NZ Canterbury InformationThe largest geographical region in New Zealand is called Canterbury and is home to some 480,000 people. Located on the eastern coast of the South Island, it encompasses a long expanse of coastal highway and extends inland to the Southern Alps. The English colonized Canterbury in the 1850s. It was planned as a Church of England-based colony, and accordingly, the capitol of the providence was named Christchurch. Like much of New Zealand, the area of Canterbury is incredibly diverse, it is possible to go skiing in the Alps and drive to the ocean to surf in the same day.
Christchurch, the capital of Canterbury, is located centrally along the coastline. It is the largest city in the South Island. It is a sprawling and beautiful city with an international airport. Visitors to New Zealand who are only visiting the South Island typically fly in through Christchurch and tourism is a major industry in the city. While most of the South Island is very rural, Christchurch is most definitely a bustling city. Modern architecture blends with old harmoniously in Christchurch, and the botanical gardens are vast and grand. The suburbs of Christchurch hold their own interests as well; New Brighton and Sumner are home to some excellent surfing conditions while the tree-filled suburb Ilam contains the main campus for the University of Canterbury.
Down the coast from Christchurch is Timaru, the second largest city in the region. Timaru is an important cargo port with a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. A few museums and a local brewery combine with a swimming beach for a peaceful seaside stop. The coastline of the area, particularly between Timaru and the nearby Oamuru has a number of excellent surf spots where river mouths open into the ocean.
Moving inland, the town of Twizel provides visitors with a comfortable base to explore Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. The Maori name Aoraki means “Cloud Piercer,” and as the tallest peak in New Zealand it certainly appears to live up to its name. In true New Zealand fashion, visitors to this small town will find an almost overwhelming number of outdoor activities including mountain climbing, trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, horse trekking and skiing.
For those looking to go even higher into the mountains, Arthers Pass is New Zealand’s highest settlement. This small town has little in the way of amenities, with only a few shops and choices for accommodations, however, the scenery and outdoor activity is more than enough to keep visitors occupied. In the winter months between May and October, travel to and from the region is limited by frequent road closures.
Boasting the longest ski season in New Zealand is the Mount Hutt ski fields. Opening in early June and extending through October, Mount Hutt skiing is accessed from Methven, a small town located at the base of the mountain.
Although many New Zealanders consider Kaikoura to be a part of the Marlborough region, it is officially in Canterbury. A coastal town with spectacular mountain views, Kaikoura is well known for its diverse animal life. Whale and dolphin spotting tours have a high success rate here, and a seal colony can be reached with only a brief hike. The entire Kaikoura Peninsula is internationally known for a number of excellent surfing spots.