Christchurch, the garden city, is a charming place undergoing a transformation. Once you have seen the rebuild efforts and toured the main attractions, you can begin your journey west.
The road from Christchurch to Greymouth takes in world famous Arthurs’s Pass. This coast-to-coast route traverses the Southern Alps, via steep gorges and other natural wonders. The iconic TranzAlpine train follows this route or you can take your Christchurch car hire at your own pace.
The route out of Christchurch travels through the wide Canterbury Plains, with its patchwork quilt of farms. It’s a slow ascent into the foothills of the Southern Alps. Around every corner there’s something new to see – mountain passes, rivers and lakes, hills and rocks. The rock formations of Castle Hill are a playground for rock climbers and boulderers.
The weather may get windier and wetter, more blustery the higher you get. You are driving into the mountains, after all! Arthur’s Pass Village is the halfway point between the East and the West Coast. The heart ofArthur’s Pass National Park, it is the starting point for many walking trails. Keep an ear and eye out for kea, the famously cheeky alpine parrot.
From Arthur’s Pass Village there’s the Otira Viaduct, a real feat of engineering and worth stopping to take a look. Heading down out of the mountains, the scenery changes. The further west you get, the greener the surrounds. The lush west coast is full of native forest, nurtured by high rainfall.
Greymouth is the West Coast’s biggest town. Visit the local brewery, go white water rafting, and – if it’s whitebait season – sample some whitebait fritters or sandwiches; it’s a local delicacy that’s highly prized. Drive a little way up to the coast to visit Punakaiki and its amazing limestone formations, known as the Pancake Rocks, where the ocean shoots up into the air as part of the natural blowholes at high tide.
Or drive southwards to the replica gold mining village of Shantytown Heritage Park, not far out of Greymouth. You can take a ride on the steam train, and even pan for gold!