From sweeping plains to soaring mountains, coastline to glacial lakes, the Canterbury region has it all. Check out the top 8 experiences in the region.
After a busy day of sightseeing there’s no better place to relax than Tekapo Springs Hot Pools. Overlooking the beauty of Lake Tekapo and the mountains beyond, the hot pools are fed by alpine springs and heated to 28-40 degrees Celsius. With New Zealand’s largest inflatable waterslide, sauna & steam rooms, fully equipped day spa and an aqua play area for kids, there’s something here for everyone!
The Aoraki/Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve is the largest reserve of its kind in the world. With more than 4,300 square kilometres free of light pollution, it’s the perfect place to go stargazing. Head to Earth & Sky in Tekapo or Big Sky Stargazing at Aoraki Mt Cook Village for the chance to gaze into space through powerful telescopes.
New Zealand’s largest glacier is accessible on foot, by bike and by boat. Glacier Explorers take you onto the terminal lake, where you can touch icebergs and learn how the Tasman Glacier was formed. While you’re here, take time to marvel at our tallest mountain, Aoraki Mt Cook, and explore the national park. Favourite short walks from Mt Cook Village include the Governors Bush Walk (1 hour) and the Hooker Valley Track (3-4 hours).
Travelling from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean, this 300 km cycle trail showcases the most dramatic scenery New Zealand has to offer. Bike your way through Aoraki Mt Cook National Park alongside glacial-fed lakes, and on to golden grasslands, limestone cliffs and Maori rock art. This trail suits all abilities, and includes a mixture of off- and on-road trail.
The TranzAlpine journey through the Southern Alps is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. Beginning in Christchurch, you’ll travel through the patchwork Canterbury Plains up into Arthur’s Pass National Park. From here, you’ll venture down into the wild beech forests of the West Coast, finishing in Greymouth. The trip takes four hours one way, or nine hours return with a one-hour break in Greymouth.
One hour north of Christchurch you’ll find fields of lavender, olive groves, and more than 60 vineyards, with dozens of cellar doors open for wine tasting. Waipara is well known for its Pinot Noir and Reisling, and also provides some fine Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer to let someone else do the driving, book a winery tour from Christchurch.
The village of Akaroa, just 1.5 hours’ drive from Christchurch, is rich in French colonial charm. Ask for a map at the information centre and take a stroll amid historic cottages and gardens before sampling some authentic French cuisine. Akaroa is also abundant in marine life, including one of the smallest dolphins in the world, the Hectors. Head out with Black Cat Cruises to swim with these playful creatures, or just marvel at them from the comfort of the boat.
Arthur's Pass is the highest route through the Southern Alps, connecting the vast Canterbury plains in the east with the wild and rugged West Coast. Drive this spectacular journey at your own pace, or relax and take the famous TranzAlpine train. Arthur's Pass Village, about 2 hours from Christchurch, is the starting point for hiking and mountaineering adventures into Arthur's Pass National Park. Day trippers enjoy the one hour return walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls.