Things to do  |  24 Dec 2019

If you want a holiday experience over summer without venturing too far from home, check out Banks Peninsula’s beautiful bays and valleys.

The volcanic origins of Banks Peninsula means it is littered with scenic bays and dramatic landscapes that offer perfect places to unwind and catch your breath.

You can paddle in the sea, go for a surf, have a peaceful picnic or enjoy a forest walk, all within an easy hour’s drive of the city.

Kaituna Valley

If you want a tranquil spot for a family picnic then head to Kaituna Valley Scenic Reserve.  It has a large picnic area, a stream where the kids can splash about, and a short walking track that is ideal for families with young children.

A little further up the valley is the start of the Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut Track. This 4km track ambles through pasture and then forest, crossing the valley stream several times.

The track eventually climbs onto a big open spur. From the spur, you can take a farm track through Parkinsons Bush Reserve to the historic stone Packhorse Hut, which is the perfect place for a sheltered lunch stop before you start the trek home..

There are great views along the track of Kaitorete Spit and the south coast, as well as Lyttelton Harbour, Quail Island and the Port Hills.

How to get there: From Christchurch travel along State Highway 75 about 40km and then turn left at Kaituna Valley Road. The scenic reserve is located about 5km up the road. The start of the Kaituna Valley Packhorse Hut track is located off Parkinsons Road, which is about a further 1km up Kaituna Valley Road.

Kaituna Reserve is the perfect place for a family picnic.

Tumbledown Bay

If you want a day at the beach without the crowds, head to Tumbledown Bay on the southern shores of Banks Peninsula.

The bay got its name from an incident involving too much alcohol and bottles being smashed after a tumble down a steep slope so it has long been a place for summer fun.

Sheltered by cliffs and a gentle surf, the bay is the perfect place for a paddle or a swim on a hot day. If you are lucky, you might spot hector dolphins swimming in the bay.

If you are heading to Tumbledown Bay, make sure you stop and explore Little River on the way.

How to get there: From Little River turn right at the sign that says “Southern Bays” and keep following the signs It’s a steep drive down to Tumbledown Bay on a dirt road so the journey is best done in a four-wheel drive.

Tumbledown Bay

Tikao Bay

Instead of following all the holiday-makers who turn left at Barry’s Bay and head to Akaroa, turn right and head to lovely Tikao Bay.

This peaceful little bay is a just a 10 minute drive from Barry’s Bay but has a laid-back holiday vibe that will have you feeling relaxed in no time.

Nestled in the bush around Tikao Bay are a smattering of baches and holiday homes, but there are no shops or cafes so if you’re planning to spend the day chilling on the beach, pack a picnic.

How to get there: From Christchurch take State Highway 75 towards Akaroa. At Barry’s Bay turn right onto Wainui Main Road. About 4.5 kilometres along the road, turn left into Tikao Bay Road.

Hinewai Reserve

Hinewai Reserve lies a short drive east of Akaroa and sprawls across more than 1250 hectares.

It is a forested conservation reserve that is privately-owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust, but it welcomes visitors on foot year-round.

Encompassing valleys and ridges, streams and waterfalls, and a mosaic of established and regenerating native forest, Hinewai Reserve offers about 20km of sign-posted walking tracks and expansive views over the Pacific Ocean, Akaroa Harbour, the hills and bays of Banks Peninsula, and the distant Southern Alps.

The terrain is steep in places so you need to have a reasonable level of fitness, especially if you are planning to tackle one of the longer walks.

Entry into the reserve is free and maps of the walking tracks are usually available in the pamphlet boxes at the Visitors Centre and entry points to the reserve. Dogs are not allowed into the reserve.

How to get there: From Christchurch take State Highway 75 towards Akaroa. At Takamatua, turn left onto Long Bay Road. Hinewai Reserve is about 5.4km up the road.

Port Levy

About an hour’s drive from Christchurch lies historic Port Levy bay. The long, sheltered bay is home to less than 100 people, but in the mid-19th century it was the largest Māori settlement in Canterbury with a population of about 400 people.

There is still a marae at Port Levy, as well as a stone memorial marking the spot where the first Māori Anglican church was built.

Keen historians will enjoy wandering around the settlement while Port Levy’s old wooden jetty, which featured in Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures, provides the ideal jumping off spot for those keen to take a cooling dip in the water. 

Port Levy is unspoiled by commercial activity so make sure you bring your own supplies for the day.

How to get there: Take Dyers Pass Road to Governors Bay, then turn right and follow the main road to Purau. At Purau take a right-hand turn into Purau Port Levy Road.