Canterbury Plains

Like a patchwork quilt made with every shade of green, the Canterbury Plains lie serenely between the mountains and the sea.

The Canterbury Plains is an area of braided rivers and pastoral perfection between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. As flat as a billiard table, the plains are a remarkable sight from the air - a patchwork of agricultural activity that ranges from grazing grass and wheat to herbs and sunflowers. The area produces more than 80% of New Zealand's grains, crops and seeds.

The Canterbury Plains are formed from the alluvial shingle fans of several large rivers - the Waimakariri, Raikaia, Selwyn and Rangitata. These rivers provide all kinds of entertainment - trout and salmon fishing, jet boating, rafting and kayaking.

One of the best ways to explore the Canterbury Plains is to follow State Highway 72, which is known as the Inland Scenic Route. This rural main road follows the western boundary of the plains and takes you to a succession of country towns. Farm stays and luxury lodges let you sample Canterbury's country life. Around Mount Hutt, you can venture into the Southern Alps or drive along the Rakaia River to beautiful Lake Coleridge.

Consider these must do's while driving the Canterbury Plains

  • The area has the largest collection of Maori Rock Art in New Zealand. Head for Raincliff near the confluence of the Opihi and Opuha Rivers.
  • In Timaru you'll find an impressive collection of preserved urban Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
  • The Pleasant Point Railway is home to the world's only Ford Model T Railcar. 
  • Drive to Opihi to sample the excellent local wines. Enjoy lunch at the vineyard cafe.
  • Cruise around Timaru's Caroline Bay and encounter the local wild life.
  • Visit the Geraldine Vintage Car and Machinery Museum.
  • Go walking or biking on the Waimate Walkway, then visit 'The Cuddy' - a thatched house built in 1854. 


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