It’s a scenic trip, the main state highway between Christchurch and Kaikoura. But that road trip, following the eastern edge of the South Island’s Hurunui region, and running pretty much along the coastal pacific rail line, is one sure worth travelling. It sure is, when you want to check out some stunning New Zealand scenery, and find some equally memorable New Zealand food moments to stop in at along the way.
First, a bit of New Zealand rail history
The road is dotted with rural townships, and side roads leading off to expansive coastline. For many of those towns, their settlement was affected by the railway, always nearby - the main north line in the South Island, stretching out in this region between Christchurch and Kaikoura (and then to Blenheim and Picton).
This line is the longest railway construction project in New Zealand’s history, kicking off in the 1870s, and not completed until 1945. That line’s key role resulted in some settlements flourishing, where others, once thriving coach stops now bypassed by that line, hushed.
And, as a result of earthquakes in Christchurch and Kaikoura in recent years, the passenger line linking Christchurch and Kaikoura is currently closed. (Our photo, too, shows the charming Glenmark station, on the Waiau branch line previously running in the Hurunui region, from this Waipara station inland to Waikari station. Closed as part of the New Zealand branch line network in the 1970s, today special excursion trains run on the line through the Weka Pass.)
So, on the road now instead, stopping at these Hurunui region townships, you’ll get a real perspective into New Zealand’s rural heartland and fine country fare.
Then something for everyone
You’re after a winery lunch experience in a spectacular setting? Or a more casual cafe with a playground for the kids, a moment for everyone to stretch out? Or a pick-up-and-head-to-the-beach option, for a classic picnic and fresh sea air while exploring some rugged coastline?
On your trip you’ll pass through Waipara Valley, one of New Zealand’s boutique wine growing regions, best known for pinot noir and riesling. (Waipara: Māori, noun - muddy water, sediment.)
Cellar doors, some stellar New Zealand food moments, and inspiring settings, await. Here’s a chance to sit back and be spoiled by some truly excellent New Zealand food.
For more casual, but equally memorable, New Zealand food moments, there are plenty of tempting coffee stops and eateries… and spots to pullover and pick up picnic supplies and head east to the stunning coastline of Pegasus up to Gore Bay and north beyond.
A short detour for that coastline, and you’ll spot typical kiwi coastal cribs (known in the north as baches, they’re cosy holiday homes), and have a chance to blow the cobwebs out in that sea breeze, walking off cakes to die for… And there really is the chance to walk for miles, if that’s how you’re feeling.
Another moment to lift the lid on more New Zealand history, proving even the cook gets it wrong sometimes. At the southern coastal end of the region, the striking Pegasus Bay is in front of you - reaching north from Banks Peninsula to the mouth of the Waipara River - named after The Pegasus, a ship sailing the South Island in the early 1800s. In doing so, the crew corrected reference to “Banks Islands” (in fact, the peninsula) in Captain James Cook’s charts from the 1770s - one of only very few errors on the maps from Cook’s original expeditions.
Don’t miss classic New Zealand food artisans
While there’s no doubting you’ll find some gorgeous classic eateries and take-outs, don’t miss the opportunity to pop in to some equally classic New Zealand food artisans. You’ll pick up some of New Zealand’s top notch made, grown or raised food. Excellent butchery goods and pies, cheese, produce…
They’re all but a stone’s throw away, when you’re on that road and in the know. That’s the wonderful thing about being on the road isn’t it, the chance to explore and find those treasures that are just a little tucked away.