The Canterbury region has some incredible scenery, and it just doesn’t get any better than viewing it as you skydive from 3000 metres. You can tick this excellent experience off your bucket list with the team at Skydiving Kiwis. But If you’d rather stay inside the plane, Air Rangitata offers a variety of scenic flights over the spectacular south. Find out more at skydivingkiwis.com and airrangitata.co.nz
Prefer your planes grounded? Head to the Ashburton Aviation Museum. Ashburton has a strong aviation history, having been used as a training base in the Second World War. The museum has more than 20 aircraft on display in the two museum buildings, with more in the workshop.
The latest addition is a Thompson Refueller, one of only nine on display worldwide. The museum is located at Ashburton Airport, 470 Seafield Road, Elgin, aviationmuseum.co.nz If biking is more your thing, take a visit to Mount Hutt Bike Park on Rosedale Road, which has more than 30km of well-maintained trails suitable for beginners to those looking for more adventure. Find out more at bikemethven.co.nz
If you’re looking for a quiet amble, try the 7.5km track along the banks of the Ashburton River to the man-made Lake Hood or ride the Ashburton River trails - 28km of fantastic riding to the ocean.
The Ashburton Domain and Gardens is a great spot for a relaxing stroll, with 37ha of lawns, gardens, and recreation facilities. Kids will enjoy the safe tracks to ride bikes and scooters, and there’s even a shaded paddling pool for cooling off in afterwards. The domain can be accessed from SH1 whether you are travelling north or south.
An absolute must while you’re in Ashburton is a visit the Trott’s Garden. This incredible place is home to 650 rhododendrons, which make a stunning display from early September through to autumn. T
he New Zealand Gardens Trust awarded Trott’s Garden six stars (its highest category) and designated it an NZ Garden Of International Significance, outstanding for its horticultural value in plant material, cultivation, design, construction, and maintenance.
Even if you’re not mad about gardening, this one is worth a stroll through and makes an excellent stop for a picnic. The garden is free to enter (although donations are welcome) and open every day. 371 Racecourse Road, Ashburton, trotts.co.nz
Another garden worth a wander is Coniston Gardens, which is home to more than 2.5ha of woodlands, formal gardens, and a lake. Hundreds of rhododendrons and camellias feature in spring, with blossoms reflecting on the lake. In summer, the formal rose gardens are a blaze of colour and in autumn the trees look spectacular with their autumnal hues.
While you’re there, take a look through the Coniston Motor Garage which houses a collection of vintage and classic cars, and the Granary Museum, home to an array
of farm machinery and memorabilia. 30 Methven Highway, Ashburton, coniston.co.nz
For those who enjoy putting on the tramping boots, there are several hiking options at the Hakatere Conservation Park.The park covers nearly 60,000ha of rugged mountain country, beech forest and sparkling clear rivers and lakes.
The headwaters of the Rangitata River is a notable landscape, including Mount Sunday which featured in Lord of the Rings films. The park is located on Hakatere Heron Road, Ashburton Lakes.
Weather not great? Head indoors to the Ashburton Art Gallery. The gallery maintains a full programme of exhibitions throughout the year that promotes and exemplifies the works of local and national artists. Exhibitions range from solo to group compositions and are sourced through the gallery collection, the artists and other institutions. 327 West Street, Ashburton, ashburtonartgallery.org.nz
Stop for a round of golf at the Ashburton Golf Club. The club offers easy walking, top-quality golfing conditions all year round and is well maintained with full irrigation from tee to green. All visitors are welcome to play the course. Golf Links Road, ashburtongolf.co.nz
Grab a bite to eat
There are plenty of great places to enjoy lunch, brunch, dinner, or just a quick meal.
- The Lake House Restaurant and Bar is located on the edge of Lake Hood and is a great place to enjoy an alfresco lunch or a candlelit dinner.
- If you fancy Chinese, pop along to Highway One Restaurant at Farmers Corner (corner of Long Beach Road and SH1).
- For a truly southern experience, stop by The Speight’s Ale House on the corner of Burnett Street and Cass Street, where you can enjoy lamb shanks, blue cod, or lambs fry.
- For a great gastro-pub experience, grab a table at Cleavers Corner on West Street, an excellent spot for a quick coffee or a relaxed dinner with friends.
- New to Ashburton is the Phat Duck, also on West Street. Formerly known as Robbies, the Phat Duck has the tastiest duck-fat hand-cut chips and a chicken and bacon stack that tastes as good as it looks.
- For good coffee, sandwiches, muffins, and a superb deli, head to The Somerset Grocer on Burnett Street. The shelves are full of tasty spices, deli goodies, and great hampers are on offer too.
Planning to stay for a few days? Here are a few options for parking up.
Ashburton Holiday Park & Lodge
This picturesque holiday park is situated within the Tinwald Domain, 4.5km from the Ashburton town centre and has a range of accommodation options, including large powered and non-powered campsites, backpacker bunks, family cabins and self-contained studio units and more. For fees and more information, visit ashburtonholidaypark.co.nz
Rangitata River Mouth Camping Ground
Situated on the north bank of the Rangitata River mouth, this camping ground has 24 powered caravan sites and considerable space for non-powered campsites. Kitchen, laundry and ablution blocks are provided, plus there are tennis, quoits and volleyball areas. The camping ground has become popular for people fishing for salmon and whitebait and, increasingly, for families seeking a quiet holiday. It is operational all year round. For fees and more information, visit midcanterburynz.com/stay/camping-grounds
The Rakaia River Holiday Park
Located beside the Rakaia River, one of the best salmon fishing rivers in New Zealand, the Rakaia River Holiday Park has 77 powered sites, most of which are separated by hedges. Facilities include a playground, BBQs, laundry, dump station, recreation room, fishing tackle and even a mini-golf course. Located 20 minutes outside of Ashburton, it makes an ideal base from which to explore this beautiful region. For fees and more information, visit rakaiariverholidaypark.co.nz