CHRISTCHURCH - The City of Gardens
Hagley Botanical Gardens - centre of Ch'Church near main shopping areas
Gethsemane Biblical Garden - south of Ch'Church, on road to Sumner Beach , atop Redcliffs suburb
(overlooks ocean and city)
Riccarton Bush - original native bush, in centre of Ch'Church, café/restaurant located here
Mona Vale - fernery greenhouse, roses and specialty plants, café/restaurant located here
Travis Wetlands - north area of Ch'Church, original wetlands, native birds and plants
Estuary - Near New Brighton Beach, native birds and plants
Sumner Beach and Cave Rock - south of Ch'Church- great beach, surfing, volleyball
Kiwi Retreat - on top of Porthills (south of Ch'Church towards Lyttleton) with many hiking trails
starting here- hiking map available
Porthills Walk - starting at Lyttleton, up over Porthills and down to bottom of gondola lift
New Brighton Beach - on ocean, great kayaking, surfing, pier walks, library, paragliding, shopping
and rides (Elastic Shoot), biking and stone sculptures.
Taylor's Mistake Bay - south of Ch'Church, even better surfing and great bluff walk along Godley
Map of Biking Paths of Christchurch available
University of Canterbury- built 1860's, new University 2 kms. west of this one- now has an
excellent Arts Centre and Art Gallery, with working artisans on view all day (weaving and wool
activities, glass blowing, hand-made papers, jewellery, woodcarving, painting, tapestries,
ceramics, etc.)- 2 café/restaurants located here and Great Hall has weekly music concerts
Art Gallery Saturday Market Place- as above but including great multi-ethnic food court and
dozens of local artisans set up outside the Galleries. Busker festival as well as Fudge Shop,
other indoor shops.
Court Theatre located here also.
Christchurch Cathedral and Square- beautiful church, buskers, giant chess game, speakers' corner,
Gondola up Porthills- excellent restaurant and Time Tunnel Interpretative activity which outlines
the volcanic activity which built this area, both located in summit viewing area
Antarctic Centre- excellent activity illustrating life at the Scott Base in the Antarctic as
well as previous explorations. (has 3 packages offered-basic as well as 2 others offering
rides on snow machines) Ironically, a winter storm experience is one of the activities!
Wind and minus 15 C for 5 minutes! Good reminder for us “snowbirds”!
Ferrymead Historical Park- Ch'Church in the 1880's, with historical buildings in a village
setting. Has huge buildings with antique cars, antique firefighting equipment, airplanes,
railway/tram repair shop, radio station and memorabilia
Theatres- Outdoors Summer Theatre (near Hagley Park), Court Theatre (Arts Centre) including
Improv. Theatre , Top Dog Theatre in Mona Vale Park
Maori Magic Evening- traditional song and dance including the Haka warrior dance and with dinner
afterwards with the performers
NZ Movies to rent- “Whale Rider”, “Once Were Warriors”, “Scarfies”, “World's Fastest Indian”
Sports- Rugby (of course!) at the Christchurch Stadium
Motorcycle races at the Ruepana Raceway (west of Ch'Church on #73 highway)
SOUTH ISLAND HIGHLIGHTS
A full day or two should be spent here, just 2 hours south of Ch'Church.
On the way, stop at Birdlings Flat beach and Little River Art Gallery…great food here, also!
This is probably one of the most spectacular and beautiful areas that we saw…driving the rim
of an ancient volcanic crater, exploring the South Pacific coastal towns of Okains Bay, Little
Akaloa Bay and LeBons Bay on the exterior of the crater. Akaroa, the French-colony settled
150 years ago is on the inside of the crater and is worth an overnight. Can go out to see
dolphins and whales from the port here. On the way back, stop in Lyttleton Harbor, where
every immigrant to Christchurch passed through. Now is a major port to the world, especially,
coal to Japan.
Coastal Hwy. #1 South from Christchurch- Beautiful towns of Timaru and Oamaru are worth a stop,
great bakeries with delectable meat pies and pastries.
DUNEDIN and OTAGO PENINSULA
City has a very Scottish background with castles and lovely gardens. The 40 km. drive along
Otago Peninsula is narrow, winding and beautiful…half-day stop at Larnach Castle is well
worth it, with great tours of the castle and gardens and excellent views out Otago Bay to the
At the tip of Otago Peninsula are 3 colonies- Albatross ($$), Fur Seals (free) and Penguins
(free). Guided albatross tour is very expensive and no guarantee of seeing an albatross from
the bird blind. Free inside tour at information centre is very informative, with movies and
displays. Bring a picnic or buy at the café.
