Getting an aerial view of Christchurch and the surrounding areas is unlike other cities. With no towering skyscrapers to whizz you to the top, the only views from above are those from hills carved out by nature. Here are 5 of the the best views in Christchurch to show you just how beautiful this city can be!
Christchurch is such an underrated city in New Zealand, but I hope to show you with just a few stunning viewpoints just how great the city and surrounding areas can be.
As a generally very flat city, the chance to get higher up and explore the landscape around the centre of town is a certainly worth the effort. Since earthquakes regularly occur in this part of the country, buildings in Christchurch city centre are not the usual skyscrapers we’re familiar with in Auckland and Wellington. This basin of land leading to the ocean is best seen by reaching the hillier areas around the city. And, if you’re anything like me, a glimpse of those mountains will have you itching to pack up for a road trip through the alpine roads immediately!
At the end of our South Island New Zealand road trip we were finally home safe and dry in Christchurch. Still not satisfied with all the top class New Zealand scenery we’d been spoiled with around the Southern Alps (we really have a problem, it’s an addiction!) we took a little day outing around Christchurch to catch some winter sunshine. We made the most of our drive and enjoyed the views from the hills, and drove through the gorgeous roads south east of the city centre.
5 Best Views In Christchurch New Zealand
1. Port Hills
The Port Hills are the first place to go outside of the city to quickly get some elevation and catch a sample of the views on offer. From overlooking the city towards the Southern Alps, to the volcanic coastline and vast Pacific Ocean stretching out to the horizon.
How to get to the Port Hills in Christchurch
It’s a pretty easy and beautifully scenic drive to reach the Port Hills. From the city centre, head straight down Colombo Street towards Cashmere, and turn onto Dyers Pass Road where the hill starts. Follow the road past the Sign of the Takahe, and continue along the hillside until you reach the summit car park at the Sign of the Kiwi. The drive should take around 15 minutes, and from the car park you can enjoy a few walking tracks around the top of the hill to find your favourite viewpoint!
Lookouts on the Port Hills
The Port Hills area has plenty of great lookouts along the road, you can easily stop along them all, take a short walk, and see which viewpoint is your favourite!
Cashmere Hill Lookout (Sign of the Takahe)
The Sign of the Takahe is a little further down the hill, and is a gorgeous building set alongside exquisite gardens. Right next to the Sign of the Takahe is the Cashmere Hill Lookout. This panoramic view over the city and coastline is a wonderful introduction to the amazing views provided by this area of Christchurch. As a pretty quiet, mostly residential area, you’ll likely have the lookout to yourself!
Sign of the Kiwi
At the car park is the Sign of the Kiwi cafe. Stop off for a refreshment or bite to eat and if you nab a window seat, you can enjoy spectacular views over the city!
There are plenty of Sign of the Kiwi cafe walking tracks to enjoy, from under 30 minutes to over 3 hours, so the choice is yours!
From the Sign of the Kiwi are marked tracks to delve into nature and appreciate the finest views from the Port Hills. Less than 30 minutes through the bush and gently sloping incline, we reached a lookout over Governors Bay, Quail Island, and Lyttleton Harbour.
There are lots of other nearby tracks from the Sign of the Kiwi cafe and around Summit Road include Craters Rim, Rapaki Track, and more. A decent 8km walk if you’re feeling up to it can even take you to the Sign of the Bellbird, but for a quick-win view Mitchell’s Track is perfect if you’re short of time.
2. Godley Head
Godley Head is one of my favourite places in Christchurch. It’s isolated location and gorgeous views feel like the edge of the Earth, and with snippets of history along the way it’s a fascinating short walk to take along the coast.
Get to Godley Head Carpark Christchurch
From Christchurch city centre, head east towards the coast and aim for Sumner. You’ll drive along the seafront on Main Road before turning right onto the inland Wakefield Avenue. Following onto Evans Pass Road winding up along the hill and onto Summit Road, take care to drive slowly on the narrow cliff edge road and keep an eye out for sheep – they can roam free here! Finally, make your way onto Godley Head Road where you’ll see signs for the carpark up ahead.
Godley Head Coastal Walk
The Godley Head walk can be as long or as short as you’d like. The benefit of an elevated carpark is you’re treated to amazing views across the coastline throughout the walk, so there’s no effort required to enjoy the the rewarding scenery.
Awaroa/Godley Head was used as a WWII coastal defence battery so features lookouts, tunnels, and and a disused gun emplacement once home to a disappearing gun, mirroring that of the Otago Peninsula in Dunedin. The abandoned lookouts and concrete rooms are eerily fascinating, and an adventure back in time. I loved how the sun created streaks of light through the cracks in the doors and windows, and the evolving patterns of cloud dancing through the sky over the hills.
The track is a pretty decent length at 3 hours for an 8km circuit from Taylor’s Mistake, a cute little beach to sink your feet in the sand! However, if you’re only looking for a short walk, the lookout at the edge of the cliffs is a worthy place to pause and reflect.
3. Banks Peninsula
Admittedly not actually in Christchurch, Banks Peninsula and Akaroa are still very close at just an hour and half drive along the twists and turns of the hilly roads. Steeped in French influence and charming history, Akaroa and the surrounding bays on the peninsula have some of the best views of the Pacific Ocean!
