The good people of Canterbury are probably only half-joking when they say it would be good if the South Island was a separate country, but when you consider the region surrounding them you can understand their parochial pride and confidence.
Christchurch is undoubtedly one of New Zealand’s most liveable cities, combining an easy-going provincial charm with the emerging energy and verve of a metropoplis. Modern bars and restaurants complement Gothic architecture, and locals know how lucky they are to blend all the attractions of a city with the relaxed ambience of a small town.
To the east the volcanically uplifted hills of Banks Peninsula conceal a wealth of hidden bays and isolated beaches, forming a backdrop for kayaking and wildlife cruises with an eventual sunset return to the Francophile attractions of Akaroa. To the north are the up-and-coming vineyards of the Waipara Valley and the take-it-easy spa town of Hanmer Springs, and westwards the preferred weekend backyard of active Cantabrians builds quickly from the well-ordered farms of the Canterbury Plains to the rough-and-tumble wilderness of the Southern Alps.
Summertime attractions include tramping in the braided rivers and alpine valleys around Arthur’s Pass or mountain biking around the turquoise lakes of the Mackenzie Country, and during winter the attention switches to the mountains with skiing at Mt Hutt. During all seasons, the country’s tallest peak stands sentinel over Canterbury, and indeed all the South Island. Fly over it or walk around it, but you’ll never forget your first view of Aoraki/Mt Cook.