An Insider's Guide to Canterbury

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Canterbury is an excellent area to explore, with many hidden gems near Christchurch. An easy road trip will get you to destinations that have much to offer, whether that’s a relaxing weekend, or an adventurous day trip. These places are loved and explored by locals. Here are a few of our favourite locations.


Hanmer Springs

Hanmer Springs is a secluded alpine town among the hills and mountains, just an hour and a half drive north of Christchurch. It’s perfect if you want to give the city a break. Hammer’s most famous attraction is their hot springs: an ultimate full-body relaxation experience, the springs host rock pools, sulphur pools, massaging jets, and a day spa to treat yourself. If you have little ones tagging along on your trip, there are a range of hydro slides that will keep them entertained.


Adult Day Pass - $25

Child Day Pass - $12.5

If you’re more of an adventurer than relaxer, Hanmer Springs is geared up with some of the best biking and walking tracks in the country. It’s a fisherman’s paradise too– just make sure to check the fishing seasons before catching that trout!

You’re spoiled for choice with bars and restaurants, the town hosts almost every style of food you could want. Including cosy cafes for that big breakfast. We recommend getting a bite at the Powerhouse café!

The Hammer Springs campground has fantastic facilities. Hire a camper and park it up there for the evening, or if you're looking for something more spacious, the campground cabins are a great option. Hanmer Holiday homes are also available to rent if you want to visit with a large group. You can rent out an entire house for your stay.


Akaroa is a picturesque little town located just an hour drive from Christchurch on the Banks Peninsula. The views and atmosphere of the bay are unique to the Banks Peninsula area. Take a cruise on the harbour, play at the beach, or swim with the rare Hector's dolphins. The waters in the harbour are calm, and the tracks are well maintained for walking and biking. It’s the perfect place to spend time in the summer.

Akaroa is a town filled with a rich history. You will feel the the French influence from the early settlers of the region. There are small festivals, French cafes and sometimes even the buskers will have a French flair!

There are great eating and drinking spots for all budgets. Dine well at French-themed restaurants, or nearby wineries. If you’re on a budget, grab delicious fish and chips at one of the best chipperys in New Zealand- Akaroa Fish and Chips.

Akaroa is home to a fantastic campground. Staying there will give you the opportunity to meet fellow travellers. It is the perfect spot to park up the camper. If that won't suit, find some more privacy by renting out a home for your stay.


Lyttelton is just over the hill from Christchurch, a 20-30 minute drive away. You can reach it either through the Lyttelton road tunnel, or by driving over the Port Hills, and past Governors Bay. Despite it being so close to Christchurch, the vibe of the town is much different. It is artsy, and alternative. Perfect for a day trip out of Christchurch.

There are beautiful bays around Lyttelton, ideal for a swim in the summer. Get in your car and drive around the harbour, you’ll find some stunning spots with striking views. Corsair Bay is a popular spot, recommended by the locals.

If it's too chilly to spend the day at the beach, take the ferry across to Diamond Harbour and explore some of the well-loved walking tracks.

Lyttelton has some of the funkiest places to eat and drink in Canterbury. The Shroom Room is a quirky little vegetarian/vegan friendly café, and Wunderbar is one of Lyttelton’s favourite spots to have a boogie in the evening, usually hosting local talent.

The Banks Peninsula is open to freedom camping, so it’s the perfect stop on your camper roadie and spend some time exploring the bays!

Castle Hill

Castle Hill Village is a special area for local Cantabrians, particularly for those that are adventurous! It is a 1.5 hour drive out of Christchurch and into the alps. You would probably want to spend at least a couple of days here. In winter, Castle Hill is usually covered in a blanket of snow. It is a cosy little area to rent a cabin and spend a few days skiing at some of the local mountains. Porter Heights is the most popular mountain nearby. However, the area is home to other club fields that are off the beaten track, and loved by many Canterbury locals!

In the summer, it’s the perfect place to bring your hiking boots or mountain bike to explore. It’s close to the Craigieburn forest park and Castle Hill basin, areas with a spectacular and unique landscape. Castle Hill is home to impressive limestone rock formations unlike anywhere else in New Zealand. There are exceptional climbing and caving spots to take advantage of!


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