Christchurch – easily accessible via direct flights from all over Australia, and just three hours from the Eastern Seaboard – is the gateway to the South Island's natural delights. Here are some of the top day trips you can take around the Canterbury region.
Spend a day exploring the ever changing city of Christchurch, recently listed as a top visitor destination by Lonely Planet and the New York Times. It has bounced back post-earthquake with innovative new popup shops, restaurants, bars and galleries. Don’t miss the award-winning Botanic Gardens, or punting down the river Avon, which threads its way through the city centre. Bicycle tours or riding the historic tram are also great ways to get around.
1 hour 20 mins from Christchurch – 80 km
Originally an island formed by two volcanic cones, Banks Peninsula is brimming with natural beauty. You can explore the network of trails in this area on foot or by bike, heading into the native bush to the sound of birdsong.
The seaside township of Akaroa, whose harbour was created by a crater, oozes charm. It’s the most French town in New Zealand, with outstanding restaurants and fine cheeses – at Barrys Bay Cheese you can watch the action through the gallery window. Beyond cuisine, Akaroa’s other big pull is its heritage and history – simply wander the streets on foot and you’ll find yourself amongst colonial buildings and the Akaroa Museum. If you have time, take a harbour cruise to view dolphins, penguins and seals.
15 mins from Christchurch – 10 km
Just a short drive from Christchurch City, the Port Hills are a mountain biker's mecca. And more than that, they are full of walking and cycling tracks where, even on a busy day, you will often find yourself taking in the surrounding views on your own. Running, walking or cycling close to the summit affords you views right across the Canterbury Plains or over the harbour of Lyttelton. Views of the Canterbury Plains are bounded to the south by Lake Ellesmere and the Pacific Ocean and to the north by Brighton and Sumner Beaches and the huge bay stretching up to Motunau. On a clear day you can distinctly see the seaward Kaikoura Mountains.