From sweeping plains to soaring mountains, coastline to glacial lakes, the Canterbury region has it all. Check out the top 10 experiences in the region.
Only 90 minutes drive from Christchurch, Hanmer Springs offers the perfect balance of fun and relaxation, with different levels of thrills on the waterslides, and a selection of hot pools including aqua therapy, hexagonal pools, rock pools and sulphur pools - leaving you feel relaxed and refreshed.
Take a ride on New Zealand’s longest chairlift to the top of Port Hills with stunning views across the Canterbury Plains to the Southern Alps. At more than 350 hectares, Christchurch Adventure Park is the largest mountain bike park in the Southern Hemisphere. A chairlift transports riders and their bikes to the top, with access to world-class mountain bike trails to suit all levels.
After a busy day of sightseeing there’s no better place to relax than at Tekapo Springs Hot Pools(opens in new window). 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 NZ’s largest inflatable waterslide, sauna & steam rooms, fully equipped day spa(opens in new window) 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 Dark Sky Project(opens in new window) in Tekapo or Big Sky Stargazing(opens in new window) 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).
Traveling 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(opens in new window) 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 in the Waipara Valley. We suggest renting a bike or hopping on to one of the many winery tours to explore this region's bounty.
Just 1.5 hours’ drive from Christchurch, Akaroa is rich in French colonial charm. Take in its historic cottages and sample fine French cuisine before heading out with Black Cat Cruises to get up close to the region's abundant marine life, including the smallest dolphins in the world - the Hectors.
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. The National Park is a popular spot with hikers, with day trippers particularly enjoying the walk to the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls.