Christchurch in 2-3 days
Christchurch city itself is probably only worth a couple of days before setting out and hitting the tourism sweet-spots of the Canterbury region and the rest of the South Island. If stretched for time – forget the city and head straight for Akaroa in Banks Peninsula, then wind your way down to Queenstown or Wanaka, or up towards Nelson and Golden Bay.
For those with time, Christchurch city has plenty to offer. Start your day with breakfast and coffee in C1 Espresso www.c1espresso.co.nz on High Street then make your way to Cathedral Square and hop on the tram which circumnavigates the city. Wander through Hagely Park and the Botanical Gardens then, weather permitting, take in a punt on the Avon River. If you’re after an afternoon sea breeze, head to Sumner beach and watch surfers catching waves – and if you’re brave enough – take a dip yourself.
Travel from the city centre to Lyttelton through the country’s longest road tunnel under the Port Hills. Once the domain of drunken Russian sailors and rough dock workers, the small port town has undergone a renaissance and is popular with the latte-sipping gallery goers who swarm the community every weekend. Enjoy a coffee and lunch from one of the cafes before rummaging through the second hand stores. Retire to one of the taverns and get chatting to an old sailor who will tell you tall stories as long as the rum keeps flowing.
It’s time to hire a car or camper van and hit the road. The South Island is essentially one giant travel loop and you can either go clockwise – or anti-clockwise. Some of the region’s best kept secrets are in Banks Peninsula – a long-extinct giant volcano just south of the city. While most people head straight for the French settlement of Akaroa, take time to deviate of the beaten path along the way and stop off for an ice cream in the cute wee villages such as Little River and Port Levy.
Christchurch in one week
Start with the 2-3 day itinerary.
If the snow is on then head for the hills. Mt Hutt ski-field is an hour’s drive from Christchurch at the foot of the mighty Southern Alps mountain range. If the snow isn’t your thing then a dolphin-spotting cruse in Akaroa harbour will keep you entertained.
It’s time to stretch those legs and take a walk. Traditionally a two or four-day coastal hike, the 35km Banks Peninsula Track www.bankstrack.co.nz stretches from Akaroa to Onuku, but sections of the track can be completed as a leisurely day-walk.
The coastal town of Kaikoura – 180km north of Christchurch must not be missed. With its mountain backdrop, the nutrient rich waters off the coast boat swarms of migrating whales stocking up on food as they travel between Antarctic waters and the tropics. Hop on one of the whale watching www.whalewatch.co.nz boats and catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures before devouring a crayfish – a local delicacy.
It’s mostly all about mountains in the South Island and today is when you check out the big one – Mt Cook. Named after the famous British explorer James Cook, New Zealand’s tallest peak stands at 3,574 meters, and is a truly breathtaking sight. Its Maori name, Aoraki, means “cloud piercer” and on the clear day its majestic peak can be seen for miles. Mt Cook is roughly 330km from Christchurch.