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The Local's Guide To ... On Foot Escapes

Christchurch (and its surrounding area) is blessed with numerous tracks and walks perfect for grabbing some fresh air, checking out some cool sights, or scoring a back-to-nature soul fix. Cityscape hits some of the routes you should be trying out – whether it’s to rediscover the city, check out some killer views or just breathe in our great outdoors, you need to get yourself up and walking this summer!

Top image: ChristchurchNZ, Johan Lolos

Urban Excursions

If you don’t have occasion to get into the central city much (and what are you doing?!), it can be a struggle to keep up with all the changes. Fortunately Ōtākaro understands that feeling, and have put together a few short walk ideas on a handy map to reacquaint you with our changing CBD and keep you up to date with some of the developments going on. The walks will direct you to take in The South Frame, The Earthquake Memorial, The Bus Interchange, Victoria Square, The Convention Centre site, The Margaret Mahy Family Playground and many other new places, including interesting private developments, and offer plenty of places to stop to look and grab a drink or bite to eat along the way. Go by theme – The Greenway and Lanes, Walk to the Heart, Welcome to the Arts, or the Family Park Walk – to rediscover your city.

Avon steps

Image: ChristchurchNZ

Happily for art lovers, SCAPE’S 2017 Public Season has been extended, keeping both of their central city art walks for summer exploration. The legacy (permanent) artwork trail is a good option at any time, while many artworks (pictured below) remain on this season’s trail too, with the SCAPE App keeping you all up to date with what to find where. You’ll definitely want to check out the city’s new permanent legacy artwork, Seung Yul Oh’s Conduct Cumulus, in the South Quad of the Arts Centre.

IMG 1550

Image: SCAPE: Greg Kregor, Lost World

Hit the artistic triangle too of the Christchurch Art Gallery, CoCA and The Central at the Arts Centre with a comfy stroll on a Saturday afternoon to check in further with the latest on the city’s art scene, including the Big Walls – recharge with a coffee and eats at the Arts Centre or new Stealth Hospitality outfit Universo at the Art Gallery. You might also want to take it upon yourself to do a bit of exploring your own – our new CBD is well worth a curious meander. Take in the new laneways and hotspots around Little High Eatery, the Innovation Precinct, The Crossing (pictured below), St Asaph Street’s Boxed Quarter, and the ANZ and BNZ Centres and follow your nose.

The Crossing

Image: The Crossing


Explore the ‘burbs, where there’s much to discover. On the Woolston Wharves and River Walk you can get a glimpse at how the Heathcote River would have looked before European settlement, and check out the sites of wharves and jetties where Christchurch’s produce was loaded and unloaded in the early days on this stroll down memory lane – it’s also handily close to The Tannery, where refuelling and retail therapy awaits. Head for city fave Riccarton Bush to stroll through ancient stands of 600-year-old Kahikatea trees set in 12 hectares of native forest, parkland and historic buildings hidden in the city. If it’s Saturday, hit the Christchurch Famers’ Market too. Looking to stroll? Styx Mill Conservation Reserve near Northwood offers some very pleasant tracks. Hit the Panako Walkway, a breezy 40 minute walk past wetlands and pond, with a viewing platform along the way.

There’s more wetlands to explore via the Travis Wetlands Walk, a circuit track that circumnavigates Burwood’s Travis Wetland Nature Heritage Park, which plays host to a variety of birdlife and vegetation. In Burnside, Jellie Park is well known for its aquatic facilities, but the lake out the back and the pleasant walkways around it are a little bit on the lowdown! Head past the pool complex towards the northwest from Ilam Road. The Halswell Quarry always seems bigger than you’d expect – it’s not just a former quarry but home to six interesting sister city gardens, historic sites, and three permanent orienteering courses. The Quarry Rim track will take you up and around the dramatic landscape of the quarry face, or take in the sister city gardens.

Them Thar Hills

Port HIlls

Image: ChristchurchNZ

How lucky are we to have the Port Hills in our backyard? Don’t forget these killer walks. An oldie but a goodie: the Bridle Path is the granddaddy of Christchurch walks. People have been traversing the thigh-busting steepness of the original route between Lyttelton and Christchurch since the 1850s. Clock the views, then celebrate your triumph portside at Freeman’s in Lyttelton with a well-earned beer/wine and pizza on their deck, or nip back the other way over the hill and keep things historical at Heathcote institution the Valley Inn Tavern.

