Daydreaming to Day Tripping: 5 Must-Do Day Trips from Christchurch

Adventure through glorious scenery, relax in natural hot springs and soak in the wonders of the beautiful Canterbury region.

Not only is Christchurch a city filled to the brim with sophisticated urban and cultural experiences, it’s also an excellent place to base yourself as you explore some of the most spectacular and dramatic scenery the South Island has to offer. Leave the city behind and immerse yourself in the wonders of the Canterbury region with our 5 top day tripping adventures.

Akaroa

Located on Banks Peninsula and just 75 kilometres from the Christchurch CBD, Akaroa and its surrounding bays provide an abundant range of sights and activities for visitors and locals alike. Akaroa’s arresting natural beauty is attributable to its ancient volcanic past and provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor experiences like jetboating through the harbour, exploring Cathedral Cave, swimming with Hector’s dolphins (the world’s smallest and rarest marine dolphin found only in this region) or enjoying one of the many walks along and up the Peninsula ridges. Follow your adventuring with an easy stroll around the Akaroa Lighthouse or visit the Akaora Museum or the Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum to learn about the town’s historical significance as one of New Zealand’s earliest European landings and its first French settlement.  Indulge your inner foodie in one of Akaroa’s many quality dining establishments with local restaurateurs making the most of their seaside location, an abundance of fresh local produce and the town’s French influences.

Hanmer Springs

No visit to Christchurch is complete without a trip to the thermal pools of Hanmer Springs.  Located at the bottom of the Southern Alps and an easy 90 minute drive from the city, this stunning mountain village offers something for the whole family. Hydro slides, wet play areas and the beautiful beach-style swimming pool are guaranteed to keep kids occupied while adults enjoy thermal pools of varying temperatures or indulge in the services of the onsite resort day spa. After experiencing the pools, take in the dramatic surrounding landscapes with a walk up Conical Hill or try your hand at a round of mini-golf at one of the two options in town. For those seeking something more adventurous, there’s scenic flights, bungee jumping or jetboating down the Waiau River to keep the adrenalin pumping. Finally, wind down at the end of the day with a coffee and a stroll through the village main street.

Waipara Valley

Wine lovers will rejoice in the knowledge that the award-winning wineries of the Waipara Valley region are, but a stone’s throw away from Christchurch. Less than an hour drive from the city and boasting a superb range of vineyards and cellar doors, the region is known for its rich Pinot Noirs and Rieslings, quality local produce and spectacular scenery. Leisurely make your way north from Christchurch and arrive in time for a beautiful scenic walk on the Mt Cass Walkway or Tiromoana Bush Walk before you get down to business and begin your winery touring. While certainly too many to reach in a single day, the reasonably central location of the Valley’s vineyards makes getting around easy, ensuring your day will be jam packed with tastings if you so desire. Be sure to make a stop at Pegasus Bay for a full wining and dining experience; the winery has been voted New Zealand’s best for 8 out of the past 11 years. 

Methven and Rakai Gorge

Venture west of Christchurch to experience the small but beautiful town of Methven in the mid-Canterbury region. Less than a 100km from Christchurch, Methven is known for being a snow sports town in winter, including at the renown Mt Hutt ski area, while plenty of outdoor activities await you in the warmer months. Experience the stunning Rakai Gorge by jetboat and be enthralled as you weave through the braided river channels and tight, sheer cliff gorges of the Rakai River.  Combine your boating adventure with a scenic helicopter ride to experience its beauty from all perspectives. Parts of the Gorge can also be enjoyed on foot with a 3-4 hour trip along the Rakai Gorge Walkway, while the Methven Walkway provides the opportunity to explore the area surrounding the town itself. End your day with a visit to the Methven Art Gallery before stopping to refuel at one of the several cafes or restaurants in town, with menus making the most of Methven’s locally grown and sourced fresh produce.

Sumner Beach and Taylor’s Mistake

If its sun, sea and sand you’re after, make the short, 20-minute drive north towards the coastal town of Sumner, located in a valley of the volcanic Banks Peninsula. Relax in the sun and paddle in the shallow waters of the town’s main beach. Adventure into Cave Rock or ‘Tuawera’ and scramble through volcanic formations, which according to  Maori account, represents the poisoned carcass of a whale washed ashore by ‘makutu’ or witchcraft under a plan of revenge from a local Akaora chief. Enjoy a bite and a beer at one of the cafes along the esplanade or head into the Village and enjoy quality restaurants and interesting craft shops. For the experienced surfers, continue driving around to Taylor’s Mistake and make the most of powerful swells at arguably the best surfing beach in Christchurch. Be sure to stop in at New Brighton on your way in or out of Sumner; enjoy a stroll along the New Brighton Pier, walk pristine sands to the mouth of the Waimakariri River or take in the Seaside Markets if you happen to visit on a Saturday.

Words by Rebecca Walker. Image by Nawit (Shutterstock) - Published 25 October 2018
Quick Facts 
Population Approx 381,000
Area 452 km2
Time Zone GMT +12
Languages English (official)
Currency New Zealand dollar (NZD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
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