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The Canterbury Region includes a large central portion of the East Coast of the South Island, centred around the city of Christchurch .

From the silvery beaches of the East Coast to the jagged peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury landscape is impossible to ignore. Big scenery is the order of the day—huge panoramas of ocean or mountains, great sweeps of pastureland, massive amounts of sky.

It's easy to be awestruck—but if you want to be totally flabbergasted, take a hot air balloon ride. The experience of floating across the Canterbury Plains with the majesty of the Southern Alps behind you will ingrain itself on your memory forever.

The highest point of the region is the highest point of New Zealand. The spectacular Aoraki /Mount Cook stands at 3,754 metres ( Aoraki is Maori for Cloud Piercer ). At the other end of the scale, the submarine trenches off the coast of Kaikoura are thousands of metres deep, providing an ideal environment for the whales, dolphins and seals that live there permanently.

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NZstays - Hightlights of South Canterbury

Two hours north of Christchurch is Kaikoura , where the mountains meet the sea. Fur seals lounge on rocks just metres from the shore, dusky and Hector`s dolphins frolic in the sea within sight of town, while only a few kilometres further out, giant sperm whales haunt the depths. The sperm whale can be seen all year round off Kaikoura and is the third largest whale in the world, only beaten by the blue and fin whales.

Not far from Kaikoura is the scenic alpine and thermal village of Hanmer Springs. Since 1859 this spa town has attracted visitors seeking to relax, unwind and ease their aches and pains in the soothing mineral waters. There is a variety of outdoor activities on offer in Hanmer Springs, including skiing, mountain biking, forest walks, river rafting and bungy jumping. While just north of Christchurch , take time out to discover the wine makers of the beautiful Waipara Valley .

Inland from Christchurch on the Great Alpine Highway, State Highway 73, lie the magnificent Southern Alps—only an hour from the Christchurch . The villages of Springfield and Arthur`s Pass make ideal bases for all kinds of activities—visit the information centres for bookings and more information. You can also experience the TranzAlpine —one of the world`s most spectacular train journeys that takes you from Christchurch to Greymouth .

Step back into New Zealand `s past in Akaroa , Canterbury `s oldest village. You`ll hear about Maori, whaling, French and British history. Natural history is another topic to explore—in summer you might even get the chance to swim with the world`s rarest dolphin, the Hector`s dolphin.

South of Christchurch lie the Ashburton and Timaru districts. Ashburton district is home to all kinds of exciting activities like skiing, hot air ballooning and salmon fishing. Timaru district features many attractive towns, rolling green hills, lush pasture and braided rivers.

Lake Tekapo The jewel of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo is a delightful alpine village in the heart of the South Island high country. A ski resort in winter and aquatic playground in summer. Lake Tekapo sits at the edge of its 20 kilometer glacial lake namesake, completely surrounded by mountains, including along one flank, New Zealand’s impressive Southern Alps.

NZstays - Main Centres in South Canterbury

- Christchurch - the largest city in the South Island
- Kaikoura - translated from Maori means `a place for eating crayfish`
- Hanmer Springs - a peaceful alpine village
- Timaru - features significant Maori rock art collections
- Lake Tekapo - beautiful lakeside town
- Methven - gateway to Mount Hutt
- Akaroa - attractive village with a French history
- Darfield - gateway to the scenic attractions of the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers
- Springfield - gateway to the Southern Alps and the diverse journey through the Great Alpine Highway 73
- The MacKenzie Country is a high inland basin beneath the Southern Alps and Aoraki /Mt Cook . Aoraki /Mt Cook is New Zealand `s highest mountain at 3,754 metres . Main centres include Fairlie , Lake Tekapo , Aoraki /Mt Cook and Twizel .

NZstays - The Region of South Canterbury

The picturesque coastal town of Kaikoura is all about adventure on or near the sea. Watch whales, snorkel with seals or tuck into a plate of crayfish.

Take a break in Timaru and enjoy the beachside attractions of Caroline Bay. You’ll find a maze, mini golf, gardens, an aviary and wonderful walks.

Twizel is a handy base for explorations of Mount Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin. From mountain climbing to heli-biking, it’s all here.

Ashburton is a large town that serves the surrounding farming district. It sits between two major rivers, so fly fishing is the local obsession.

Fairlie is known as the ‘Gateway to the Mackenzie Country’. It’s an attractive rural service town that doubles as a ski town in winter.

Geraldine is a pretty country town with an artistic streak. Shop for arts and crafts, refresh at a friendly café and take a stroll around the historic trail.

Jet boating and trout fishing are two ways to enjoy the spectacular environment around Kurow, which sits at the junction of two rivers.

Lake Tekapo
The jewel of the Mackenzie Country, Lake Tekapo is a delightful alpine village in the heart of the South Island high country.

Mt Cook Village
Mount Cook village nestles below New Zealand’s tallest peaks. It’s an ideal base for alpine walks that will leave you breathless in more ways than one.

Nestled in a broad basin between mountain ranges, Omarama is well known to glider pilots. Come here to soar in the skies and fish in the fast rivers.

Will you stop in Temuka to fish for salmon or shop for stoneware? This South Canterbury country town is a centre of angling and pottery.

Look for the huge white horse high on the hills behind Waimate. Created from slabs of concrete, the image is more than 25 metres high.

Winchester marks the southern end of the Inland Scenic Route 72, a delightful road trip that traces the eastern edge of the Southern Alps.