The Canterbury region has been significantly rocked by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, particularly the inner city of the South Island’s largest city Christchurch, but the region still offers most of its renowned tourism activities, and as the gateway to the south, Christchurch is a great starting point for some quality road trips. Grab your car rental and hit the road to experience some of these attractions.
The centre of Christchurch is in the process of being rebuilt but there’s still a wide variety of activities open around the city, making it a worthwhile stop-over. Never miss a chance to experience Antarctica at the International Antarctic Centre, see the penguins, encounter an Antarctic storm and take a ride on the all-terrain Hagglund vehicle. Take a stride through the beautiful Botanical Gardens, view the elusive kiwi and a Maori Cultural Experience at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and head to Orana Wildlife Park for a fun day out with lions, tigers, monkeys, giraffes and more. Cap off your stay with an indulgent visit to She Chocolat boutique and restaurant in Governor’s Bay.
Canterbury Road Trips
If you want to head out of the city, head to the Banks Peninsula and stop off in Akaroa, just a 90-minute scenic drive from Christchurch. This former French colony is a delightful little township with plenty to keep everyone occupied. Watch the dolphins, fur seals, penguins and many other kinds of sea birds in this exceptional destination. Pay a visit to the Cathedral Cave and be drawn to the past with Maori’s colonial-inspired architecture. There are harbour cruises, sail boats, cycle tours, and an excellent range of walking tracks. There are also plenty of art and craft galleries and a range of exquisite local boutiques. As you drive through Little River on the way there or back, make sure you stop at the Art Gallery where you can pick up some unique Kiwi crafts.
Drive your rental car 90 minutes north of Christchurch and find Hanmer Springs, an alpine spa resort town. Home of the award-winning Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spa, Hanmer deserves its bragging rights. Add some excitement with a round of golf, bungy jumping, mountain bike trailing, horse trekking and forest walking, and end the day with exquisite dining.
Kaikoura is 2.5 hours drive north of Christchurch, offering an abundance of sea-based activities including iconic whale watching tours, dolphin swimming, scuba diving and sea fishing. If you prefer dry land, Kaikoura Farm Park offers a great day out for children and a chance to get up close to the free-roaming animals.
Your Canterbury road trip wouldn’t be complete without heading to the rugged West Coast. The nature-inspired scenery makes this trip worth a day or two. You will be swept up by the beauty swathing the Tasman Sea and the lush native rain forests. Head to Shantytown for a glimpse into our gold-mining past and take a scenic drive to Hokitika to browse the art galleries and craft shops selling hand made gifts and jewellery.
Then there’s Lake Tekapo. Just 3 hours southwest of Christchurch, visitors can head to the spectacular crystal clear lake for water sports, lakeside swimming and kayaking. It’s also a great venue for cross country skiing in winter months or tramping and horse trekking in the summer. Numerous scenic picnic spots provide delightful spots for lazy afternoons and the clear night skies provide the perfect location for stargazing at the Mt John Observatory.
You might just need to tack a few more days onto your road trip planner as all of these places are worth exploring!
Christchurch and Canterbury Travel
Getting around Christchurch and Canterbury is easy with a rental car and there are plenty of options for you to choose from.
New Zealand Rent A Car has car rental locations throughout New Zealand and the South Island, including a handy Christchurch car rental depot, offering a range of reliable affordable rental cars to suit your budget.