Venture Out: A Day Trip from Christchurch in Every Direction

A view of the Canterbury plains on a sunny day.

Christchurch Ōtautahi is an excellent starting point for a whole host of diurnal excursions. Nature lovers, vintage (grapes and/or permanent objects) enthusiasts, pie connoisseurs, keen boulderers, or those with a penchant for something new, look no further when the conditions for a day trip transpire. Feeling spoilt for choice and can’t decide which direction to head in? Spin a compass - there’s one on your phone.

Words by: Izzie Thompson

Photos by: Nancy Zhou


An easy hour’s drive north lands you in the heart of Canterbury’s wine country, Waipara Valley. One could certainly spend more than a single Earth spin sampling the essence of this area, but with a designated driver, you can cover plenty of ground – or cellar door floors – before the angle of the late afternoon sun signals home time. We’ve rounded up four of our favourite wineries whence to while away a Waipara day.

Wine Your Way (North) Along SH1

Make your way to Pegasus Bay by mid-morning, fill a (handwoven) basket with local bites from their Mini Deli, add your beverage of choice – swing by the cellar door first to sample a wide selection of their world-class wines – and head out to the tidy garden to picnic pond-side, plonked in a beanbag, or sink into a cosy couch fire-side if the weather isn’t playing ball.

Your next stop is just across the highway at Georges Road Wines. Experience their single vineyard grape-to-glass approach with a tasting of current wines led by head winemaker and owner Kirk, a behind-the-scenes tour of the winery, then enjoy the views from the vineyard lawn with your preferred cold beverage and hand-picked antipasto nibbles.

A bit further up the highway is Greystone Wines, a certified organic site named after the bedrock in which their vines root and famous for their vine-fermented pinot noir. Experience the terroir first-hand with a tasting flight and your selection of cheeses and small plates to share. Both the flight and the bites change regularly, so even regulars are bound to discover something delightfully new.

And finally, a wine trip to Waipara isn’t complete without dropping into the sleek black shed that is Black Estate. With three small, north-facing, biodynamic vineyards, Black Estate’s focus is on healthy soil, the foundation for quality fruit. Just like their approach to food – the renowned lunch menu is made up of ingredients farmed and caught by local people - wines here are expressive of place and season and work in harmony with the natural world.

Banks Peninsula

Ōtautahi’s solid backdrop, the Port Hills, make the trip over (or through) to the Banks Peninsula feel like you’ve been transported to a region far, far away; twenty minutes in any other direction will hardly get you to the city limits! Here’s how we suggest you make the most of a day spent on the southern side of the hills.
A view of the Lyttelton Harbour from a cafe on a sunny day.

Just Over (or through) the Hill via SH74 (East)

Park up on the deck at Lyttelton Coffee Company with a house-roasted caffeinated beverage and your choice of colourful cabinet or menu item – probably the hardest decision of the day – and feast your eyes on the harbour view. You’ll be seeing plenty of this ocean and unique peninsula landform today from a few different angles.

Sufficiently fuelled for a morning on your feet, head across the road to the Harbour Co-op for some delicious organic and sustainable snacks – take your pick from the wooden shelves showcasing local seasonal fruit, freshly baked goods, handmade chocolate, bulk nuts, and more. (You’re going to have to walk a bit further than that for the next item on the itinerary, though.)

Back in the car, wind your way west to the jetty at Governors Bay. The walk commencing here, to Allandale Reserve and back, is a gentle half-hour stroll each way, so you can leave the snacks behind. Or not – there are some lovely picnic spots at the Allandale end. Keep an eye out for various birdlife on the mudflats.

Around the southern shores (of Charteris Bay), your next stop is Orton Bradley Park. More walking, yes, but with tracks ranging from 20 minutes to 2.5 hours and destination gullies, peaks, and a waterfall, there’s something here to suit all ages, abilities, and appetites. Especially if you’ve got some Co-op supplies left.

Lastly, appreciate one more perspective of the Harbour and Godley Heads with some classic Kiwi grub from Salt in Diamond Harbour. Find a scenic perch (the Diamond Harbour wharf is good for it) to watch the boat activity from and soak up (and eat up) the last salty moments of your seaside day. If you’re not quite ready to return to the flatlands, swing by Civil and Naval in Lyttelton for a nightcap. 


The first and only French settlement across the motu, Akaroa, has all the charm of a European town in a decidedly Aotearoa locale. The journey there alone warrants a mention, with vistas changing from pastoral flats and rolling hills to pockets of native bush and panoramic hilltop views of Akaroa Harbour all the way out to the headland.
A view of the ocean from a grassy hill.

South East SH75

Just before the hair-raising – hairpin, we mean - winding ascent that reveals said panoramas, enjoy an interlude in Little River at the namesake café with a coffee and bite to eat in their quiet courtyard. Get a cabinet item to go, or some snacks from the adjacent store, for the day’s next activity: Hinewai Reserve. 

What was once gorse-infested farmland is now thriving, regenerating native forest, a successful ecological restoration project that’s worth seeing with your own two eyes (and feet). The walking trail network that covers the reserve is publicly accessible and free to enter, and while we reckon that the view from the peaks along the Big Circle route is hard to parallel, some of you will be pleased to hear that you need only move your legs for ten minutes to make it to Mikimiki Knob, another top-notch viewpoint. 

