The east is the more populated coast of the South Island, with Christchurch and Dunedin cities and the larger towns, Timaru, Oamaru and Invercargill. SH1 between Blenheim and Invercargill runs the full length of the east coast. Christchurch is the main airport hub for the South Island.
The Kaikoura Coast is one of New Zealand's great coastal drives. The road hugs the shoreline with the sea on one side and the Kaikoura ranges on the other. Allow lots of time for seal and surf spotting on your drive south. The small town of Kaikoura sits on a promontory of land bordering the marine depths of the Kaikoura Canyon and Hikurangi Trench, an abundent feeding ground and part of the pacific “highway” for marine life that extends up the east coast of New Zealand and far up into the Pacific Ocean. "Kai" means food in maori and "koura" means crayfish - and the coast here is famous for its abundant seafood and crayfish. Whale-watching (by air or sea) is an absolute must here, but there are several other good options to explore the local coast and birdlife. The dramatic Kaikoura ranges offer excellent hiking and quite a different landscape to that you find on other New Zealand walks.
Christchurch is the major centre for business in the South Island and its major airport hub, with quite a number of international flights as well as domestic links. It is also a historic garden city that is still very much in recovery mode three years after a major earthquake with much of the town centre demolished, but some very innovative building programs now well under way and exciting future plans. Look for the Re:START shopping area in and around Cashel Mall, built from shipping containers housing a mixture of fashion retail, cafes and gift stores. And visit the new "temporary" cathedral designed from cardboard, wood and glass by world renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. The Botanical Gardens and Hagley Park are still wonderful places to spend time relaxing and exploring after a long flight. An hour's drive away down the coast is Akaroa, a pretty coastal hamlet and a nice day trip from Christchurch.
The main road to the West Coast leaves the rural landscape of the Canterbury plains, following a magnificent river valley into an increasingly alpine and forested terrain, and traverses the Southern Alps at Arthur's Pass. The tiny township of Arthur's Pass is just before the Pass itself and about halfway to the West Coast, Greymouth and Hokitika. A stay at Arthur's Pass Wilderness Lodge allow you to explore a large high country farm as well as enjoying excellent birdlife and hiking small group guided tours.
Picton-Kaikoura: 2 hours
Kaikoura-Christchurch: 2 hours 30 mins
Kaikoura-Arthur's Pass: 2 hours
Christchurch-Arthur's Pass: 3 hours 40 mins
Christchurch-Hokitika: 3 hours
Christchurch-Dunedin: 4 hours 30 mins
- Whale Watch Cruise Kaikoura, Canterbury
- Whale Watching Flights Kaikoura, Canterbury
- Wilderness Lodge Arthur's Pass Arthur's Pass, Canterbury
- The Factory Kaikoura, Canterbury
- South Island Private Tours & Transfers Christchurch & South Island
- Arthur's Pass Day Tour Christchurch
- Kaikoura Day Tour Christchurch
- Akaroa Day Tour Christchurch
- The George Christchurch
- Dolphin Encounter Kaikoura, Canterbury
- Albatross Encounter Kaikoura, Canterbury
- Tour NZ on a Harley Davidson Nationwide Tours & Rental
- Kaikoura Wilderness Experience Kaikoura, Canterbury