11 Walks to Do in Canterbury (And Where to Reward Yourself After)

Tussockland walking track in Arthur's Pass with snowy mountains in the distance.

Now’s the time to get out and explore all Canterbury has to offer, both in the outdoors and the towns that make this region so special.

Words by: Ashlyn Oswalt

We’re spoiled for choice here in Canterbury, nestled smack dab in-between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean. The city offers close access to beautiful vistas and great outdoor activities, plus some great places to treat yourself after. 

We’ve gathered up a few of our favourite walks in Canterbury and some places to reward yourself for all that hard work after. It’s time to enjoy the best New Zealand has to offer!

Walk: Godley Heads

Reward: Utopia Ice

If you live in or around Christchurch, you’ve likely taken a Sunday stroll up the headlands around Sumner. Beginning at Tayor’s Mistake beach and winding its way up to gun emplacements from World War II, you’ll enjoy stunning ocean vistas and pretty bachs dotted around the coast. The walk is an easy one that should take about three hours round trip max and can become crowded on the weekend - so try to set off early!

To treat yourself afterwards, be sure to stop in at the Utopia Ice in Sumner for a sweet treat. The little nook of an ice cream parlour handmakes a wide range of delicious, seasonal flavours and doesn’t shy away from gluten-free and vegan options. Enjoy a scoop in their cosy patio space, or take home a pint to savour at home.

Walk: Bealey Spur Track

Reward: Sheffield Pie Shop

If you’d rather take in the breathtaking views of the mountains, head to the Bealey Spur Track, just inside Arthur’s Pass National Park. This well-marked track is a great option for those wanting alpine views without steep ascents, as this track never goes above the bushline. The walk is listed by DoC as easy and is a six-kilometre out and back that’s estimated to take about two and a half hours each way.

We highly recommend stopping at the Sheffield Pie Shop before hitting the trail so you can take in the Bealey Spur Hut’s views with a delicious, flaky meal. Known for their winning mixture of classic flavours - think mince and cheese - and delightful surprises - chicken, apricot, and camembert and butter chicken - you won’t be disappointed. They even recently added a few brekkie options to the menu!

Walk: Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Reward: Crafty Moa Restaurant and Bar

Another favourite in Arthur’s Pass is the walking track, taking trampers from the village through beech forest and native bush. You’ll enjoy wayward views of the impressive Devil's Punchbowl before carrying on to Bridal Veil Falls. Views of the village can be enjoyed, especially at the destination - a commemorating memorial for surveyor Arthur Dudley Dobson.

Though the walk is a short one, you’ll work up an appetite to stop at the Bealey Hotel on your way home. Inside their Crafty Moa Restaurant and Bar, you can treat yourself to delicious, hot cooked meals to satiate your appetite and wash it down with a cold, Moa Brewery beer.

Photo source: DoC

Walk: Gebbies Pass to Packhorse Hut

Reward: Little River Café and Gallery

The Packhorse Hut is a favourite among Cantabrians. The two-hour intermediate walk offers spectacular views of Lyttelton Harbour and is a great walk for kids. Walking along paddocks and into pine forest, trampers emerge to discover volcanic rock formations and more stunning harbour views. The hut itself is adorable, too, so pack a snack!

After that climb, you’ll need to refuel at the Little River Café and Gallery, an adorable little café with something for everyone. From expertly made coffees to delicious cabinet food, you can grab and go or sit and stay to enjoy the lovely courtyard and bustling environment. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to check out their selection of classic kiwi desserts, like lamingtons and ginger slices. 

Walk: Emily Falls & Rata Falls Tracks

Reward: Barker’s Foodstore and Eatery, Geraldine

What’s a tramp in New Zealand without a few waterfalls? This kid-friendly trail walks along the Rata Stream - crossing a few times so expect wet feet! - and offers not one, but two waterfall vistas. Listed as an easy walk with an expected round trip time of two hours, walkers will clock 3km for the day. Located in the Peel Forest Scenic Reserve, you’ll feel worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll want to stop at Barker’s Foodstore and Eatery. Sit down and stay awhile in their eatery and enjoy local dishes with a focus on healthy eating, but no shortage of flavour. They even have a late-night Friday pizza menu! You can also stock up on condiments, syrups, and more in their store.

Walk: Mount Somers, 5 hr one way, advanced

Reward: Primo E Secundo, Methven

For those keen for a longer tramp, Mount Somers is an excellent choice. Climbing steeply up the mountainside, you’ll be rewarded with 360 views of the surrounding mountain range and the coastal plains. DoC estimates this track takes about five hours one way, and less going down, so plan ahead. Mount Somers is an advanced track and can be difficult to summit in the winter, so be sure to bring crampons and mountaineering experience if you’re skilled, or stick to a less tricky track!