Drive to Banks Peninsula from Christchurch
From Christchurch take state highway 75 south towards Lincoln. The farmland surroundings and increasingly sparse landscape will take you past Birdlings Flat, the perfect stop-off point to get a taste of the outstanding views to come! Drive on through Little River (another great place to stop by to enjoy some local art and a coffee break), until you begin the ascending climb through the hills.
On the winding roads take care to overtake only in the passing lanes, drive slow and steady and don’t be put off by speedy locals or excessively slow vehicles. Enjoy a few lookouts such as the carpark at Hilltop Tavern, and start the drive down the other side of the hill. Through the quaint Barrys Bay, Duvauchelle, and several other bays, you’ll eventually make it to Akaroa. The views from the water’s edge are outstanding, but for the really great scenery a little road trip is definitely the best option.
Best lookout spots in Banks Peninsula
Similarly to the Port Hills, Akaroa and Banks Peninsula are packed with great viewpoints and lookouts at every turn. Here are just a few of the best ones!
Up a short steep hill is the wistfully wacky Giant’s House in Akaroa. An artistic wonderland, the views overlooking Akaroa from atop the hill are amazing!
A special spot in the Banks Peninsula, the views over French Farm and Barrys Bay in the distance are the perfect way to start the day. Nestled in the hill and deep in the countryside there are walking tracks and nature galore on this side of the Peninsula.
Take a little drive up the road from Akaroa, and you’ll find plenty of areas to (safely) pull over and catch the views from anywhere along Summit Road. Head towards Le Bons Bay and you’ll get a panorama of views from Akaroa and the bays, over to Le Bons Bay and out to the ocean in the east.
Onawe Peninsula Track
A short, reasonable incline along Onawe Track takes you right through the middle of the peninsula. This sacred Maori site requires respect and care as you embark the deceptively simple hour return walk. With a small ascension at the end the views are spectacular with this spit of land giving 360 snapshots of the bays, volcanic cliffs, and Pacific Ocean. The fluidity of the hills melts into the sea, and with not a person in sight we were on top of the world on our visit.
The track is short but sweet, meaning there’s no excuse not to park up at the jetty and make your way past unusually patterned rocks (and maybe skip a few stones) before climbing the grassy banks to the rocky summit. As the walk requires crossing the pebbled beach below the peninsula, avoid the hike during or near the high tide hours (or risk soggy feet/getting stranded!).
Tucked away behind the hills is the port town of Lyttelton. Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, this sleepy harbour has bays, boats, and beauty that is best appreciated from the road winding up the hill.
How to get to Lyttelton from Christchurch
There are a couple of routes into Lyttelton; either through the mountain tunnel taking around 20 minutes from the city (state highway 74 past Christchurch Gondola), or along Dyers Pass Road (right through the Port Hills!), which is one long and beautiful (and often quiet) road from Lyttelton all the way to Cashmere on the outskirts of the city centre, taking around 45 minutes in total.
Lookouts in Lyttelton
Being a small port town, the best way to get views over Lyttelton are from above. A quick drive along Brittan Terrace and Park Terrance onto Governors Bay Road will take you past Corsair Bay, and Rapaki Bay. Each of these offer amazing views over the harbour, looking across to Quail Island, Diamond Harbour, and the other southern bays along the coast.
One could drive endlessly along the coastal roads around Lyttelton and beyond, but to head back towards Christchurch, drive onto Dyers Pass Road to head back to the city when you feel sufficiently satisfied by the gorgeous views over this corner of countryside.
5. Christchurch Gondola
Christchurch Gondola is the only paid-for way to see views over Christchurch, but arguably some of the best too! Christchurch Gondola takes you 1,000m up a cable car ride overlooking the city to eventually peek over the hilltop to arrive at the terminal, and costs $28 for adult tickets. The journey only takes around 15 minutes to reach the top while you swing over grazing sheep and enjoy the view. However, that’s nothing compared to the outstanding landscape seen from the viewing platforms way up the top of the summit!
We visited on an especially windy day, making quite the ordeal trying to avoid a face full of hair as we soaked up the sunshine rays overlooking Lyttelton and Christchurch. Visitors can take a little look around the terminal building outside, we glimpsed the peaks of Banks Peninsula to the south and caught the sillhouette of the mountains in the west. Everywhere you look is another unforgettable view, so it’s well worth the visit and at just under 1,500ft above sea level it’s certainly the tallest view in Christchurch!
Directions to Christchurch Gondola
From Christchurch city centre take the state highway 76 towards Heathcote Valley, and turn onto Bridle Path Road at the base of Mount Cavendish. The carpark is clearly signposted and you can’t miss the turning for the base terminal of the gondola.
And there concludes the 5 best views in Christchurch New Zealand! Thanks to the city’s location in this gorgeous part of the country, and the volcanic crater walls that formed the rolling hills and peninsula surroundings, one can’t help but be enticed by the charming variety of scenery on offer.
Have you visited Christchurch’s best views? Which one sounds like your favourite? Let me know in the comments!
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