Self Drive Canterbury | Avis Car Rental

Canterbury Self Drive Holiday

Christchurch, the heart of Canterbury, has recently been the site of a series of earthquakes. The loss of life and the devastation caused to the heritage buildings and centre of the city have been a tragedy the whole world has felt. As the central city is redrawn and the surrounding areas rebuilt, the region wants visitors to know that they are, as ever, looking forward to helping you get the best from this wonderful part of the world.

Most businesses outside the central city are unaffected and many sites and attractions are operating as usual. The wider Canterbury region was not damaged and the spirit of the recovery is helped by the support that visitors bring.

So head south to Canterbury, visit the beautiful MacKenzie Country, see the museums in Timaru and head out to the Anglo-French village at Akaroa. They'd love to see you!



It used to be that a day in Christchurch was a chance to visit Cathedral Square, enjoy the historic buildings, wander in the beautiful gardens and parks, or relax on the banks of the Avon River. Today, the landscape may have changed but Christchurch still offers some excellent travel ideas for your self drive holiday.


Hot Air Ballooning

The best way to start a day in Canterbury is to hear the squeaking of the ropes and wicker and the burst of the flame as a hot air balloon lifts off the ground. The early morning gives the best conditions for flight, and the Canterbury Plains the best conditions in the country for ballooning. Well inland and subject to a light breeze, you will have a gentle trip over the patchwork fields and braided river system. There are a few great operators to choose from and you can take off either from the city or one hour southwest in Methven. Either will put you on top of the world for the rest of the day.

Hot Air Ballooning Website


Christchurch International Antarctic Centre

Not many people get to experience what life is like in Antarctica, but this inventive and ingenious attraction tries to recreate just that. For thrills you can ride on a Hagglund - an all terrain amphibious vehicle used on the ice continent. The journey simulates the hills, dips and spills, and even hits a pond to get a feel for what 'amphibious vehicle' really means. You can view the Little Blue Penguin, a rare nocturnal bird. And in a move typical of the approach here they don't just go for 3D - they have a 4D theatre. You can watch a trip on the continent filmed in 3D, and they add another dimension of ice, snow, wind and other real elements thrown at you as the movie plays. If that isn't interactive enough then they also offer you the chance to play in real snow and to experience storm conditions. It's a real blast! Found just over the road from the Christchurch International Airport.

Iceberg Website


Orana Wildlife Park

Orana is the Maori word for a place of safety and refuge, and that is what this park aims to be for the 400 animals from 70 species it contains. As the only open range zoo in the country this is a unique experience. Moats, streams and banks are used to separate animals - meaning visitors can get a real feeling for how they would live in their natural environments without cages and fences at every turn. An emphasis here is on encounters and there are forty daily feeds you can be a part of. The braver might wish to take up the Lion Encounter, where you ride in a special cage and sit alongside the big cats as they feed. You'll find the park ten minutes northeast of the airport.

Orana Park Website



The wider Canterbury region has many beautiful places to visit on your self drive holiday. And the following should be on your itinerary if you're planning to stay a few days in Christchurch or exploring more of the South Island.



Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is a place so beautiful you might feel you have stepped into a postcard. With the turquoise lake reflecting the snow-capped mountains in winter and golden tussock in summer, it is a tapestry of lovely colour. The much photographed stone Church of the Good Shepherd sits in front of the lake, and at night the region's clean air and isolation from city lights means that more stars can be seen here than most anywhere else in New Zealand. It is so special that the U.S National Science Foundation chose Tekapo's Mount John as the site for their Southern Observatory. Today you can visit the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory to see a working scientific observatory on a day or a night tour and learn more about the night sky.

The Alpine Springs Spa and Winter Park is also recommended as a luxurious way to relax enjoying their hot pools in this alpine resort. Lake Tekapo is 2 hours 50 minutes inland from Christchurch, heading southwest on SH 8.

Tekapo Tourism Website


Hanmer Springs

90 minutes north of Christchurch is the Hanmer Springs Alpine Village. It is a centre for adventure tourism and for enjoying the immaculate countryside. But that's not the main attraction. Since the late 19th century people have been flocking here for the hot pools. At times it has been a place of relaxation and recuperation for many, with a hospital and rehabilitative accommodation. Today it is simply a leisure and spa resort, fresh from a large renovation that has extended the pampering facilities and also provided new waterslide activities for the kids. With twenty odd thermal, sulphur and freshwater pools on offer and more than 100 years of looking after people, you'll be well served by a visit to Hanmer.

Hanmer Springs Website


Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Aoraki /Mt Cook is the highest Mountain in New Zealand, rising 3754 metres.
The mountain holds special significance to the local Maori, Ngai Tahu. They see the mountain as representing their first ancestor, and as a link between the real and supernatural worlds. There is an otherworldly grandeur to the mountain and the 70,000 hectare world heritage site National Park. Although ascents on the mountain are best left to the experts, there are many walks for a range of skill levels in the park, and helicopter scenic tours are also available. This park has an array of glaciers, many peaks and there are even guided ski tours down the Tasman glacier for the particularly intrepid.

Dept. of Conservation Website



Christchurch and the Canterbury region offer so much for travellers to explore that many people come back for more. If this sounds like you, then you may want try one of these self drive ideas on your next visit.



Waipara Wine Valley

Forty minutes north of Christchurch is a wine region famous for spicy Pinot Noir and characterful Riesling. Whether those descriptions mean a lot or a little to you, a trip there will be rewarded by the great roads, idyllic scenery and fantastic eateries. The best of all of them is the Pegasus Bay Winery. They have taken out top winery restaurant in the prestigious Cuisine Magazine awards three years running. They are also considered one of the country's best vineyards - with international luminaries like Robert Parker being avowed fans - so do make time for a tasting.

Pegasus Bay Website



Akaroa is a delightful township and a little window into what could have been a very different New Zealand. It was the site of both English and French settlement, and to this day bears signposts such as 'Rue Jolie' and has a certain Gallic air. The powers jostled, but it was the English that claimed the country and a visit here gives a look at what might have been had things worked out for the French. Akaroa is the tip of the Banks Peninsula and the somewhat winding 75 kilometres from Christchurch takes you to a gorgeous harbour with safe swimming, dolphins, penguins, fur seals, fishing and fantastic seafood. Grab lunch or dinner at one of the excellent restaurants and be sure to say bonjour to the other tourists.

Akaroa Website



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