Another Port Hills fave, old Māori walking trail the Rapaki Track is an easier graft than the Bridle Path. At the top, take in expansive views over Quail Island and then the city and coastline on your descent. A 10 minute walk up to the summit of Mt Vernon while you’re here is also well worth the extra effort. For the more hard-core adventurous types, The Crater Rim Track offers spectacular views of the peninsula along its entire length. We’d suggest tackling the section from the Godley Head car park to the Urumau Reserve Track junction, a 2-and-a-half hour jaunt that can start with an exploration of the historic gun emplacement buildings at the heads – digging those hand-dug tunnels! – before producing excellent views on either side along the ridge line and passing through Buckleys Bay Scenic Reserve. Victoria Park, made famous by Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, is criss-crossed with an array of trails that reward a casual approach – head up and have a look to see what takes your fancy. To tick off a landmark, go for the Sugarloaf Circuit, which takes you from the Sign of the Kiwi up to the prominent transmission tower atop Sugarloaf.

An absolute classic, the Godley Head Walkway (pictured below) is a of trifling 8-kilometre 3-hour coastline hugging bonanza of epic ocean horizons, cool baches (yes, you want to take the Boulder Bay detour) rolling hills and, on a clear day, Kaikoura Ranges vistas.

Godley Heads

Image: ChristchurchNZ

Looking for a one-way, uphill excursion? The newly reopened Christchurch Adventure Park (pictured below) is back on its feet. Head to the park in Cracroft to check out the sweet village facilities and tackle the uphill trail – it’s steep but the views are awesome and the good news is a ride back down on the chairlift is free, and will drop you off handily placed at their licensed café for a cold Cassels on the deck in the sun.


Image: Christchurch Adventure Park

Further Afield

An easy sell, the Waipara Valley Vineyard Trail combines a cornucopia of world-class vineyards, historic farms, and Greening Waipara Biodiversity Trails, along with the historical steam train at Weka Pass Railway – and it’s all set to the stunning backdrop of the main divide. While not on the Trail, Pegasus Bay Winery and Restaurant and Waipara Hills Winery are worthy detours and considerable rewards for trail-weary walkers. For something more substantial, you’ll need to set aside a day to tackle Mt Herbert, the highest point on Banks Peninsula – but it’s totally worth it for the awesome views. Make a steeper ascent from Orton Bradley Park or a longer, steadier one from the Diamond Harbour settlement; keep an eye on the weather forecast as well as current track conditions at the DOC website. Want the big views? You gotta put in the big effort, and the Mount Grey/Maukatere Track to the summit is a 15.5 kilometre show pony that offers some of Canterbury’s finest views (we kid you not!) on the approximately 6-hour return hike.

For maximum spectacle in a short walk, the Castle Hill area (pictured below) has got you covered. The Kura Tawhiti Access Track may only be about 20 minutes in duration, but grants access to some truly spectacular limestone rock formations. Head off the track to explore at your own pace in this place that was tōpuni to local Ngāi Tahu iwi.

castle hill

Image: ChristchurchNZ, Johan Lolos

Head up the Mt Grey/Maukatere Track on the way up and if you’re feeling adventurous take the rougher Red Beech Track on the descent to maximise those outstanding vistas. Opened in March 2017, the new Ashley Gorge Loop Track takes in the gently flowing river, mature trees, native bush and birdlife – just an hour’s drive from the city, you can feel like you’ve escaped civilisation altogether and if you get inspired, you might even be keen for a swim in the river (which remains healthy!). Spend the night at Mid Canterbury’s Mount Somers, which offers a readily accessible taste of backcountry New Zealand. Head for either Woolshed Creek or Pinnacles Huts, which both offer an easy overnight tramp that features impressive rock formations – perfect for a first-timing overnighter, even with kids.

For something completely different, head to Cave Stream Scenic Reserve (picture below), where the pitch-black labyrinthine namesake cave offers 594-metres of pulse-quickening exploration; you’ll have to not mind getting wet and physical and will definitely need a torch. We’re talking headlamp – your phone’s not going to cut it! Pack a lunch and a few brews and celebrate with a car park boot party after.

Cave Stream

Image: Peter Adones

Don’t Forget!

Yes, it’s common sense, but it can’t be stressed enough that even in summer you need to be prepared. To make things as comfortable as possible slap on some sunscreen, take a hat (particularly some of the gents out there that might be feeling the ravages of old Father Time slashing those follicles), water and snacks/lunch, a fully-charged phone (not just for selfies), wear comfy shoes, leave a change of clothes and a towel in the car and check out what the weather’s doing.

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