Touch down at Christchurch airport, head north and within an hour you’re in the stunning Waipara Valley, one of the unsung heroes of the wine industry. Boutique producers here are receiving critical acclaim for sub-regional expression, and a recently developed cycle trail connecting several of the area’s cellar doors has become a drawcard for tourists. Almost without anyone but the locals noticing, the Waipara Valley has become one of New Zealand’s leading wine and food regions.
North Canterbury’s cool, dry climate with high sunshine and a long growing season makes it ideal for a variety of grapes and the region has earned a reputation for elegant and expressive Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and aromatics. Today vineyards are dotted across the region from Waimate in the south to Cheviot in the north including the micro-climates of Banks Peninsula and Waipara Valley.
Christchurch, the South Island's largest urban centre, is characterised by its English heritage and the creativity and innovation of urban regeneration following the Canterbury earthquakes.
The city's art galleries and open-air markets can be explored by vintage tram or classic Edwardian punt, while a growing network of laneways offers pedestrians an array of eclectic boutiques, cafes and bars.
The picturesque city also serves as a gateway to fun-filled southern adventures with the international airport a short drive to the sparkling Pacific Ocean, majestic Southern Alps and the ancient volcanic Banks Peninsula dotted with charming townships and hidden bays.
In 2019 the region was named by National Geographic Traveller as one of the world’s best adventure destinations to explore and it would be difficult to find a wider range of activities available in one region. Choose from whale watching in Kaikoura and swimming with the dolphins in Akaroa, to skiing the many ski fields, witnessing the spectacular Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, or mountain biking, ziplining, kayaking, canyoning, rafting and jet boating.
Christchurch International Airport is the gateway to Canterbury – flight time from Auckland is 1h 25m, and 1 hour from Wellington. The best way to experience the region is by road. The Alpine Triangle touring route traverses pastoral hill country and rugged seascapes, taking visitors on a journey of discovery through the alpine spa resort of Hanmer Springs and on to the wine-filled Waipara Valley and coastal eco-destination Kaikoura, where whale watching is a big drawcard.
The world-famous TranzAlpine train journey operates out of Christchurch, crossing the patchwork Canterbury Plains and following the Waimakariri River through deep gorges on a thrilling traverse of the Southern Alps.
Don’t miss: A Farm Food Tour, truffle hunting or wild food foraging in Waipara Valley – now reputedly one of New Zealand’s leading wine and food regions.