Southlands Drive towards Fiordlands National Park- We didn't head south to Invarcargill and
Stewart island (next time!).
Head to Te Anau, gateway village to Milford Sound which is 120 kms away.
Lodging bookings are ESSENTIAL, we camped at a Holiday Park just west out of town as there
was nothing available for 2 days aside from camp sites. Get a VERY early start to drive the
breath-taking Hwy.#94, 120 kms. long and packed full of beautiful and stunning scenery and
experiences galore. We drove straight through to beat the crowds and then took our time coming
back, enjoying the activities. Many hiking trails ( 2 kms. to 59 kms. long) go off this
highway as well as many DOC (Dept. of Conservation www.doc.govt.nz ) campsites. Bring a
picnic lunch and make sure you HAVE A FULL TANK OF GAS. Food is $$$ and there are no public
gas stations. There is a hostel in Milford Sound, once again limited numbers and $$$$.
In Milford Sound for $125. plus, you can take a small boat cruise ( Underwater Observatory
and/or Nature Cruise optional), fly over the Sound (small plane or helicopter) , kayak, take
an overnight cruise (cabins or bunk-style) , etc. The most expensive activity in NZ is probably
here….for $120. you can take a 10 minute helicopter ride around Mitre Peak….that's $12.
a minute!!!! Also you could fly round-trip from Queenstown for a hefty price. There are
all sorts of combinations available: bus coach/cruise/bus coach back to Te Anau :
fly/cruise/fly: fly-out options.
Web Site: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: Te Anau Lakefront: 0800 65 65 01 (freephone)
While in the area, it would be worth exploring another part of Fiordland National Park,
Doubtful Sound, with the gateway village of Manapouri. Need to take a boat across Lake
Manapouri for the trailhead which takes you into this World Heritage area. .
This is a hike that is almost out of this world! Everything about it is
in superlatives…scenery, expense, logistics. www.doc.govt.nz with links to “Explore”,
“National Parks”, etc.
Bare facts are: 6 month-wait for a spot in the quota system of 40 hikers a day is strictly
enforced as you need to book a 30 km. boat ride from the Milford Road at Te Anau Downs
across and up to the end of Lake Te Anau at Glade House. There is no other way to get to
the trailhead of Milford Track! The Track is one-way, takes 3 days staying at 2 huts at
5000 feet, can be very costly (assisted could be as high as $1600.!!...by assisted they
carry your stuff and provide breakie and dinner) and there is no camping along the trail.
You need a boat ride at the other end to take you to the village of Milford Sound and then
a bus ride back to Te Anau. If you have an accident they will airlift you out, however!
One last suggestion: as close to 10 feet of rain falls here a year and 2 out of 3 days are
socked in wet and misty, next time we would make sure we allocate at least 3 days here to
catch the one sunny day. On the leeward (east) side of the Alps, it was sunny/cloudy and
then west of the Alps very low fog and clouds with intermittent pouring rain.
Other Tracks (hiking trails) are available such as the Routebourne and Greenstone, which
head towards the Queenstown area, small town of Glenorchy.
Drive up to Queenstown (Hwy. #94 and #6) is gorgeous and dramatic. Follow
the shore of Lake Wakatipu and marvel at the Remarkables Mountain Range, one of many ranges
lining this boomerang-shaped lake. Queenstown is a hopping, touristy, great (high-quality
…read $$$, as well as more moderate) shopping, fun-filled adventure town…..every extreme-type
sport can be found here…. Tandem paragliding, heligliding, jet-boating, bungee jumping,
horseback riding, white-water rafting, and hiking.
A tour of a sheep station is GREAT value for your dollar …~ $55./person for a half-day at
Walter Peak Sheep Station after taking the TSS Earnslaw cruise across Lake Wakatipu
(www.realjourneys.co.nz ), tours of several wineries, Lord of the Rings tours, fly-fishing,
great skiing in winter…they've got it ALL!! We drove up to the ski area of the Remarkables…a
thrill in itself….13.5 kms of narrow, winding, switchbacked, hairpinned gravel roads literally
hanging on the edge of the steep mountain…I chickened out one km. from the top and got some
exercise walking part-way down while R. continued to the top! For me, truly nerve-racking!!!
