The Canterbury region stretches nearly 200 km from the north of Kaikoura to the south of Waimate and includes some of the most diverse terrain in New Zealand. Encompassing the Kaikoura marine reserve, Waipara Valley and Christchurch City, Canterbury is renowned for its abundant wildlife, wine and vast canterbury plains.
From whale-watching, dolphin spotting and swimming with seals, to wine tasting, skiing, bungy jumping, and mountain biking, Canterbury has many attractions, and is a popular tourism draw card. Christchurch, known as the ‘Gateway to the South,’ is the only large city in the area and is well into a billion dollar makeover following the devastating 2010/2011 earthquakes. Visit the International Antarctic Centre, and experience a real antarctic blizzard, penguins and a Hagglund ride. Ride the gondola to the rim of an extinct volcano, catch a historic tram around the central city, visit the botanic gardens – or do all three! See the world’s only Cardboard Cathedral and venture an hour out of the city to visit the charming french settlement of Akaroa where you might catch a glimpse of the rare Hector’s Dolphin.
Head north through the Waipara Valley and stop for an education in cool climate wine winemaking as well as sampling the area’s signature Pinot Noir and Riesling varieties. Take a detour to Hanmer Springs thermal pools for a relaxing mineral dip, then continue over the Hawkeswood Range to arrive on the Kaikoura coast. A wildlife mecca, Kaikoura is renowned for its whale watching, dolphin spotting and fur seals. The deep valley under the ocean that surrounds this coastal town has created an upwelling of nutrients, drawing a large amount of marine life to the area year-round. Take a whale watching excursion and see pilot, sperm and humpback whales as well as dolphins and shorebirds. Another popular sightseeing trip is a short walk to the Ohau waterfall to see the seal pups playing. Home to a bustling town centre with many cafes and restaurants, Kaikoura is also known for its seafood and artisan products.
We recommend spending at least five days in this region – but if time is not on your side, it can be well explored in four.