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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.

Canterbury Map

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Canterbury's climate:

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

Key Features

Mt Cook/Aoraki


Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
This park is a land of ice and rock. Glaciers cover 40% of its area and there are 19 peaks over 3,000 metres, including New Zealand's highest mountain Aoraki Mount Cook. Mount Cook Village is a base for climbers and hikers.

Kaikoura Whale Watching


Alpine Pacific Triangle Touring Route
The Alpine Pacific Triangle takes you to the gourmet area of Waipara, spa delights of Hanmer Springs and marine mammals of Kaikoura. Between destinations, enjoy the beautiful country scenery.

Akaroa Sunset


Akaroa and Banks Peninsula
Banks Peninsula and Akaroa Harbour were formed by volcanic eruptions, many thousands of years ago. Originally a French settlement, the historic town of Akaroa is a place to enjoy fine cuisine and wildlife cruises.

Key Tips

  • Christchurch international airport receives flights from Australia, Asia, the UK and the USA, providing a convenient gateway to South Island destinations.
  • Comfortable driving distances let you pack more into your holiday. In Canterbury it's possible to go surfing and skiing on the same day!
  • Mount Hutt is usually the first New Zealand ski field to open and the last to close. Snowmakers keep the slopes in top shape.
  • The city of Timaru has a domestic airport. Flights arrive daily from Wellington.





Population: 481,400
Area: 42,200km2

Reviews / Comments for Canterbury

Rating Averages


Akaroa, what a beautiful spot!! A glorious harbour sculpted by a volcano. Boats bobbing in the water and a little light house perched on the side.

We stayed at Maison de La Mer. Really a perfect B & B. White clapboard with a verandah overlooking the harbour. Vases filled with flowers, artwork everywhere and extremely thoughtful hosts. They made reservations that night for themselves and the three other couples staying there and we had a ball. It was a tiny, quirky little French restaurant Cest La Vie that turned out to be very good.
We did the dolphin cruise, wandered up to Linton to see the artist's unique garden and just relaxed. It was a great little town for walking. I wish we had had another day here

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If you have time, take a day trip to Kaikoura from Christchurch, I think its a good idea. You can go whale watching or swimming with dolphins while you are there.

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Kaikoura, drove north of Christchurch and had lunch at Pegasus Bay Vineyard to Kaikoura. Stayed at Miharotia House which is on the ridge above Kaikoura next to the scenic overlook and WHAT A VIEW. We had our own small terrace where we enjoyed a bottle of wine, Had dinner at the White Morph ( a little past it's prime)
Got up early for the whale watch which was very interesting. Lots of racing around and waiting for the whales to surface. We actually saw three whales and learned lots about them.
Shopped downtown and had lunch at Hislops Cafe. Great little brunch/lunch menu. Drove north along the coast to Blenheim. Saw several Crayfish shacks or vans along the way. Wish I had known to hold out for this.

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