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Canterbury is a region on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island that offers spectacular mountains, huge grassy plains, vineyards and one of the country’s most vibrant cities. It is a fantastic place for a holiday with a variety of different places to explore and activities to try, especially if you want to discover the region’s gorgeous natural assets!
One of the best ways to explore the region is with the local experts over at Canterbury Trails who know it best. With small groups and private tours, this tour company will ensure that your experience is personalised and intimate. All of the experiences below can be arranged through Canterbury Trails and will ensure you have a visit to remember in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful regions.
Akaroa is a quaint harbour town sat in the crater of an ancient volcano in a sheltered bay on Canterbury’s beautiful coastline. The town was the only French settlement in New Zealand and still has a unique French charm with many French place names still in place. It is a wonderful place to wander around and take in the natural beauty of the harbour and you can explore its history in the free Akaroa Museum.
Make sure to take a nature cruise in the harbour during your visit for a chance to see the Hector dolphins and the little, blue Pohatu penguins. From the sea you can also enjoy great views along the stunning Banks Peninsula with its volcanic landscape of coves and cliffs.
Christchurch is the capital of Canterbury and New Zealand’s oldest city, officially established in 1856. Despite the devastating earthquake that struck the city in 2010, Christchurch is a fascinating place to visit with unique urban regeneration projects and interesting heritage to explore.
The regenerated city centre is a bustling metropolis with exciting hospitality offerings, street art and strikingly new architecture alongside some of the country’s oldest buildings. One of the city’s top sights is its Botanical Gardens sitting on a pretty spot alongside the Avon River. It is home to a variety of native and exotic species and is a great place to relax!
Head to Kaikoura where the mighty mountains meet the sea and spot whales, dolphins, seals and a host of other wildlife! New Zealand is a favoured spot on the migratory route for many marine and bird species and at Kaikoura you have a high chance of spotting some of them. It is possible to see Blue, Fin, Sei, Humpback, Minke, Pilot, Orca and Southern Right Whales, Common Dolphins, Bottlenose Dolphins, Southern Right Whale Dolphins, Elephant Seals and Leopard Seals at Kaikoura. Whale Watch cruises even offer you a 95% chance of spotting 1 to 2 Sperm whales and will even guarantee you an 80% refund if you do not spot any.
The cruises take place on a catamaran to keep noise to a minimum and there are open deck areas for you to view the whales and take pictures. During the trip there is a film shown called ‘World of Whales’ which explores the underwater world of the whales in Kaikoura’s undersea canyon.
The Waipara wine region is well known for its excellent Pinot Noir and Riesling and is becoming a popular region for wine tours. It has the longest hang time in the country, meaning the grapes stay on the vines longer allowing for a more complex aromatic flavour. You can try some of these varieties with a tour at one of the region’s 80 vineyards. Most of these are family run and offer a more personal experience with smaller group sizes.
Waipara is located about an hour from Christchurch between the Teviotdale Hills to the east and the Southern Alps to the west. This is an ideal location for growing vines as it is sheltered from the worst of the rain and cold. This allows the long hang time with the harvest usually beginning in April and for some varieties it ends as late as June. If you are a fan of wine, this is a region you do not want to miss!
Arthur’s Pass is a historical Maori hunting pass between east and west in the Southern Alps. The region is now a national park offering spectacular mountain landscapes, ancient forests and unique river systems. It is an amazing place to go for a hike with stunning mountain vistas guaranteed! You can choose from some wonderfully named short walks such as the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls and the Bridal Veil Track or longer full day walks such as the Cons Track, Avalanche Peak, Mount Aicken and Mount Bealey.
The national park has very distinct regions with wide rivers and huge beech forests on the east side and deep gorge rivers and dense rainforest on the west side. The mountains in the middle are more than 2000 metres high, snow-capped and with glaciers. One of the best ways to explore the park is with an experienced guide who can show you the hidden treasures it has to offer! The road up to the pass is itself worth seeing for the unbelievable civil engineering that made it possible to traverse. You can also take the TranzAlpine Train to the pass from Christchurch, which takes around 2 hours.
So, there you have it, 5 unforgettable things to do in Canterbury that will ensure you make the most of your time in the region. Don’t forget that all of these experiences can be enjoyed with the wonderful people at Canterbury Trails! They are local experts and will ensure that your experience is memorable, enjoyable and stress-free.Back to overview
We are Jacob and Taylor. Travel is our passion and we love sharing our experiences here at The Travelling Souk. Our hope is that you would be inspired by this little blog to try something new, embrace an adventure, and live life to the fullest.