One thing you can definitely avoid at the weekends in NZ is sitting on your sweet butt and twiddling your digits. Options within 1-2 hours of Christchurch are ENDLESS and it will take many years before we are close to seeing everything on our list! Here are a few of ours favs…
- Experience Akaroa, a historic French and British settlement nestled in the heart of an ancient volcano – you can swim with dolphins here too! Located a beautiful 1.5 h drive from Christchurch, you will pass through towns like Little River, where you can stay in a silo for the night (…!), gaze at local art or grab some fresh, local blueberries. You might also chose to camp at Duvauchelle, about 20 min before you reach Akaroa. I DEFINITELY recommend a hike at Hinewai Reserve where you will undoubtedly share some hilarious banter with the reserve manager, Hugh. Even if you don’t want to hike, you should go there just to chat with this bloke. What a legend!
- Hanmer Springs is best known for its natural hot pools and stunning scenery (∼1h 45 north of Christchurch). It reminds me significantly of a number of Colorado mountain towns I have spent time in, so I feel especially at home here. A number of ultra running / multi-sport races happen here so if you are into that kind of craziness like the Great Dane is, check out this link in case something is on whilst you are passing through. Otherwise, in typical Kiwi style, this area provides endless amounts of biking, hiking and general outdoorsy goodness, so GET STUCK IN!
- Arthur’s Pass village itself is a cute town and worth stopping as you drive by. Though even more appealing to me than that is the drive to this place. W.O.W! Think the Scottish Highlands / Rockies / Lord of the Rings … I haven’t made it hiking up around Arthur’s Pass yet but there are a myriad of routes and huts you can stay in and I have heard, it is well worth a peep.
- Gore Bay is a glorious area of the coast about 1.5 h north of Christchurch. Think peaceful walks on the beach or clambering in the hills above the campsite. Remember to buy your sausages in the town of Cheviot before heading out to the coast since there’s nothing commercial to be found out that way.
- As you head south of Christchurch towards the the rest of the South Island, take a breather in the luscious Peel Forest. A mere 1h 45 min from Christchurch, this area has the wildest birdsong I have ever heard! Walking on one of a multitude of hikes in the area, you may feel like you are in an enchanted forest. There are some awesome, basic campsites in the area too – we stayed at the Orari Gorge campsite and had the place to ourselves! About 10 minutes further down the road is the cosy town of Geraldine. Make a stop at Cafe Verde and sit among the sweet smelling flowers in their garden whilst munching on some of their yummy food.
- Last but by no means least (and a little further at 2h 30 north-east from Christchurch), Kaikoura. Cut off from Christchurch after the massive earthquake that hit the South island late 2016, this awesome town and its dear people have surely suffered. The work on the road continues painfully slowly but the workers do their best to dance, sing and salute you with big grins as you drive past. I’ve never seen anything like it! A spectacular place to swim with dolphins (as we were told by a sweet French man at the campsite) and see whales. You will feel the strong community spirit as you wander through the cosy town. There is a lavender farm about 20 minutes after you drive through the town which is worth a stop and the area is teeming with hikes. We stayed at the Kaikoura Peketa Beach Holiday Park which has separate areas for tents vs. campervans and we scored a prime position by the beach. Not too shabby!
NZ may be far away from pretty much everything and everywhere, but life is extremely rich down here. And that’s more than good enough for me.