The Canterbury region is mainly composed of the Canterbury Plains and the surrounding mountains. Its Māori name is Waitaha, but the European settlers named it for the English city of Canterbury because the region was planned as an Anglican settlement of ‘English gentlefolk’. Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and although disrupted severely by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city centre is rapidly being rebuilt and there is a definite sense of new possibilities. While there you must see Re:START Mall on Cashel Street, a shopping precinct made of colourful shipping containers that has to be seen to be believed. Another absolute must is the world-first Cardboard Cathedral. Yes, that’s what it’s actually made of! It was designed to replace the badly damaged Anglican cathedral and it’s proving very popular. All around the city there are innovative, colourful and creative projects popping up.
A short trip south brings you to the magnificent Akaroa Harbour, which is one of two volcanic craters. On its southeastern shores is the beautiful town of Akaroa. With it historic buildings, fine food, French street names and period cottages, it’s the only French settlement in New Zealand. A little further on and you can stay in Timaru, built on the lava flows from the Mt Horrible volcano, which is extinct now and not at all horrible – in fact, it’s quite the reverse! Its legacy is the attractive volcanic rock used for the town’s distinctive buildings. Visit the South Canterbury Museum to find out all about it.
You can spend ages at the Bay Area sport and entertainment centre or catch the annual Summer Carnival. The brewery has tours and tastings all year round.
Head north from Christchurch and check out the seaside settlement of Kaikoura. The name means 'meal of crayfish' and when you dine out you’ll know why. Not far away is Hanmer Springs, an alpine spa town. Soak in a hot pool, or jump into one of the many water sports. Play mini-golf or hire a quad bike.
Turn west and you’ll be fascinated by Mount Cook (its Maori name is Aoraki). The highest mountain in New Zealand, it’s surrounded by a UNESCO World Heritage-listed National Park, a spectacular region of forests and glaciers, hot pools and snow-capped mountains. You have to see the milky turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo, and then go hiking, horse-riding, skiing… the sky’s the limit. Quite literally! Also be sure to experience the International Dark Sky Reserve here and see the stars from the observatory.
So, set your compass for the Canterbury region. Book your Christchurch flights and your Canterbury hotels now and start the expedition.
Need insider tips on must-see attractions in Canterbury? Check out our Canterbury travel guide!
Hotels in Canterbury start at AU$77 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.