Explore Canterbury and its amazing backyard

Canterbury - bordered in the west by the Southern Alps and the east by the Pacific Ocean - is New Zealand’s largest region with a vast landscape of outdoor nature and adventure opportunities.

canterbury plains

akaroa peninsula

In the air, on water or in the mountains, Canterbury is an adventure and nature haven of unique outdoor experiences - huge sperm whales cruising the Kaikoura coast, dolphins playing in Akaroa harbour, and cheeky alpine parrots entertaining tourists at Arthur’s Pass

According to oral tradition, Māori first arrived in the Canterbury region about a thousand years ago. Originally occupied by Ngāti Māmoe and Waitaha iwi (tribes), Ngai Tahu from the North Island eventually took over as the dominant South Island tribe

Sealers and whalers were early European visitors, and in 1850 the first group of European settlers arrived in Lyttelton harbour. Christchurch became a ‘city by royal charter’ in 1856.

Between mountains and sea, Canterbury offers diverse wildlife and nature attractions.

Kaikoura - in spectacular coastal alpine scenery between Christchurch and Picton - is an eco-tourism jewel.

This little town with abundant marine life offers many activities such as whale watching tours, where visitors can see many different species - including huge sperm whale - throughout the year.

Dusky and rare Hector’s dolphins, and fur seals are common, along with many sea birds and other marine life.

Canterbury museum, at the head of the cultural precinct, holds almost two million items of regional, national and international significance. The collection covers everything from Canterbury's first people - Moa hunter Māori - to European settlers' cultural and economic development, family and local history.

Banks Peninsula was the scene of earliest European interest in Canterbury. It drew flax traders in the 1820’s, whalers in the 1830’s and a party of French settlers settled in Akaroa in 1840. The Peninsula itself has many sites and buildings of historic interest.

Akaroa is the site of the only French settlement in New Zealand. It is ringed by the hills of Banks Peninsula, and set at the edge of a stunning sheltered natural harbour, just an hour's drive from Christchurch.