Canterbury is one of the largest regions and offers one of the most diverse of New Zealand's landscapes. Bounded by the Southern Alps to the west, and the Pacific to the east, the region of Canterbury is largely flat, arable farmland.
Canterbury was a planned settlement of the 1800's and has strong English influences. Christchurch is the main city and feels like old England. Canterbury's history is interesting, start by heading off to Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula and take in the colonial French charm that abounds in the streets, buildings and place names of this historic town.
Akaroa was where the French arrived just after the British with thoughts of claiming land on behalf of France. When they arrived and discovered the British already there decided to stay anyway.
The Banks Peninsula itself is of huge geological and historical significance to Canterbury, and New Zealand. Formed from Lyttelton and Akaroa volcanoes, Banks Peninsula was named after the principal scientist on Captain Cook's voyages from 1769 onwards. Included on the peninsula is Lyttelton, the historic port that serves Christchurch. Drive via the Lyttelton tunnel under the Port Hills from Christchurch, and arrive in Lyttelton. Here you can look to the sheltering hills and witness the historic marine Timeball Station, one of only seven working examples left in the world.
Canterbury is an extremely large province, stretching from Kaikoura in the north, Timaru to the south and bordered by the Southern Alps to the west. Travel northwards along the rural hills to Kaikoura, which offers unique opportunities in eco-tourism. It is internationally renowned for its whale watching operations. Take a jet boat out into the ocean and wait to take a look at one of the wonders of the sea, the huge sperm whales that surface, leap and plunge into the sea. Tourists can also take the chance to swim with the dolphins that live in the area. The Kaikoura coast highway offers a chance to watch seals lazing on the rocks as petrels and mollyhawks dive for ocean fish.
Inland lies the resort of Hanmer Springs. This is where you treat yourself in the famous thermal pools, a relaxing soak in the therapeutic waters. Hanmer Springs offers all the facilities a tourist requires, restaurants, camping facilities and motels. For those needing the thrill-seeking pastimes go bungy-jumping, ride in a jetboat or walk the forest tramps.
Only 90 minutes from Christchurch lay Mount Hutt ski field in the Southern Alps. This particular ski resort has an international reputation and has hosted world champion grand prix ski meets. Methven is where you find ample accommodation, pubs and restaurants to keep you warm and entertained when you are not skiing. This town comes alive in the ski season. Another 11 fields serve Canterbury so you will find plenty of interesting places to ski and snowboard. The Southern Alps offer an abundance of outdoor sporting adventure ranging from adventure trekking along ridges to mountain climbing in the summer months.
Make your way across the Canterbury Plains by road or rail and ascend the mountains to Arthur's Pass. From here you can access the relaxed and interesting West Coast or stop off to hike, hunt or fish in the Southern Alps.
On the Canterbury Plains, lies the town of Ashburton. This town supplies the surrounding district, which is made up largely of pastoral land, and has the reputation as being the breadbasket of New Zealand. Tourists can relax in the country pace on the ground, or view the harvest from a hot air balloon. Adventure activities are available as well, and the Ashburton District is known for jetboating along the shallow and windy rivers and tributaries that carve through the Plains. If fishing is your thing put on your waterproof trousers, grab a rod and take to these rivers in search of the beautiful salmon.
Canterbury, New Zealand
Travel south of Ashburton still along the flat Canterbury Plains lays the South Canterbury city of Timaru. Supporting a busy port, Timaru is another gateway to the Southern Alps. Opportunities such as heli-skiing and mountain climbing exist around the Timara region. Timaru is close to New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki or Mount Cook, which dominates the McKenzie Country region. Travel inland through Geraldine, and enjoy the fantastic hospitality of the High Country people, the tussock highlands of Canterbury and the scenic beauty of the region.
Canterbury does have it all, and if you need a round of golf on a great new golf course with some great food after your game, travel to Terrace Downs High Country Resort around 60 minutes drive east of Christchurch.
Average Summer temperature; 20c
Warmest months; December to March
Average Winter temperature; 11c
Average Hours of sunshine per year; 1960hrs
Average annual rainfall; 700mm
Popular Canterbury activities:
Whale watching in Kaikoura
White water rafting on the Rangitata River or Jet boating the Waimakariri River
Visit Hanmer Springs for mountain biking walking in the forest and soaking in the hot pools
Travel around the Wineries of the Waipara Valley
Ski Mt Hutt.
Visit Geraldine's car museum
Take a trip to Timaru
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