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Road Trip New Zealand: Go Canterbury (Christchurch, Hurunui & Kaikōura)

The New Zealand road trips keeps on rollin’! This time we’re bringing you the intel on Christchurch, Hurunui, and Kaikōura. Learn how Ōtautahi Christchurch has fully embraced its position as New Zealand’s hub of change and creativity. Get the skinny on how Hurunui is an undiscovered gem. And discover the myriad of ways Kaikōura over-delivers on wow-worthy natural experiences.

The New Zealand road trips keeps on rollin’! This time we’re bringing you the intel on Christchurch, Hurunui, and Kaikōura. Learn how Ōtautahi Christchurch has fully embraced its position as New Zealand’s hub of change and creativity. Get the skinny on how Hurunui is an undiscovered gem. And discover the myriad of ways Kaikōura over-delivers on wow-worthy natural experiences.

We’ve got it all and more on 10 November in our next Tourism New Zealand webinar. Until then, get this taste of road tripping North Canterbury.

5-Day, 450-km, The Unforgettable Alpine Pacific Touring Route

The Unforgettable Alpine Pacific Touring route is New Zealand’s newest. You’ll kick off your 5-day trip in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Forget what you think you once knew, Ōtautahi Christchurch has gotten hipper, more vibrant, and is filled with surprises. Introductions like the ocean-view hot pools at He Puna Taimoana and fab eats at the Riverside Markets make us wish we were locals, not just visitors.

Day two (or three if you’ve more time for CHC), head north through the wide-open plains and past the surf beaches of North Canterbury to Hanmer Springs. En-route, consider stopping at the lush landscapes and vibrant vineyards and cellar doors in the North Canterbury wine region. From there, it’s an hour’s drive to the famed Hanmer Springs, home to lush thermal springs, a quaint alpine village, and activities for every outdoor lover, including hiking and biking trails (you can even hire bikes in the village).

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa has proved to be one of New Zealand's top tourist destinations and a not-to-be-missed experience. Image credit: ©Clinton Lloyd/Hurunui Tourism
Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa has proved to be one of New Zealand’s top tourist destinations and a not-to-be-missed experience. Image credit: ©Clinton Lloyd/Hurunui Tourism

The following day, drive an hour north to the Mt Lyford Adventure Park to hike, bike, ski, or skate. Continue on to Kaikōura, ‘where the mountains meet the sea’: for such a small place, so much excitement happens here!

Kaikōura is a coastal gem, with a casual nickname of being the marine Serengeti. Why? Because everything cool to see in the ocean is here! Day four, book a Whale Watch Kaikōura tour to witness giant sperm whales up close, kayak with marine life, swim with seals, and enjoy an Albatross Encounter. On land, you can even go llama trekking!

Kaikōura's scenic peninsula and mountains
Kaikōura’s scenic peninsula and mountains

Depending on your overall plans, you may be returning to Christchurch via the coastal route on day five. Alternatively, you could head north to Picton, drive the spectacular Kaikōura to Blenheim route, or even take the Interislander ferry ride to Wellington and the North Island. The choice is yours.

For the Christchurch round-trip peeps, don’t miss Cheviot and Gore Bay on your return south. Go jet boating in Cheviot, rent a surfboard to ride Gore’s waves, and make time to explore the Badlands erosion at the Cathedral cliffs.

Top 5 Things to Do Christchurch, Hurunui, & Kaikōura

Tram in front of the Arts Centre, Christchurch ©CMG Studios Limited. All rights reserved.
Tram in front of the Arts Centre, Christchurch ©CMG Studios Limited. All rights reserved.

So many choices, so little time…

Outdoors

  • Spend time outdoors in Ōtautahi Christchurch wandering the city’s street art. You’ll also want to lap up the New Brighton beach vistas from the He Puna Taimoana hot pools.
  • In Hanmer Springs, soaking in therapeutic sulphur pools does us a world of good, too.
  • Kaikōura spoils every visitor with awesome cycling and hiking trails, including the Kaikōura Peninsula Walkway.

Adventure

Karaka Lobster, Kaikōura. Image credit: @barekiwi
Karaka Lobster, Kaikōura. Image credit: @barekiwi

Food

  • Christchurch knows how to serve a feast, with the Riverside Market offering yummy dishes from around the world. If you’d like a more memorable meal, head to New Zealand’s only Restaurant Tram. End the day at the city’s rooftop bars.
  • For the perfect roadside pie, stop by Bunco’s in Amberley; for a fancier feast, the North Canterbury wine region has over 90 vineyards and 15 cellar doors.
  • In Kaikōura, what better to eat than locally caught crayfish? Seriously!

Wildlife

Shopping

Get Inspired

Inspiration and North Canterbury go together like crayfish and butter: so right.

Watch this Ōtautahi Christchurch video to see why it’s the perfect basecamp for exploration of the region.

Want a tease of how to get your adventure on while on the Alpine Pacific Touring Route? Watch this: it gets our hearts racing every time!

Totes travel eye candy; check out the natural wonders of Kaikōura here.


Driving Christchurch, Hurunui, & Kaikōura

Overall, driving North Canterbury is effortless. In winter, it’s worth checking the weather conditions. While it’s rare to have actual snowfall on the roads, it can get icy in the shade.

If you’d rather someone else does the driving, hop aboard the Coastal Pacific train from Christchurch to Kaikōura (and onwards to Picton).

Get The Road Trip Playlist

Top tunes are as synonymous with roadies as pies and weird roadside statues. Good job the team at ChristchurchNZ have given us this 17-track playlist from local musicians to set the mood.

Travel Advisor? Gain Access to The Marketing Hub Toolkit Here

While you can wait until 10 November for the Christchurch, Hurunui, and Kaikōura RTOs to drop their regional knowledge bombs, you don’t have to. Curious about Christchurch now? Hyped about Hurunui? Ready to kick-start your Kaikōura know-how? No sweat; head to the Tourism New Zealand Marketing Hub toolkit.

Don’t only go there, though! Because on 10 November, our 6th instalment in our Tourism New Zealand road trippin’ series not only gets you au fait on the region, but you’ll also have a pretty great shot at winning one of five flights to New Zealand or one of five delectable regional hampers. Knowledge plus nom noms, as it were.

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