How to Slow Down in Ashburton: A Guide to Elevating The Drive Through

A view of a black and brick building from across the street on a sunny day.

From gua buns to boutiques, artistry and espresso, there’s more to Ashburton than meets the eye. So next time you pass through this Mid Canterbury town, put your foot on the brakes and try some curated exploration. You’ll leave feeling better off for it.

Words by: Johnny Gibson 

Photos by: Nancy Zhou

We’ve all been there - coming upon Ashburton after straight road driving through rural plains and small towns. But have you ever taken the time to slow your drive-through and look under the covers of this sizeable rural township? Luckily for you, we have, and we can tell you, it’s worth putting some time aside.

Caffeine and Much More - Triangle Espresso

Corner Cass & 114 Victoria Street, Ashburton

Every town needs a go-to café—a place where the coffee is consistent, there’s enticing fresh food and plenty of local chat. For Ashburton, this is Triangle Espresso, a stylish black box with a killer cabinet and menu.  Our pick? The Special, a potato rosti with beetroot hummus, avocado tzatziki and roast red pepper—winning! The staff are super friendly, and its modern, stylish vibe means all the senses are filled before hitting the road again. 

Shop with Ease for Eco and Designer Clothes

427 West Street (Simply Eco) // 248 East Street, Ashburton (Hyde Boutique)

Sometimes, you need a little retail therapy, especially after those straight roads in and out of Ashburton. Thankfully, this town has a few hidden retail gems that are well worth seeking out. Tucked away within the Ashford Village, Simply Eco champions environmentally friendly, natural and reusable products. There are always items in our own homes we could replace with something a little more eco-friendly, and this space, run by a mother-and-daughter team, is the perfect place to do it. They run a little embroidery studio in the space too.

Retail therapy doesn’t get any better in Ashburton than Hyde Boutique. This high-end designer fashion destination stocks New Zealand and international brands, including Deadly Ponies, Caitlin Crisp, Twenty-Seven Names, Kate Sylvester, Nom*d, Yu Mei and plenty more. Who would have thought you would find your next favourite piece in Ashburton?

Colourful painted works of art on display on white walls inside Ashburton Art Gallery.

Discover New Zealand artists - Ashburton Art Gallery & Museum

327 West Street, Ashburton

Standing proudly on the first floor of the Ashburton Art Gallery and Heritage Centre, Ashburton Art Gallery is the home of art and artistic experimentation in Mid Canterbury. The friendly staff will tell you all about the exhibitions, and it’s easy to see they are passionate about the gallery and its role within the district. Three gallery spaces feature works across various mediums, from notable local and national artists to more emerging players. Being located on State Highway 1 also means it’s the easiest of endeavours, so why not stop by and allow yourself the opportunity to be inspired? Who knows, you may just come across your new favourite artist.

Taiwanese Fusion That Turns Heads - Formosa

173 West Street, Ashburton

Ashburton’s most prized food destination is Formosa. Every local who knows their stuff will recommend you head here to experience the Taiwanese fusion on offer. The space is bright and fun, and the team takes pride in their food. There’s a much anticipated weekly lunch special, a full vegan menu and plenty of options to keep everyone in the car happy, from their vegan menu to gua bao, Taiwanese fried chicken, Taiwanese beef noodle soup and Taiwanese deep-fried tofu with kimchi. The proof is in the pudding, as the Formosa is set to open another joint in town specialising in desserts and drinks.

Garden Walk at Ashburton Domain/Millhouse Kitchen

427 West Street, Ashburton (Millhouse Kitchen)

We all know walking in nature has many proven benefits for our mental and physical well-being, so we should take short nature walks at every chance. Welcome Ashburton Domain. Chances are you’ve stopped here to stretch your legs or use the public bathroom facility. Still, you probably haven’t ventured a little further and explored some of the 37 hectares of open green space, walkways, gardens and facilities. There’s also a playground and seasonal paddling pool available for the little ones. To round out the experience, swing by Millhouse Kitchen and grab a takeaway coffee. If you’ve meant to buy that reusable travel cup for a while, no problem, pop into neighbouring Simply Eco; they’ve got plenty. 

An Ashburton Style Sugar Rush

123 Main South Road, Archibald Street, Tinwald, Ashburton

Let’s be honest; sometimes you need a sugar rush, and when you’re on the road, you feel like you can let your guard down a bit and enjoy something you might not have on a typical 9 to 5 day. Or maybe you’re a connoisseur of sugary delights; either way, these treats will give you that sugar high. What started out as a bit of craze has become a staple at Sims Bakery – the cronut. These bad boys are made fresh each morning. The dough is folded with butter, deep fried, filled with custard cream and drizzled with white icing. A large cronut will satisfy the biggest of sweet tooth, and the small ones are the perfect taster or kid-treat. Yes please.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Bonobo Café

Birds-eye view of four dishes on a pink table at Bonobo, Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Bonobo: a benevolent primate, a trip-hop artist and more recently a plant-based cuisine destination in the seaside suburb of Sumner.

Tūranga

Harry Potter stairs at Turanga.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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It’s not often that grand designs are plucked from the mind’s eye and brought to life. At Tūranga they are, every day.

Miss Peppercorn

Three different cocktails on a black table with straws.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Miss Peppercorn is a modern eatery, celebrating the fragrant and mouth-numbing flavours of the owner's hometown in the Chinese province of Sichuan.

Tomi Japanese Restaurant

Looking over the counter into the kitchen where the chef is.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Serving authentic Japanese cuisine, Tomi is most famous for their sashimi sourced from the local fish market.