This is just one of the many attractions that bring tourists to Christchurch for longer periods of time.
The boutique shops along Rue Lavaud, Rue Jolie and the waterfront are well worth visiting in the “compulsory” trip to the French settlement of Akaroa.
A good place to start is at the Akaroa Museum, that incorporates Langlois-Eteveneaux House, Custom House and the Court House.
Here you will get an excellent idea of the varied history of Akaroa - from the time that the Maori arrived, through to aspects of the whaling industry and finally the French and European settlers.
You can also take a leisurely drive to Okains Bay (30 min) to visit the famous Maori & Early Settlers museum.
A trip to Akaroa should be high up on your agenda.
Exploring Akaroa Harbour:- On arriving at the historic French settlement of Akaroa, there is no shortage of entertainment, cafés, or historic experiences.
A truly unique way to enjoy Akaroa Harbour and view the wildlife and seabirds is to sail via the Fox II - built in 1922 and crewed by vintage boat enthusiasts.
The Fox II was originally built in Auckland as a cargo carrier, with a single mast, 1.2ft bowsprit and a steel centre board. The hold could also be flooded to carry live crayfish.
It was then taken over by the Fox Fishing Co in the 1930’s and used as a fishing boat until the 1970’s. It has since been overhauled and surveyed and has carried thousands of passengers around Akaroa Harbour.
Just 90 minutes away from Christchurch, Hanmer is the perfect place for a day trip, or longer if you have the time.
There is something for everyone’s budget, whether it is one of the many forest walks, mountain biking or playing a round of golf. The more adventurous are catered for as well with bungy jumping and jetboating.
In the winter, there is nothing more indulgent than just sitting in the natural hot pools, which Hanmer Springs is famous for.
On the way it is worth spending time in Waipara, which is becoming very well known for its high quality wineries.
Thrillseekers:- An exciting adventure, well worth combining with a trip to Hanmer, can be found with one or more of the “Thrillseekers” experiences on the Waiau River.
They guarantee the best jet boat ride in New Zealand - hurtling through the Waiau Gorge, following the contours of the steep canyon walls and passing within centimetres of the rocks and cliff faces.
They offer an interesting rafting trip and one of the best bungy jumping experiences in the area.
The Tranz Alpine Railway, which runs between Christchurch and Greymouth, is regarded as one of the world’s greatest train trips. The views are absolutely spectacular.
From your carriage you can see:
The trip takes 4.5 hours and is 224 kilometres long. There are 16 tunnels and 5 viaducts, with the highest viaduct (the “Staircase”) standing at 73 metres.
An attractive bonus is that you finish up at the West Coast old gold mining town of Greymouth. This is a great base for further visits to Punakaiki and the glaciers.
Kaikoura (meaning ‘feed of crayfish’ in Maori) is a marine wonderland. You can go whale and dolphin watching by sea or air and take in the spectacular coastline. Sample some of the freshest seafood and enjoy a small New Zealand town at its best.
Whale Watch:- More and more overseas visitors are realising that winter is a great time to see NZ - especially the spectacular South Island, with its alps and breathtaking scenery.
A new element is added to the Whale Watch attraction at Kaikoura in the winter.
Sperm whales are present in Kaikoura waters all year round but humpback whales start appearing in the winter - as they continue with their annual migration.
Kaikoura is characterised by the Kaikoura Trench, which drops to over 1000m, just a few kilometres from the harbour, and meets the 1600m deep Hikurangi Trough - which is something of a whale motorway... running along NZ’s east coast, linking the cool South Pacific with warmer waters from further north.
The range of species at Kaikoura includes orca, pilot whales, dolphins and southern right whales. Giant albatross are also on view.
The Kaikoura Dolphins:- A Kaikoura activity that is rapidly growing in popularity is watching or swimming with the Dusky Dolphins - an experience run by local company, Dolphin Encounter.
Dusky Dolphins inhabit the coastal waters off Kaikoura all year round and live in groups (or pods) that number anywhere from 100 to 800 individuals. On occasions they can appear in their thousands.
The Dusky Dolphin is very gregarious and acrobatic, frequently performing spectacular leaps, jumps, side slaps and back flips. Their trademark specialty is a delightful somersault, which they can perform time and time again.
They range in size from 165cm to 195cm and live for up to 25 years. The dolphins are seen wild, in their natural habitat.
The Dolphin Encounter Tour lasts for approximately 3 hours and a guided commentary is given throughout the tour. Visitors can often see other interesting species such as Orca (Killer Whales), Pilot Whales, Fur Seals and Hector Dolphins.
Only an hour away from Christchurch is Methven and the Mt Hutt ski area. It is easy to take a day trip skiing and enjoy the Southern Alps right on Christchurch’s back doorstep. South Island ski-fields are internationally respected and are a vast playground for local and overseas skiers.
We love the Rangitata River. It is one of the loveliest and most exciting rivers in NZ - and a treasure of the South Island... and if you like white water rafting then here is an experience that is great fun and world class. The huge advantage is that it is only a two hours drive from the Christchurch International Airport.
The Rangitata is fed by the catchment of the upper Rangitata Basin, and from there a large amount of water cascades down through the Rangitata Gorge, producing a rip roaring ride, including sections that are grade 5 on the scale of difficulty. This is about the maximum level that a commercial operator can handle with safety... and safety is important for the exceptionally skilled and experienced operators from Rangitata Rafts.
This is a 3 hour trip that we would thoroughly recommend. The ride is incredible and the scenery spectacular.
The Rangitata Rafts Backpacker Lodge is in a spectacular high country setting and is an ideal base for also walking, biking or generally exploring the area.
Arthur’s Pass is in the heart of the Southern Alps and about 150kms inland from Christchurch (approximately 2hrs by car).
The Pass was used by Maori (mainly Ngai Tahu) to move pounamu (greenstone) from Arahura and Taramakau in Westland, to Canterbury.
Settlers explored the Canterbury side of the Alps first in the 1850’s in order to find open tussock land for sheep grazing. Then, looking for a quick route to the West Coast, Arthur Dudley Dobson surveyed Arthur’s Pass in 1864. This became very significant when miners discovered gold on the West Coast a few years later.
Arthur’s Pass is the gateway to the Arthur’s Pass National Park, which has an incredible diversity of flora and landscape. They range from eastern beech clad hills and tussock valleys to the luxuriant rain forests in the west. The highest mountains have glaciers, flowering herbs and alpine grasses.
Red deer and chamois live in the park (hunters can obtain a permit). Brown and Rainbow trout, as well as salmon, are found in the Waimakariri and Taramakau rivers.
There are a wide variety of skifields in the area including Porter Heights, Mt Hutt, Craigieburn, Cheeseman, Broken River and Temple Basin.