ARROWTOWN/CARDRONA RANGE/ WANAKA
Another stunning drive on the edge of mountains, plunging
into valleys and past lakes. Arrowtown is a former gold mine town which panned out more gold
than the Klondike at one point. One of the best museums in NZ here with displays, videos,
tour guides, tableaux. The town itself has original houses, activity areas and great shopping.
Stop at Cardrona Hotel for a trip into the past as well as a beautiful café in back of the
hotel-pub. The town of Wanaka is the gateway to Mt Aspiring National Park, full of great hikes
and views with Lake Wanaka at its base. Get FOOD and water here on your way to Mt Cook which
has very limited facilities (no grocery store nor public water fountains). It is close to 120
kms. into Mt Cook from this shopping area.
MT COOK NATIONAL PARK
White Horse DOC campsite is the best deal in NZ- you sleep at the
base of the Mt Cook mountain range for $5./person a night!! We would stay longer next time
FOR SURE but did not have a third day of food and water for our camping experience. We
observed many people with their camp stoves, water filters, etc. including people who had
biked into the park. No open fires are allowed.
From this campground follow the easy/moderate 5 km. long Hooker Valley Track to the glacier
lake at the base of Mt Cook. Scenery is gorgeous (again!) with 2 swing-bridges, one toilet
facility on the way and wonderful opportunities to sit by the glacier stream or lake with
Many more challenging hikes are available with hut shelters along the way. See Web site
below for details. We saw groups of people with their guides preparing for overnight hikes
into shelters (pay as you go)
Nearby Tasman Valley is another day of exploring, with several hikes in the area there as
well as kayaking opportunities. You can kayak in the glacier lakes near Mt Cook as well.
Helicopter rides are available from the Mt Cook airport half-way back to Twizel village.
Beware! Heavy snow had fallen the week before (always an avalanche danger in higher areas)
and the day we left (March 8 which is like early-September weather here) 3 climbers including
an experienced guide had died close to the Mt Cook peak, in an early season snow storm .
There was several days delay getting up to their bodies as the storm raged! In fact at that
same time 2 other tourists had died in the Milford Sound area….one drowned in a raging stream
from heavy rainfalls (4000 mm. of rain …that's 10 feet!! fall on the West coast a year!) and
one died high on the Milford track even after being “helicoptered” out. Sadly, tourists die
in these extreme sports at a depressingly regular rate and are dutifully reported in the local
papers which the tourists rarely read!!
Locals seem to know how to preserve themselves in these extreme sports but have a bad habit
of driving these winding roads at breakneck speed so BEWARE when driving in NZ!
On a happier note, Mt Cook National Park has hotel and restaurant facilities but due to the
remote area, they are all $$$$. Using 011 to access NZ, then contact numbers are:
Hermitage Hotel: (03) 435-1809
Hostelling- (03) 435-1820
Alpine Guides (03) 435-1834
Visitor Centre- (03) 435-1186 Weather (03) 435-1171
Old Mountaineer Café and Bar- (03) 435-1890
Web site: www.doc.govt.nz
Links “Explore”, “National Parks”, “Mt Cook/Aoraki”
If we did this journey again, at this point we would have backtracked and headed through
Haast Pass on Hwy. #6 to the West Coast…alas, not this time but next time, for sure!!
What we did was this…!!
WEST COAST JOURNEY
We rented a car in Christchurch (Rent a Dent @ $60/day (03) 365-2509,
then switched to Christchurch Car Rental @ $50/day using our Visa insurance to reduce the rate).
We drove through Arthur's Pass, then up and down the West Coast on Hwy. #6, seeing the sights.
We missed the Haast Pass which is spectacular, apparently. After our adventures, we dropped
off our rented car in Greymouth on the West Coast and took the TranzAlpine train back to
Christchurch, a thrilling ride and quite different scenery from the car ride.
