North Canterbury

Visit North Canterbury, NZ

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  • North Canterbury is a region of plains that extends from the Kaikoura coast in the north to the Waimakariri River in the south, and west into foothills of the Southern Alps. It is known for its vineyards, rivers, wilderness areas and holiday resorts.

    The region is divided into three districts: Kaikoura, Hurunui and Waimakariri.

    Kaikoura District

    At this most northerly district of North Canterbury, the Southern Alps’ Kaikoura Mountains reach almost to the sea. A narrow strip of flat coastland carries the main north-south road and rail routes.

    The Kaikoura Peninsula reaches out into the sea, where the coastal shelf is very narrow and drops abruptly into the deep sea. This feature causes an upwelling of nutrient rich waters that attract whales, dolphins and seals.

    Many visitors are drawn to Kaikoura for the experience of whale-watching from boats beneath majestic snow-capped mountains. For many, it is a highlight of their visit to New Zealand.

    Maori cultural experiences are also popular at Kaikoura. For those travelling between Picton and Christchurch, Kaikoura is a convenient place to break their journey, whether by road or rail.

    Hurunui District

    The central and largest district of North Canterbury includes the major towns of Hanmer Springs, in the mountains to the west, Culverden, Cheviot, Waipara and Amberley. An area of low hills and fertile plains, it has become an important wine-growing region in recent decades.

    The district has a number of large and smaller rivers flowing from mountains to coast. From north to south, the principal rivers are the Clarence, Conway, Waiau and Hurunui. Most of these are suitable for fly-fishing and for sports such as kayaking and rafting. The larger rivers are suitable for jet-boating.

    Towards the mountains, there are many conservation reserve areas that are suitable for hiking, mountain biking, horse treks and hunting.

    Hanmer Springs, in the western interior of the district, is a resort town with ski-fields, thermal springs and golfing, surrounded by snowy mountains. The road into Hanmer Springs from the east continues across a mountain pass to reach the West Coast and Nelson.

    Waimakariri District

    The Waimakariri district extends from the large, braided Rakaia River near Christchurch north to the Waipara River, and includes the Ashley River. Inhabited areas are mostly on the wide alluvial plains, with foothills and mountains to the west being largely wilderness areas.

    The district’s main towns are Rangiora, Oxford, Cust and Kaiapoi, with many smaller settlements dotted around the Plains and in the foothills of the Alps. River sports such as fishing, rafting, kayaking and jet-boating can be enjoyed on these rivers, which are also notable for their waterfowl. At the headwaters of the river are rugged gorges that are popular for hiking and horse trekking.

    Conservation Areas

    North Canterbury 51 public conservation lands including Arthur's Pass National Park, four forest/conservation parks, part of the Lewis Park National Reserve, 15 conservation areas and 14 scenic/nature reserves.

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    North Canterbury