Mid Canterbury Must-Dos
June 30, 2021 • Goose Ellen
7 min read
In light of the recent flooding events down in the Mid Canterbury region, as well as enjoying our recent trip to the area, we wanted to inspire people to visit and support the locals doing it tough in this stunning part of New Zealand.
The Mid Canterbury region has some of the most beautiful scenery in New Zealand and is a super accessible and easy area to travel, whether you're in a camper or wanting to base yourself in one of the many towns in the district. Stretching from the foothills of the Southern Alps out to the ocean, this area has so many cool things to do and spots to visit! If you like hiking, biking, photography, fishing, camping, wining, dining and so much more, then pack up the kids and off you go!
Without further ado, here are the must-see spots in Mid Canterbury.
1. Rakaia Gorge
The Rakaia Gorge is located along the Rakaia River and has spectacular views of the surrounding mountains such as Mount Hutt. The water is as blue as blue can be and runs under some beautifully constructed bridges, photographers will love these. This seems to be a locals' spot and it's not uncommon to see trucks parked up on the shingle with the rugs and cookers out, enjoying family picnics during the weekends. If you like skimming stones, then this place provides you with the perfect flat, smooth skimmers.
If you're wanting to stay the night right next to the river, the Rakaia Gorge Campground is the best spot to do just that. Offering 48 unpowered sites with spectacular views over the river and the mountains for only $15 per person.
If you're wanting to stay close and are after something a little more fancy than a patch of grass, you've got the option of staying in the Mount Hutt Lodge or the luxury Terrace Downs Resort. We highly recommend visiting the Terrace Downs Resort regardless of if you're staying. Grab a drink, a bowl of fries and enjoy the unreal views of the perfectly manicured grounds.
2. Lake Coleridge
Just one of the many lakes in the area and a popular fishing spot for the locals. Drive around the lake for a little day trip and stop in the many little day use areas to take in the snow capped mountains surrounding the lake. A really popular hike in the region for travellers and locals alike is the Peak Hill Ridgeline. Allow yourself 4 hours to complete the hike. It'll only take you 3 but you'll want a good hour to spend up the top, the views over Lake Coleridge and the braided Rakaia River are seriously out of this world.
Tip: Did you know you can use Campermate’s maps to filter and find fishing locations and hiking trails right across NZ?
The track itself is of medium difficulty and we recommend wearing some decent hiking boots as it can get quite slippery in places. Also another little heads up this track has multiple false summits, so don't get your hopes up when it looks like it's the top....it's probably not, but keep going, it's so worth it!
3. Peel Forest
Peel Forest is a little secret just out of the town of Ashburton and a place that does not get the attention it so deserves. We've got to be honest, growing up in Canterbury we'd driven past the Peel Forest sign well over 100 times always saying the exact same thing; "we'll make time for this one day".
Well, the day finally came and we have no idea why we didn't prioritise visiting this spot sooner. A little waterfall oasis tucked away in a pine forest in the middle of the region and home to 'The Big Tree', a lowland Totara measuring almost 3 metres across! For a really fun weekend getaway we recommend checking out The Lookout Peel Forest, which is literally a treehouse for adults. Cosy accommodation tucked away in the forest and run by a lovely family.
4. Washpen Falls
Just out of Windwhistle you'll find one of the best day walks near Christchurch, the Washpen Falls. Located on a farmer's private land, this 3 hour loop walk is the best spot for the whole family. The kids will love playing in the pine forest and caves along the track, whilst the adults can enjoy the diverse landscapes and beautiful views over the Canterbury Plains. We thoroughly enjoyed this walk and would happily do it over and over. The ever changing landscapes keep it super interesting.
Although the walk will only take a couple hours, allow an extra hour to have a sit down at the waterfall and to take a little cruise in the dinghy (yes there’s even a little lake along the track). There is a small fee to pay at the woolshed at the entrance ($10 for adults & $5 for the kids). If you want to spend a night here they actually offer two types of accommodation. “The Chalet” for something larger and fancier, or “The Shephards Hut” the perfect introduction to tiny house living. A small hut with all the luxuries including a hot tub!
5. Mount Hutt
I'd say the place in the area that attracts the most attention is Mount Hutt, the go-to ski field for the local Cantabrians and voted New Zealand's best 6 years running. The small town of Methven comes alive during the wintertime as it becomes the hub for those with Mount Hutt Ski Field passes. Stay in one of the hostels like the Mt Hutt Bunkhouse for cheaper accommodation and some socialising, or in one of the two famous pubs on the main street, The Blue Pub & The Brown Pub.
A hike in the area that we absolutely loved was the Mount Alford track, located less than 15 minutes out of Methven. A three and a half hour return hike accessible for all fitness levels. You'll weave through beech trees and tussock lands up to the summit which rewards you with views across the whole Canterbury plains and the Ashburton Valley. A thoroughly enjoyable half day hike topped off with a pastry and ice cream combo from the Staveley Cafe. People rave about the food from here, so it's worth the stop.
6. Hakatere Conservation Park
We've saved the best for last! This place is an absolute must if you're visiting the Mid Canterbury region. We won't go into too much detail on this spot as you can visit our Adventurer's Guide To The Hakatere Conservation Park here. This will give you all the information you need to get the most out of the Ashburton Lakes. Head through Mount Somers on your way into the park and grab any essentials you might have forgotten. Top up the fuel, visit the tavern and support the new owner, then roll out into one of the most spectacular places in New Zealand.
7. Where to stay in the area?
If you're like us and love the freedom of travelling in your own camper then you'll be happy to know there are some beautiful camps in the area. Our favourites being Taylors Stream near Mount Somers and Lake Camp in the Hakatere Conservation Park. Alternatively if you're wanting a few more comforts, base yourself in Christchurch, Ashburton or the beautiful little town of Methven and book one of the many holiday homes or holiday parks in the area.
If you filter All Campgrounds in your CamperMate app you'll see a heap of different options. So get out there, see your own backyard and support locals who've been well and truly tested this past month. There's no doubt in our minds how much you're going to love this region. We guarantee it'll be a place you and the kids will want to return to time and time again.