The unusual landscapes of Christchurch and Canterbury

Christchurch and Canterbury is renowned for vast expanses of untouched coastlines and the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains.

Christchurch and Canterbury is renowned for vast expanses of untouched coastlines, the patchwork quilt of the Canterbury Plains, spectacular braided rivers and sky-piercing Southern Alps. As locals we know that there’s much more to our region and spend our weekends searching for hidden gems that make Christchurch and Canterbury unique. Here’s a handful of interesting places perfect for photography, climbing, walking or enjoying a picnic in unusual surroundings.

The Cathedrals

One of the highlights and best kept secrets of the Gore Bay area has to be The Cathedrals, 1.5 hour’s drive north from Christchurch. Gore Bay has an excellent surfing beach and a wonderful camping ground suitable for families. Most people are unaware that it’s also home to the impressive eroded siltstone pillars - The Cathedrals. They provide amazing photo opportunities best captured when the sun is on the cliffs. They’re best viewed on a one-hour return walk starting at the baches in Gore Bay.

Weka Pass – Frog Rock

A much loved highlight on any road trip travelling SH7 in the Hurunui district is seeing Frog Rock and The Seal. The area between Waipara and Waikari is scattered with limestone formations, eroded over time to create surprisingly life-like animal shapes. Waikari is also a great place to stop for a bite to eat and to check out the Weka Pass Historic Reserve walkway. The walkway leads visitors through farmland to a large limestone overhang featuring examples of early Māori Rock Art.

Another gem is the Weka Pass Railway that runs between Waipara and Waikari on the first and third Sunday of the month. The scenery from the railway is spectacular as it traverses land that was once under the ocean leaving behind weathered and unusual rock formations, some containing sea shells and fossils.

Castle Hill

Located just over an hour’s drive west from Christchurch you’ll find Castle Hill. Often referred to by climbers as one of the best rock climbing and bouldering locations in New Zealand. The limestone rock makes the area a year-round climbing destination with over 250 different climbs keeping climbing enthusiasts occupied for hours.

Cave Stream

Further down the road from Castle Hill you’ll find Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. Located amongst limestone formations with impressive views out to the Craigieburn and Torlesse Ranges making it a popular picnic destination. The reserve is also home its namesake, a 594-metre long cave. The cave walk takes an hour to complete in darkness as the cave winds its way between the two entrances. Cavers must be well prepared and are advised to walk against the flow of the stream and be well-informed of water levels before entering the cave. Appropriate clothing including helmet, polypropylene, wool, sturdy footwear and reliable torches/headlamps with spare batteries are strongly advised. 

These are just a handful of the amazing landscapes and features that make up the Christchurch and Canterbury region. For more information on what to see and do visit

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