From the blue Pacific, across the patchwork quilt of Canterbury Plains to the snow-caped Southern Alps, this region is a mighty adventure playground.

There are abundant opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in winter and year round hiking, cycling, mountain biking, fishing, rafting and kayaking.

South Canterbury is rich in cultural heritage. Timaru and Oamaru have some of New Zealand’s finest historic buildings and wonderful public gardens and museums.

There are new attractions to see every day, and fresh excitement on wild rivers that tumble down mountainsides and scramble across broad flood plains in a race to the sea.

The Rangitata River provides the closest rafting trip to Christchurch, and commercial operators in Peel Forest (Canterbury) and Christchurch provide a great 3 hour, Grade 5 trip on this wicked river. The upper catchment collects an enormous volume of water, which ensures good rafting. Flows can fluctuate wildly however, and the gnarly gorge section can be difficult at times.

The put in is off the Rangitata Gorge Road and the run commences with a series of Grade 3 rapids, followed by a tight section called ‘The Pinch’. Above the irrigation intake are steep rapids where monster boulders create holes and other mayhem amongst the big white fluffy stuff. This is one of the greatest Grade 3 – 5 river adventures in the country – ultimate whitewater, ultimate fun!

The Rakaia also gathers huge melt water flows from several glaciers, forming a braided shingle basin up to 5 km wide. The river lacks rapids but is very swift, which makes it attractive to kayakers. There are numerous put in points such as the Coleridge hydro station and the usual take out is below the Rakaia Gorge Bridge. Conditions are generally under Grade 2 and care needs to be taken to avoid jet boats. In recreation terms the Rakaia is a ‘Giant of the Plains’ with paddlers, jet boaters and trout and salmon fishermen flocking to its stony bed for action-packed adventure.

Other Canterbury rivers such as the Ashley, Ashburton and Waitaki are also kayaked and rafted when water flows are adequate.

The plains, foothills, scree slopes and mountains of Canterbury provide unforgettable images of beauty and peace which linger long after the frenzy of flying paddles and foaming waves has subsided.