Short day trips you can take to places located within three hours from Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand and things to do there.
While Christchurch offers many opportunities for recreation and sightseeing, you can also take a short trip to a city or town close to Christchurch to see and do things.
Below you will find a few suggestions for where to go and what to do.
At the end of the article, you will find a list from which you can select a day trip and display it on a map.
The following day trips are listed in this article:
Akaroa is a small harbor town that lies about 81 km (50 mi) or 1 hour and 20 minutes from Christchurch. The biggest attraction is Akaroa Harbour and Banks Peninsula’s landscape. There was once a French settlement in Akaroa, which you will notice from street names and heritage buildings.
In Akaroa, you can stop to eat fish & chips or visit the Akaroa Museum, which is open 363 days a year and focuses on the history of Banks Peninsula.
You could also go on a short 2-hour Akaroa Harbour cruise or swim with dolphins. Such activities are not available in winter, though, and generally cost more than $75 per person. The same applies to guided sea kayaking tours to see dolphins but such tours may be available throughout the year so also in winter.
You can also keep things relaxed and free by doing the tourist drive, which starts about 63 km (39 mi) or about 55 minutes from Christchurch on State Highway 75 just before you reach Akaroa. Follow signs for Eastern Bays via Summit Road and Tourist Drive to get onto the road for the scenic drive.
Banks Peninsula near Christchurch on the South Island
This scenic drive will take you up to a higher elevation where you can look down on Akaroa Harbour from Summit Road and Long Bay Road.
The scenic drive is about 31 km (19 mi) or 45 minutes long and can be seen as a long scenic detour to Akaroa.
Once you reach Akaroa, you can follow Beach Road that skirts the harbor to get more scenic views from a lower elevation before returning to do the scenic drive in the opposite direction. Doing the scenic drive in both directions should allow you to get different views around Banks Peninsula.
See the driving route for the Akaroa day trip on the map.
Mount Somers lies in mid-Canterbury and is the gateway to Lord of the Rings scenery in Hakatere Conservation Park. Mount Somers is a very small town that lies approximately 110 – 120 km (68 – 75 mi) from Christchurch or 1 hour and 30 minutes, depending on the route you follow to get to it.
There are several routes you can follow to get to Mount Somers and beyond. Perhaps you may want to follow part of an official scenic highway – the Inland Scenic Route – by driving from Christchurch to either Darfield or Rolleston and then further on to Windwhistle.
Once you reach Windwhistle, drive toward Mount Hutt. Before you reach the one-lane bridge that crosses the Rakaia River, briefly stop at a pullout on the left side of the road, high above the Rakaia River, to get a nice overview of the grandeur of this river, and then drive on to cross the one-lane bridge.
There are two bridges that cross the Rakaia River; the second bridge is a two-lane bridge. After you pass the second bridge, you can stop briefly on the left at a picnic area and camping ground that has toilets; it is signposted.
Drive on to Mount Hutt and then to Mount Somers. When you reach Mount Somer, turn right, and drive on the Ashburton Gorge Road that will take you straight to Hakatere Conservation Park. There you can spend time around several lakes or drive further on to Mount Potts where you can walk to Mount Sunday if you wish.
While locals drive 2WD cars on Hakatere Potts Road and Hakatere Heron Road, you may feel a bit more comfortable and secure if you are in a 4WD car on these roads. You can spend some time there driving around, taking photographs, walking, or biking if you have a bike.
See the driving route for the Mount Somers day trip on the map.
Arthur’s Pass is a small village about 141 km (88 mi) or almost 2 hours from Christchurch. Even if you only go for a long drive to Arthur’s Pass and do not stop to do any walks, the landscape is worth the drive.
About 80 km (50 mi) from Christchurch, there is a gravel road going left off State Highway 73 that you can follow to visit two lakes – Lake Lyndon and Lake Georgina – as a side trip to your scenic drive to Arthur’s Pass.
There are several walks you can do at Arthur’s Pass with the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track being a popular one.
Rock formations in Kaikoura on the South Island
See the route for the Arthur’s Pass day trip on the map.
Kaikoura is a small town that lies approximately 180 km (112 mi) north of Christchurch. It is best known for its whale watching tours. You can book a tour year-round. While you are not guaranteed to see whales on your tour, there are some companies that will give you a partial refund if you do not get to see a whale, so the tour is worth going on if you are interested in whales.
The drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura is a relatively long one of almost two hours and a half, but when you reach Kaikoura, you can stretch your legs by going on the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway, which offers great views of the Kaikoura Range, the sea, and seals. There might be seals lying down on or near the parking lot at Point Kean when you arrive.
Before you leave Christchurch, check the Department of Conservation’s website for are any warnings and whether the trail is open, since it can be closed if there have been slips or anything similar due to bad weather.
See the route for the Kaikoura day trip on the map.
Below you will find a map displaying all of the short day trips that were mentioned in this article.
Note that driving distances and times are automatically calculated by Google and are one-way distances and times. Ensure you add enough time to do any extra activities you plan on doing and to return to Christchurch.
Map 1. The driving route for a short day trip from Christchurch.
Note: Places can change and/or become inaccessible. The information presented here was accurate when it was gathered.
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