Believe it or not, Christchurch is a beach town—though it isn’t often portrayed as one. When researching things to do in Christchurch, you’re sure to hear about Christchurch’s museums or dolphin tours in Akaroa, but an old fashioned day of lounging at the beach isn’t usually mentioned. That said, when the summer sun starts lingering in the sky, and water temperatures rise from the 40s up to the 60s, Christchurch locals know the best place to be is out on the soft white sand. So, if you’re visiting Christchurch over the summer—or just like being by the coast—here are some of the best beaches in Christchurch for squishing your toes in the sand.
As anyone who’s been hiking in Fiordland can attest, the scenery in the southwestern corner of the South Island seems almost too beautiful to be real. Jagged mountains explode upwards from placid lakes and fjords, and windswept ridge lines with panoramic views stand naked against the sky. Waterfalls seem to tumble from the clouds during cool, misty mornings, and there’s an enveloping silence that’s only broken by the gusty sound of the breeze.
For as fast paced as Queenstown can be it’s meant to be savored slowly. Sure, the amount of adventure activities in Queenstown means your heart can constantly be racing, but the true beauty of the the Queenstown countryside—the rows of the vineyards, the rugged mountains, the sound of water streaming down a narrow river canyon—are best enjoyed when you slow down and appreciate the moment. One of the easiest ways to slow down in Queenstown is when exploring Queenstown by bike, and while advanced riders might fly down the single track, there are still moments of tranquility and calm between their off-road descents. With all of the other activities in Queenstown, biking in Queenstown has somehow managed to fly a bit under the radar—which is astounding seeing that the scenery and trails are on par with the best spots in the world.
For most visitors who are traveling in New Zealand, the area near Fiordland is about trekking, kayaking, and traveling to Milford Sound. It’s about hiking Great Walks like the Routeburn Track or sailing in Doubtful Sound, or visiting the eerie glow worms caves on the scenic shore of Lake Te Anau. To locals that live in the Southland, however, those activities are definitely nice, but what really defines the local culture is ranching, rugby, and rodeo.
Call it a casualty of modernization, but there are increasingly few places where it’s still possible to get where you’re going by train. There was once a time in the 1800s when train travel was the backbone of transport—the iron horses that steamed across plains and symbolized pioneers. Today, however, staring out the window of a slow-moving train is a romantic, antiquated throwback, although in a handful of places it’s still possible to spend a day on the rails. One of those places is the Otago countryside, a swath of land to the west of Dunedin that is made gorgeous by its vast sense of emptiness. Visitors traveling between Dunedin and Queenstown often zoom through this area by car, but to truly experience the rural beauty—and step back 150 years—a morning ride of the Taieri Gorge Railway is the best route across Otago.
Most visitors to the South Island of New Zealand know Te Anau from looking out a window. That, after all, is the extent that visitors will see of the town while on a Milford Sound day trip from Queenstown. While the long, winding day trip from Queenstown makes sense for very tight schedules, Te Anau is arguably a better base than Queenstown for experiencing the beauty of Fiordland. Not only is Te Anau closer than Queenstown (by nearly two and a half hours), but the lakeshore town has its own sights that are well worth the time to explore.