Once down the mountain, stop in at the Primo E Secundo in Methven. Feast on fresh-baked muffins while gazing at the eclectic decor of old memorabilia.With Allpress coffee flowing and plenty of delicious goods, you’ll easily spend a few hours relaxing here, warming your toes from your tough tramp!

Walk: Kea Point Track

Reward: Ministry of Works Bar and Eatery, Twizel

On a sunny day, a walk in Aoraki National Park is difficult to beat, and Kea Point is no exception. Walkers will enjoy subalpine grassland that slowly winds up to a viewing platform, showing off the Mueller Glacier moraine wall. Listed as easy, this two-hour return walk from the village is a great way to stretch the legs!

Once completed, treat yourself to a brew and a pizza at the Ministry of Works Bar and Eatery in Twizel. With a strong selection of New Zealand beers on tap, you’ll be tempted to settle into their lively, friendly atmosphere for the night.

Photo source: @burkesbrewingco

Walk: Mt Nimrod

Reward: Street Food Kitchen, Timaru

If you’re keen for some varied landscapes on your walk, try Mt Nimrod in the Hunters Hills area outside of Timaru. Walking through a forest, trampers will reach a waterfall that plummets out of a rock arch and then continue on to a climb out of the forest. At the top, trampers are rewarded with great views of the coast. Listed as an advanced track, Mt Nimrod can take about 2-3 hours, depending on your pace.

When finished, head to Street Food Kitchen in Timaru for some food. A great mixture of healthy, fresh dishes with a few guilty pleasures mixed in, the Asian fusion menu is sure to delight. Don’t leave without the Vietnamese coffee hit - sure to keep you awake on the drive home!

Photo source: DoC

Walk: Kowai River Walk

Reward: Brew Moon Brewery, Amberley

If you’re looking for a nice easy stroll with some native birdlife and a bit of beach (how much more quintessential New Zealand can you get?) check out the Kowai River Walk in Leithfield. For 2-3 hours, you’ll stroll along this easy track to enjoy coastal lagoon views, sounds, and smells. A great one to tick off the list if you’re looking for something slower-paced and no-tramping-boots required!

Afterwards, stop in at Brew Moon Brewery in Amberley for a pizza and a pint. With a woodfired oven, great patio, and sixteen taps - it’s hard to go wrong! Their menu caters for all kinds of eaters, with cheeky vegetarian names like “unlucky hunter” and “fantastic forager”, plus a banoffee pizza pie for dessert.

Walk: Tiromoana Bush Walkway

Reward: Black Estate, Waipara

This 10.4km track in Waipara slowly meanders through native bush, wetlands, plantation forest, and more before opening up to an unspoilt view of the ocean. Listed as a medium intensity walk, you’ll want to make sure you have comfy walking shoes for the long journey. The track itself is easy to follow and mostly undulating terrain with a few steep climbs. You’ll be rewarded with the lookout point, where stunning views of the Kaikōuras appear. Plan for about a three-hour return journey.

After your walk, you’ll be ready for a glass of wine. Lucky for you, Black Estate Winery in Waipara is close. With a restaurant and cellar door overlooking the Waipara Valley, you’ll be ready to enjoy a bounty expertly prepared meals by in-house chef, using spray-free veggies from the Black Estate gardens and more, all thoughtfully paired with their beautiful wines. With a range varying from rieslings to pinot noirs, you’re sure to find something to please every palette.

Walk: Hooker Valley Track

Reward: The Greedy Cow Café, Lake Tekapo

A fan favourite for tourists and locals alike, the Hooker Valley Track is a gem in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. This three-hour walk is listed as easy, and provides an easy-to-follow track that is relatively flat. The track winds along the sacred Tōpuni area of the Hooker Valley and meanders over and along alpine streams, glaciers, and more. The track ends at Hooker Lake, where icebergs lazily float in the blue glacial pool. If you’re lucky, views of Aoraki will be visible from the lake.

You’ll no doubt want to warm up and rest your feet. The Greedy Cow Café in Lake Tekapo has everything you need. From warm pies in the cabinet to a host of sweet treats, you’ll likely want to order one of everything. The best part? They go above and beyond traditional New Zealand café-style food and push the boat out on some fun flavours - like tiramisu eclairs. With that kind of attitude, we’ll be parking ourselves in their cosy little corner of Tekapo all day.

Now’s the time to get out and explore all Canterbury has to offer, both in the outdoors and the towns that make this region so special.

Photo source and hero image: DoC

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