After you read through our previous post, that talks about activities you could undertake in Christchurch, you already know that the “New” Christchurch is a diverse city with heaps to do and see. That said, if you have more than few days in Christchurch then we recommend to go and explore the surrounding areas. As the city is positioned in the middle of South Islands east coast it makes Christchurch a perfect base for exploring the rest of South Island. Whether it’s a glass of wine in the French town of Akaroa, spotting baby seals or whales at the seaside town of Kaikōura or snowboarding down the magnificent Mt Hutt, there are heaps of amazing day trips from Christchurch that you could do.
As Christchurch use to be our home, for nearly a year, we familiarised ourselves with the city, but also the surrounding areas quite well. Nearly every weekend we tried to take a day trip and sometimes we would even squeeze in a weekend trip. So, you can believe us, when we say that there are some incredible adventures from Christchurch that you could take. Below is a summary of Estralians favorite day trips from Christchurch, New Zealand.
The closest getaway town you should visit is Lyttelton. It’s about 30-minute drive from Christchurch. This cute port town is accessible through a 1,970 m Lyttelton Tunnel as well as the recently reopened Sumner Rd. Lyttelton is a colorful town, packed with bohemian artists, cute cafés, quirky gift shops, little boutiques, weekly farmers market and restaurants.
Besides being cute and scenic, Lyttelton also has a long history. Christchurch’s first European settlers landed here back in 1850 before trekking over the Port Hills to establish their new home in Christchurch. PS! If you want to do some “Island Hoping” then you can catch a 15 min ferry ride to a nearby Quail Island right from the heart of Lyttelton Harbour. It’s a small island with many walking tracks, a nice beach and some great photo opportunities.
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Our favorite beach that we used to go on the weekends was Corsair Bay. It’s not like Sumner Beach and New Brighton Beach aren’t nice. It’s just that we love scenic drives and thus whenever we had time, we would always pick Corsair Bay. The water in the bay is also much warmer and calmer making swimming and some other water-sports like paddle-boarding or kayaking much more pleasant. Plus the drive down there from Christchurch is an adventure and a half on its own 😎.
If you want to check out this bay, then bear in mind that as it isn’t very big it could get quite busy during a nice summer day. If you arrive in the afternoon you might not even find a parking spot anymore 😀 That said, if you wait patiently then sooner or later someone will leave 😀 PS! There are also many other incredible bays and beaches to explore on that side of the Port Hills.
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Another great town with some beautiful bays, close to Christchurch is Diamond Harbour. This little gem has stunning views, great fishing, various walking paths as well as great mountain biking tracks to discover the area. There are also couple of coffee shops and gift shops at the main township, but we haven’t checked them all out yet.
Diamond Harbour is situated on the Banks Peninsula, in Canterbury and it’s across the inlet from Lyttelton Harbour. If you don’t have a car then Diamond Harbour is also accessible by ferry from Lyttelton Harbour.
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Further South from Diamond Harbour is the “French Town” of New Zealand – Akaroa. If you’ve already traveled all the way to Christchurch then be sure to add Akaroa to your, day trips from Christchurch, list.
Not only is Akaroa scenic and buzzing with vibrant coffee shops and restaurants but it’s also a great mecca for spotting wildlife. Taking a vessel out on the Akaroa Harbour will most likely guarantee to give you sightings of dolphins, penguins, seals or at least some seabirds 😀
If you have a little more time to spare then we also recommend to take a “road less” traveled and drive further out to the coast.
Last time we took the Lighthouse Rd and found an absolute paradise at the end of the road 😉
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If you are into camping, fishing and chilling in some more secluded beach, then east from the city of Ashburton, is a little reserve called Hakatere Reserve. We discovered this place by just wandering around and looking for something new to see during one of the weekends. As we approached the beach, we saw hundreds of birds that looked like penguins from the distance 😀
Closer look and research revealed that these birds are actually a vulnerable species called spotted shags. Later on, we also found out that the Hakatere river mouth lagoon is home to the world’s only large roosting colony of these birds.
So there you go, we went looking for something new and found it 😛
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One of the most scenic day trips from Christchurch is a visit to Rakaia Gorge. This turquoise colored gorge runs parallel to a magnificent mountain range. During winter these mountain tops are covered with snow, making this one of the most picture-perfect spot in Canterbury.
For us, Rakaia Gorge is a place where we always stop on our way to Mt Hutt. We go for a bit of a stroll along the gorge and on a sunny day enjoy a picnic at the rocky shore.
No matter the season, Mt Hutt is always a great day trip from Christchurch. Before you even get to the mountain you will be greeted with breathtaking views.
We have been up there in spring as well as winter and the scenery has always been stunning. This 2086 m high peak has fantastic views over Southern Alps to the West and Canterbury’s farmland and Pacific Ocean to the east.
Mt Hutt is also the closest ski field to Christchurch and it is voted New Zealand’s best ski resort 5 years in a row (2015-2019).
If you choose to head west from Christchurch, then we recommend visiting the Castle Hill as well as nearby Cave Stream. Castle Hill Conservation also known as Kura Tāwhiti is a spectacular area of limestone in the middle of nowhere.
The limestone rocks are called Castle Hill because they resemble old, ruined castles. It’s a place you can’t miss as if you drive on the State Hwy 73, then these huge rock formations will catch your eye 110%.
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Not far (6 km) from Kura Tāwhiti is Cave Stream Scenic Reserve. Within the reserve, there is a 594 m long cave that can be discovered by foot. As you can assume from the name, there is an actual stream running through this cave. So, if you plan on going through the cave then remember that you will be walking inside a dark cave with flowing stream and you will get wet.
We would recommend doing this activity during the warmer months as the stream is extremely cold. Also, make sure to carry a torch as it’s dark and the path is rocky and uneven. PS! Probably not for people with claustrophobia.
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An unforgettable journeys and picturesque views will wait you if you choose to make a day trip to Arthur’s Pass National Park.
The whole area is covered with beautiful blue rivers, amazing rainforest, snow-covered peaks, glaciers and steep mountain slopes. The road to Arthur’s Pass National Park will take you through spectacular viaducts, and bridges, redirected waterfalls and tunnels.
This national park is located in the middle of Canterbury and it’s a 2-hours’ drive from Christchurch. The 1,184.7 km2 area offers incredible hiking, mountaineering, skiing, mountain biking as well as fishing.
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The picturesque coastal town of Kaikōura is the perfect place for anyone who loves to see New Zealand marine life – whales, fur seals and dolphins live permanently in the coastal waters of Kaikōura.
It’s also one of the best places to go fishing as if you don’t catch anything then at least the scenery will fulfill your soul. But there are also a wide range of eateries in town, serving locally caught seafood 🙂
Ohau Point Look Out
Las but not least, if you keep driving further north from Kaikōura you will get to the famous seals “sanctuary”. Located on the ocean side of SH1, you can see hundreds of seals laying on the rocks. There are more than one lookout platform on the road to observe the seas so please keep your eyes on the road while driving these windy roads 😉
Before the 2016 earthquake you could also walk down to Ohau Stream Walkway where hundreds of baby seals where playing at the waterfall during the breeding season. Unfortunately this is now closed until further notice.
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Wander! The #wonders of #nature are #endless and to witness the #wonders you must #wander