Having stared at the seascape all morning, it’s now time to make your way down to lower ground, to the waterside town of Akaroa. Spend some time wandering the (French-named) streets, taking in the quaint urban delights: delis, galleries, colonial buildings and cafés, many of which greet the footpath with a cascade of greenery. And when you’ve had enough time on your feet, head to HarBar for a well-deserved beachside beverage and their famous fish taco.


The exterior of Ashburton Art Gallery on a sunny day.

South SH1

The road from Christchurch to Ashburton is a notoriously tedious journey. To sweeten this southern itinerary, we suggest making a slight detour before leaving the city limits to The Old Vicarage in Halswell for a tasty brunch in a peaceful environment. Set back from the busy road, lofty trees surround the charming villa and provide some shade and privacy to the garden courtyard. Serving up classic brunch fare that caters to all dietaries and desires, this vicars’ home-cum-café will fuel the tank with hospitality and history, setting you up for a day of discovery.

In Ashburton (the drive wasn’t all that bad, was it now), pull up to the domain and get out into the greenery. Stroll under towering trees, around the duck pond and through manicured gardens.

Your next stop is right across the road at Ashburton Art Gallery. A hub of creative activity, the gallery is devoted to engagement in art. Three spaces exhibit the current works by notable names and new talent. You’ll encounter art in many mediums. Have a question about one of the pieces, an artist, or how the gallery serves the region? The friendly, knowledgeable staff are always happy to have a chat. From brunch to the park to art, it must now be time for… another meal.

Formosa is always one of the first recommendations from locals. Taking inspiration from traditional Taiwanese, Formosa blends modern cuisine with diverse Asian flavours and styles. The food is bright and fun, just like the fit-out – a canopy of upside-down red parasols leads to a larger space with exposed services overhead and big windows through which you can watch the busy chefs at work. Or take a seat at the window overlooking the street, and watch the world go by as you refuel for the drive home.


Heading towards State Highway 77 from Christchurch often means being mountain-bound, but here we’ve put together a day of activities in that direction that see you staying closer to sea level.
A view of the Southern Alps from inside a restaurant.

West SH77

Travelling due west (as the car rolls) across the sprawling Canterbury plains, just before crossing the Rakaia near Windwhistle, you’ll find yourself at the Washpen Falls walking track. Situated on a high country working farm, this two-hour loop track takes you through a canyon rich with native bush, past waterfalls, caves, and an old woolshed. 

From panoramas to pools, round out a morning of unwinding with a long soak at Ōpuke Thermal Pools in Methven, just 25 minutes away. With both family-friendly and adult-only pools, everyone has space to relax in the solar-heated mountain water and enjoy the views (of the Southern Alps or the star-lit caves if duty calls you to the Discovery Pools). 

Belly rumbling yet? Pop down the road to Primo E Secundo for some quality kai in an eccentric, cosy setting. The preloved décor, some permanent and some purchasable, will rouse your vintage eye for the last stop of the day, Overflow. An emporium of epic proportions, this legendary Mayfield establishment is bursting from its rural road corner seams. There are a great many racks (and boxes, shelves, wardrobes…) to rummage in a maze of rooms; don’t be dispirited if whatever time you find yourself with here isn’t enough to see the whole place. It’ll still be there next weekend and the weekend after, perhaps with some new (vintage) pieces to peruse.

Castle Hill

The Great Alpine Highway, as it’s known to travellers and mountaineers alike, runs from the urban east to the wild west (coast). One of the last little flats before reaching the rugged backbone of Te Waipounamu is Castle Hill, an area that provides access to club ski fields, mountain biking and hiking trails, and of course, those big old boulders.

North West SH73

The Great Alpine Highway, as it’s known to travellers and mountaineers alike, runs from the urban east to the wild west (coast). One of the last little flats before reaching the rugged backbone of Te Waipounamu is Castle Hill, an area that provides access to club ski fields, mountain biking and hiking trails, and of course, those big old boulders.

A necessary pit stop for all folk along this route is Sheffield Pie Shop. From the likes of the gourmet Venison and Whisky Relish, Garlic Roasted Vegetable, and Chicken, Apricot and Camembert to the classic New York Peppered Steak and Mince and Cheese, there’s something in the warmer to tickle anyone’s fancy - especially if golden pastry is your favourite colour – with low gluten options, sandwiches, slices, and plenty of other Kiwi bakery favourites to choose from too. 

After a shift in the car (and pies for breakfast, if that’s not your usual), it always feels good to stretch the legs. A stroll around Ōpōrea Lake Pearson, a tranquil high-country lake on the edge of Flock Hill Station, is just the ticket. No motorised boats are allowed on the lake, in which a number of trout species reside, and make sure to keep an eye out for birdlife - it’s a wildlife refuge for the protected Southern Crested Grebe. 

One thing that surely didn’t escape your vision on the way over is the scattering of imposing limestone boulders that line the hillside at the Kura Tawhiti Castle Hill Conservation Area. An easy access track leads you from the parking area to these incredible natural formations, and it’s then up to you to find your own way up and around the boulder area. From higher viewpoints (on solid ground and solid stone) the entire site is visible.

With lungs sufficiently full of alpine air, it’s time to make your way back east. If you make it to Sheffield before 4:30, you might be lucky enough to try that pie flavour you almost picked earlier in the day. This dinner on the go comes with a high probability of having to vacuum your vehicle’s interior later, but it’s well worth it. That’s tomorrow’s problem.