeling & Fishing Trips: deep sea and crayfishing trips are available

Methven - Mt Hutt

Discover Methven village is a warm and welcoming all-year-round tourist destination at the heart of New Zealand's South Island.

  • Mt Hutt Ski Area: Mt Hutt has the longest ski season in New Zealand, its elevation making the snow higher and deeper for longer.
  • Terrace Downs Golf Resort: this international golf course is long (6,500 metres/21,311 feet) with eight lakes to challenge golfers. Fairways are wide and there are 70 bunkers to contend with.
  • Aoraki Balloon Safaris: take a balloon flight over the Canterbury Plains with a panoramic view from the mountains to the sea. On a fine, clear day visitors can see Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest peak
  • Jet boating on the Rakaia River: follow Inland Scenic Route 72 and turn off before the Rakaia Gorge overbridg

The Central South Island

(Timaru - Temuka - Geraldine - Pleasant Point - Peel Forest)

The central South Island is the inland district of Timaru situated halfway between Christchurch and Dunedin. Bounded by the Rangitata River to the north and the Pareora River to the south and stretching from the snow-capped Southern Alps to the sparkling blue waters of the South Pacific Ocean, the area's diverse topography is home to a huge array of scenic, sporting and cultural attractions.

  • Timaru: enjoy the largest area of preserved urban Victorian and Edwardian architecture in New Zealand
  • Pleasant Point Railway: visit the home of the world's only Ford Model T railcar. The railway society has regular steaming days
  • Maori Rock Art: the area has the largest collection on Maori rock art in New Zealand
  • Trevor Griffith Rose Garden: see the largest collection of old roses in the Southern Hemisphere
  • 4WD Drive Safaris: explore New Zealand's back country
  • Pottery: visit the famous Temuka Pottery shop or factory
  • Geraldine Vintage Car & Machinery Museum

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