Balloon over Canterbury plains

Canterbury, a unique combination of nine supremely beautiful and different districts, on the East coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Within two hours’ drive of Christchurch International Airport you’ll indulge all of your senses in a totally unique experience. The Canterbury region has a huge range of attractions and activities. There's something for everyone, skiing, snowboarding, jet boating, white water rafting, star-gazing, hot-air ballooning, wildlife cruising, wining, dining, Eco-touring, soaking in the thermal pools, soaking up Maori culture and much, much more. The Canterbury Region includes a large central portion of the East Coast of the South Island, centred around the city of Christchurch. From the silvery beaches of the East Coast to the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury landscape is impossible to ignore. Big scenery is the order of the day—huge panoramas of ocean or mountains, great sweeps of pastureland, massive amounts of sky.

It's easy to be awestruck—but if you want to be totally flabbergasted, take a hot air balloon ride. The experience of floating across the Canterbury Plains with the majesty of the Southern Alps behind you will ingrain itself on your memory forever. The highest point of the region is the highest point of New Zealand. The spectacular Aoraki Mount Cook stands at 3754 metres (Aoraki is Maori for Cloud Piercer). At the other end of the scale, the submarine trenches off the coast of Kaikoura are thousands of metres deep, providing an ideal environment for the whales, dolphins and seals that live there permanently. Between the mountains and the sea, the vast plains are patchworked with the patterns of rural life. Hundreds of years ago, Maori moa hunters worked these plains leaving a rock art record of their successes. In the two cities of the region, Christchurch and Timaru, great care has been taken to preserve Canterbury’s colonial heritage. Grand architecture, historic homesteads and immaculate parks intermingle with the technology and style of modern life.

Scenic Highlights:

Aoraki Mount Cook National Park: The boundaries of Aoraki Mount Cook National Park encircle New Zealand's highest mountains and largest glaciers. The park is part of Te Wahipounamu, the South Westland World Heritage Area, in recognition of its outstanding natural value. From Twizel, a sealed road leads along the edge of beautiful Lake Pukaki right into the park. Mount Cook Village lies at the end of the road, just below the terminals of the Hooker and Mueller Glaciers.

Kaikoura: Drive north from Christchurch for a couple of hours and you'll reach Kaikoura - famous for its marine life and stunning scenery. There is no more spectacular sight than to see Kaikoura Township nestled at the base of the snow topped Southern Alps, bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The drive is a scenic highlight in itself, taking you from the flat greenness of the Canterbury Plains to the craggy landscape of the Kaikoura coastline.

Hanmer Springs: Hanmer Forest contains some of New Zealand's oldest exotic trees. Planting began in 1902. Native birds commonly found in the park include bellbirds, fantails, miromiro, riroriro, rifleman, tui, kereru and New Zealand falcon. There are many walking trails in the forest. Wear sturdy footwear if you plan to do the Chatterton River, Mount Isobel or Waterfall Tracks.

Activities:

- Adventurous air activities such as paragliding and sky diving, is a great way to see the Canterbury Region’s stunning scenery
- View Canterbury by air in a not so daring way, but still as beautiful, in a glider, airplane, or an early morning ride in a hot air balloon
- Visit Fyffe house, the oldest surviving building in Kaikoura, built on whalebone piles
- Take a ride on the operating trams and steam trains at Ferrymead heritage park.
- Visit one or all three of Canterbury’s museums and experience the history of the Canterbury region.
- Sample the beers and warm hospitality at the Canterbury Brewery Museum, in Christchurch
- Experience the Indoor Antarctic attraction and exciting outdoor Antarctic Hagglund Ride.
- Visit the Adrenalin Forest; This experience is closest to rock climbing in nature
- Take part in a Maori Cultural tour in the Canterbury region
- Go to one of Canterbury’s great art galleries
- Sample some great wine at some of New Zealand’s top wineries
- Take a leisurely stroll around one of Canterbury’s three zoological parks
- Farm tours are plenty in Canterbury, perhaps try your hand at mustering up the cattle!
- The Christchurch Wizard is a highly entertaining local identity - look for him in Cathedral Square
- In the winter months, heli skiing is a great way to get the most out of the winter snow
- Experience Canterbury’s great hunting and fishing private and group tours and guides
- See breathtaking views and exhilarating excitement on a true New Zealand jet boat
- Whale or dolphin watching is a must do in Kaikoura
- In the warmer months swimming with dolphins is a great experience
- Enjoy a guided, independent, group or private tour of the region.