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Canterbury Area Guide

Farmland/agricultural land on the
Canterbury Plains. Braided Rakaia
river beyond - ©
The province of Canterbury takes up the large, central portion of the east coast of the South Island, stretching from the rugged coastal scenery and mountain backdrops of Kaikoura in the north, across to New Zealand's highest mountain, the snow-covered Mount Cook in the west, and down to the beautiful turquoise high country lakes of Tekapo and Pukaki in the south.

Canterbury's main city, Christchurch, sprawls in easy fashion from the east coast out to the market gardens of the west. From the air, flying in to Christchurch Airport from the west, you'll see the region laid out below you, the snowy peaks of the southern alps giving way to the flat Canterbury Plains, its braided rivers flowing out to sandy east coast beaches edged with lacy white breakers. For a good land-based view, drive to the summit of the Port Hills above Christchurch to see the city and coast below, or up to the high ski-fields of Mount Hutt, where the expanse of the plains will be laid out before you.

Christchurch offers a good base for exploring the region, with many great day trip or short break destinations close by. Drive to Kaikoura in the north for spectacular rugged coastal scenery, whale watching and swimming with the dolphins; or to the quaint historic French village of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula; to the spa village of Hanmer Springs to soak in hot mineral baths; or to the alpine village of Arthur's Pass for awe-inspiring mountain vistas and strenuous walks. For a leisurely lunch break, simply drive an hour or so northwards and land up at the wineries of the Waipara Valley.

Canterbury's second city, Timaru, lies two hours drive to the south, its hilly terrain a pleasant counterpoint to the flat countryside to the north, its Caroline Bay beach good for whiling away sunny afternoons.