Said to be the capital of the south, Christchurch is the city plonked half way up the east coast. New Zealand’s strong points aren’t its cities and unfortunately Christchurch is near the bottom of the sorry pile. Mostly offices and one way roads, the city lacks charm. The pavements are half finished gravel, the businesses are all industrial warehouses and even the city’s pride and joy, the church, has been left in sad earthquake ruin. I will say though that the city is trying to rebuild and is renovating some of it’s older grander buildings. Additionally, the botanical gardens are good for a walk, including a rose garden and greenhouse. Christchurch might have nicer parts than those that we saw and maybe in a few years the city will be thriving, but for now, there’s not much there.
Mother Earth gave a lot of love, time and colour to this part of New Zealand, and here Lake Pukaki is the stunning masterpiece, the finishing touch. From the south side, you see the neon blue waters lined with pine trees that sit low on the banks, at the far end, the trees give way to mountains, and right in the middle, straight ahead of you is Mount Cook, white and grey and undeniably majestic. There’s not much to do in the area, besides the visitors centre, but the lake is good for swimming and the view is something you won’t want to skim past. Spend a night at the free campground and take it all in, or walk your way around the lake into the mountains and fun beyond.
Arthur’s Pass marks the route Arthur D. Dobson took across the country, through the mountains, intending to find a way through the maze only Maoris had ever done before. The road is a beautiful drive, with a valley of all valleys, and plenty of stop offs. From the town, the visitors centre will point you in the direction of the many walks, so you can retrace the steps of Arthur or scale the massive hills all around you.
Nelson Lakes National Park
Towards the north west is Nelson Lakes National Park. One of the smaller parks, it still has two Great Lakes in its borders. See Rotoiti lake for dramatic mountains and a cool swim. From the boardwalk, look down at the giant eels and black swans. A little warning, the sandflies here are ruthless, so whatever you do, cover up or do it fast.