The Macauley Valley is an area north of Tekapo that is only accessible by 4wd, horse, bike, or foot. You follow a winding river for about 18 kilometers to reach a well maintained Department of Conservation hut. It’s well worth the trip to get there as the isolation has been unmatched by anywhere else I’ve been in New Zealand and the views of the Southern Alps are incredible. There is some good walking to be done up the hills or further down the river and there are a few swimming holes as well.
Tekapo is a popular tourist town in Canterbury. It’s known for its turquoise lake, observatory, wildflowers, and stone church. I only spent an afternoon there on my way back from Macauley (blog post and photos pending!) but it was a lovely place to walk around and take some photos. I also went to Lake Pukaki to take a look at Mt. Cook and took a detour through Raincliffe where I saw a cool abandoned car with flowers growing out of it.
New Brighton is a beach area in Christchurch that was hit hard in the 2011 earthquake. Repairs are still ongoing and the town feels a bit abandoned as tourism is down and shops have closed. It is, however, a mecca for street artists and there is an abundance of colorful murals. Here is just a selection of photos by a variety of artists, my favorite of which being Joel Hart.
I visited Wellington for a long weekend and a major highlight was Zealandia, a 555-acre conservation project up in the hills. There are tons of bird species and several kilometers worth of walking tracks to explore. Though the center of the site can get quite busy, if you walk far enough you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’ve gone back in time. The sanctuary is surrounded by a fence to keep out predators. I saw the following bird species: hihi, bush pigeons, kakariki, brown teal ducks, and blackbirds, among others.
Christchurch is situated north of several extinct volcanoes, which make up the areas of Banks Peninsula and Akaroa. Millions of years ago these volcanoes created cones, which were then flooded as sea levels rose. The resulting hills and harbors are a major attraction for hiking, fishing, and other water activities. The Port Hills in the southern part of Christchurch are the closest for city dwellers and it’s an easy trip to walk or bike to the top and get fantastic views. It’s especially nice at sunset!
I went with a group from Meetup to climb Mt. Oxford, a relatively easy day trip from Christchurch. It was a very foggy day, which affected the quality of the pictures I was able to snap, but I managed to get a few good ones. There is quite a bit of diversity in terms of natural features, including dry beech forest, sub-alpine scrub, tussock tops, and podocarp forest. Overall it was a great day!
One of the touristy highlights of Christchurch is the sprawling, 50-acre Botanic Gardens next to Hagley Park, right in the center of town. My favorite part of the gardens was the Cunningham House, which has a tropical collection of plants from all over the world. There is also an “Erica Garden”! You can easily spend a couple hours wandering around and getting lost in your thoughts.