Hwy. 73 has spectacular and ever-changing scenes, starting over the
Canterbury Plains, into the foothills and then through passes and range after mountain
range to the West coast. There are numerous hiking trails, scenic overlooks especially
Otira Gorge and photo ops along the way. We did quite a few in Arthur's Pass itself,
including Devil's Punchbowl Waterfalls hike, Dobson hiking trail and then Kura Tawhiti
Conservation area. Again all hikes are listed on www.doc.govt.nz
We stayed in Hokitika and explored…great walking beach on the Tasman Sea
with wonderful driftwood sculptures. Warning! This ocean is dangerous…the surf and
undertow are vicious and many locals and tourists are dragged out to sea. The coast drops
off dramatically here quite unlike the East coast which is more of a shelf. Exercise extreme
Great restaurant here, “Trappers” where we had ostrich and could have had kangaroo or boar
as well…of course, great beer-on-tap with Speight's, Canterbury Brewery and Monteiths
topping the list throughout NZ.
FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER and FOX GLACIER
2 spectacular glaciers less than an hour apart,
originating from the Mt Cook and Mt Tasman ice fields. Hiking in to these glaciers costs
NOTHING, park and hike bringing your picnic, etc. taking a half –day for either.
You can charter airplanes and helicopters for varying lengths of rides, $$$, walk on
the glaciers or climb the 400 foot ice face in a group with guides.
West Coast is loaded with many activities but north of Grey mouth there‘s not a huge
number of acomodations- Punakaiki and the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes (needs to be seen
at high tide for this), Cape Foulwind and the Fur Seal Colony on your way to Westport
(great crafts) , Karamea which is the end of Hwy.6 and the start of the Healey Track
hike which heads over to Abel Tasman National Park. A great return to Greymouth is to
head inland and take the Lower Buller Gorge road and down to Reefton, a hang-on-the-edge
road winding along the Buller gorge. Greymouth's pretty industrial but this is where the
TranzAlpine Train starts its journey.
We would say this is a MUST. Quite different scenery from the road trip,
this is a 4-hour trip between Christchurch and Greymouth with thrilling vistas over 300 meter
deep gorges (14 tunnels and viaducts in all), book ahead as it is packed during tourist season.
A highlight is the 9 km. long Otira Tunnel from Arthur's Pass Village…train compartments
are “sealed” during this time to prevent fumes from the locomotive from coming in! There
is also the TransCoastal which heads up the east coast to Nelson from Christchurch.
This trip we went up to Kaikoura and Hanmer Springs Thermal Resort…next trip
we'll do Marlborough Sounds, Nelson and Abel Tasman Park on our way to the North Island!
The Hwy. # 1 drive is, again, gorgeous, and you should include side trips to the
coast along the way. Near Cheviot, we went out to Cathedral Cliffs, then to a wind-swept
beach at Gore Bay with great surf and many surfers. Quite a show! Hwy. #1 heading into
Kaikoura is spectacular, hanging on to the edge of the mountains. The town of Kaikoura
seems to be undergoing a big face-lift as tourists stream in. Aside from that, the Visitor's
Centre is chock full of information (natch!) and you can book here for Swim with Dolphin Tours,
Whale Watching, Helicopter and Plane Rides, etc. Every activity was about $125., per
outing/per person. Lots of hiking trails here...at low tide, we chose the Cliff-Top Walk
at the tip of the Kaikoura Peninsula, an ancient volcano like the Banks Peninsula.
We saw a large seal colony basking in the sun, a paraglider soaring above us and nature
groups with a guide exploring the lava-formed cliff and shore line. Surf here is heavy
and tide changes are posted so be cautious! We stayed at another Holiday Park after
seeing many “No Vacancy” signs…a BUSY town. Lots of good shopping, take-away fish ‘n'
chips and picnic areas along the beaches. On our way back to Christchurch, we did a tour
of the Kaikoura Winery, very informative and offering 5 samplings of their different
wines…all before noon!!!
HANMER SPRINGS THERMAL RESORT
We took Hwy. #7, through parched foothills and many fire
warnings. Big disappointment here as we found out that ALL hiking trails were closed
because of the extreme fire danger….check ahead if a drought is ongoing… drought is
common on the East Coast, as they irrigate from the big aquifer below Canterbury Plains.
Anyways, our main purpose was to enjoy the thermal springs resort and we had booked
different packages for my sister, niece and myself, with R. lounging about the pools all
day with snacks from the café. Great fun, enjoying body wraps, facials and massages,
going in and out of a dozen or so pools including the “sulphur” one (downwind!) and
steam rooms. We rented a 3-bedroom house for the trip which was great for the 4 of us,
enjoying magnificent views from the balcony overlooking Hanmer Springs and the mountains,
sipping our wine and snacking!
A GREAT TRIP AND WE CAN'T WAIT TO HEAD BACK THERE!!