New Zealand South Island
The fertile plains and soaring peaks of the Canterbury region undulates from the ocean, like a hand gently resting with palm upturned. The highly productive farmlands, fringed by Christchurch and the silvery beaches of the east coast can lull you into believing you are in a gentle land. Then you look up and see the jagged Southern Alps filling the western horizon and know you’re in for some exciting adventures as well.
Steep drops, an abundance of water (or snow!) and the scenic landscapes for which New Zealand is justifiably famous… you’ll never be able to do all the things just the Ashburton region offers in one week. Careen through white-water rapids, bungy jump, sky dive, heli ski or climb the limestone outcrops of Flock Hill, which was made famous by the epic battle in Narnia, the movie.
If you’d rather walk than climb, hike up to the peak from Porter’s Pass for good views of the southern end of the Torlesse Range. Mind you, even if you’re just driving, you will have views just about everywhere you go.
Snow-covered peaks across a purple haze of lupins around Methven.
The intensely turquoise water and white-sand beach of Rakaia Gorge across the russet grass and emerald greens of the superb Terrace Downs golf course (one of 6 in the area). From high on Mount Hutt or aloft in a balloon, the farmland’s browns and greens are stitched together with watercourses, marching lines of trees and meandering roads. On a clear day, you’ll see New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook.
Mount Hutt’s snowfields are much more enticing, being just around the corner. What’s more, it has both the longest snow season in the Southern Hemisphere and the most reliable snow. Whether you’re a beginner, an expert or somewhere in between, you’ll find a basin, ridge or chute to ski or snowboard, including many powder days. For real variety-junkies, try Craigieburn to the north or the Tekapo Basin to the south. Or go further afield to four other ski areas blanketing over 1,000 square kilometres of the best heli-skiing terrain in the country.
In the summer, you’ll also be spoilt for choice. Rakaia Gorge is an arm-stretch away and many a person has forgotten the passage of time as they fished for salmon, swam, boated, jet-skied, windsurfed or simply sat and gazed. Then there are the walks and hikes… Whether you choose the easy walk to the moss-covered rocks of Sharplin Falls or to drive to Arthur’s Pass (or another of the wonderful National Parks nearby) you’ll find some truly superb trails
The Mt Somers and High Country region is one of the top ecotourism locations in Canterbury. You’ll find waterfalls, trout, salmon and rare or endangered birds in the lakes, mountain streams, braided rivers and rainforest; heritage (a vintage car museum, Railway and Historical Village, Woodworking Trust and an aviation museum), craft markets, art galleries and farm tours around Ashburton; lovely country towns, rolling green hills, lush pasture and more rivers around Timaru.
Then there are the places to go mountain biking; a plethora of picnic spots with views, views, views; gardens that blaze with colour and beauty; and lakes. So many lakes. Lake Hood’s seven kilometres of shoreline, water-ski Tournament Park, international-class rowing course and restaurant make it a popular recreational area. Lake Camp is another favourite for all sorts of water fun. The Maori Lakes and Lake Heron are also important wildlife refuges.
Flock Hill isn’t the only place that has featured on the big screen. Mt Potts Station is where the fortress city of the Rohan people, Edoras, was created for The Lord of the Rings. Movie buff or not, this is a spectacular area that makes a great daytrip or guided tour.
Let’s not forget Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city. Although much of its classic neo-gothic architecture was destroyed by the earthquake in February 2011, it is still a beautiful city. Consider spending a day or two there, enjoying excellent meals, cycling the meandering river track, going to the beach or enjoying some of its many wonderful gardens. There’s a good reason it’s called ‘the Garden City’, after all!
On your way back to the airport, swing a bit further north to pick up some great NZ wine around Waipara. Its specialities – unique richer, spicier pinot noirs and rieslings – have been called “the unsung hero” of New Zealand’s wines. Not to your taste, you’ll also get decent Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Whether picking up some fine wine is how you end your time in mid-Canterbury or not, there’s one thing you will almost definitely do. Tell stories of your holiday there for years to come.
Contact us to book: 1300 78 5599 (AUST) | 0800 55 4433 (NZ)