The historic port town of Lyttleton is a pleasing mix of sleepy seaside village and up-and-coming cultural hub.
Located at the northern-most tip of Banks Peninsula, just 20 minutes from central Ōtautahi Christchurch, is the historic port town of Lyttelton. This is where local artists gather alongside port workers in effortlessly cool bars and restaurants. And where a day at the beach is not about protecting your patch of sand but choosing which private cove you’d like for the day.
According to Chef Guilo, Mapu restaurant(opens in new window) is his test kitchen. This means no menus, no opening hours, and no expectations. Guilo gave up his award-winning restaurant 'Roots' – and as Guilo sees it, the managerial and marketing responsibilities that came along with it – so he could focus on what he loves: cooking. What he cooks is generally guided by what he’s grown or foraged. Previous meals have included clams with blackcurrant syrup, dry-aged moki in pinenut milk, and porcini gelato with kelp cream for dessert. Meals can be up to nine courses and will like no other dining experience you’ve ever had before.
Atmosphere and an inspired Japanese-and Māori-fusion menu are what’s on offer at SUPER(opens in new window). Head chef Sahni Bennett, who is of Ngāti Mako and Wairewa descent, says Japanese and Māori ingredients work well together because they tend to have subtle flavours that don’t compete for attention. Another key ingredient is obviously passion. As a young woman, Sahni suffered from body image issues and often avoided food. At 17, she challenged herself to change her attitude and began to explore ways food could be nourishing, both physically and spiritually. Overtime, her attitude towards herself became more positive, too. But then, Sahni isn’t one to shy away from a challenge: at just 22 she opened her first café, with no experience and three young tamariki (children).
Wunderbar(opens in new window) is as the name suggests, a bit of a wonder. This legendary watering hole is where local bands get started and where the décor aesthetic favours dolls heads, mirror balls, and candles. Note, there is a sign on the entrance saying, ‘This establishment is for nice people only.’
Lyttelton Coffee Company
Gather in the company of the world’s coolest coffee roasters at Lyttelton Coffee Company(opens in new window). Underneath each hard-worn trendy exterior, is a big heart. Annually, these roasters and baristas save 15,000 milk cartons and 500 kilos of packaging from landfill by using stainless steel milk canisters and buckets. The buckets, one assumes, are for the produce.
Visit Lyttelton Farmers’ Market(opens in new window) for the best regional produce and artisan treats. Each Saturday, this award-winning market takes over the town’s main street, attracting locals and-out of-towners alike, who turn up in droves to support these small-time producers.
Quail Island, Black Cat Cruises
Sitting in the middle of Lyttelton Harbour is Ōtamahua/Quail Island(opens in new window). Like most small islands close to the mainland, Quail Island has an interesting history. For the Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, a Māori tribe from the region, the island was a place to gather food. In the 19th-century, it was a quarantine station. In the 20th-century, a leper colony and even a potato farm. Today, it is a nature reserve and a popular tourist attraction. Black Cat Cruises provides a daily ferry service between Lyttelton and the island, so you can visit for the day or stay the night.
Crater Rim Walks
On a fine day, the walking tracks around Banks Peninsula provide exquisite views of harbours, plains, and alps. With Crater Rim Walks you can choose from a range of guided day walks, designed to show you the region’s best features. Nicole, the founder, started the business after being inspired by her parents, who walked the peninsula so often, they learned where all the best spots are. Luckily, they passed this information onto their daughter, so she can now show you.