Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and the gateway to a wide range of outdoor experiences throughout Canterbury.

The ‘Garden City’ has a fine English heritage, with beautiful park-like gardens and punting on the Avon River. But this is only the start of the outdoor activities on offer in this region.

Boat cruises in Akaroa and Lyttleton harbours introduce visitors to the rare Hector’s dolphin and the little blue penguin. Further north you can snorkel with dusky dolphins and fur seals at Kaikoura where charter boats often encounter resident sperm whales. Scuba divers can come face to face with blue sharks and makos from the safety of a steel cage.

Dive shops in Christchurch and Kaikoura can arrange trips to many locations along the coast.

Kaikoura Coast

From the South Bay boat ramp guided dive trips lead to 12m deep reefs where abundant fish and crayfish (lobster) can be found. The Maori word ‘kai’ means food and ‘koura’ means crayfish. Expect to sight dusky dolphins from the boat. To snorkel with these playful, acrobatic creatures is a moving personal experience and a highlight of any New Zealand holiday. Kaikoura is one of the most exciting dive destinations in the country.

Motunau Reefs

This area 100 kms north of Christchurch is suitable for experienced divers and has prolific fish life on the reefs as well as large schools of pelagic fish.

Banks Peninsula

The northern coast is indented with deep bays and craggy headlands. Godley Head has a wide variety of southern fish species and is well known for kingfish. Adderley Head has interesting caves and good fish life. The southern coast around Akaroa Harbour has superior visibility of up to 15m in light northerly conditions. Magnet, Tokoroa and Tumbledown Bays are popular but Damon’s Bay and Pompey’s Pillar are regarded as the top dive spots. Akaroa is an important eco-tourism site and every dive is both surprising and rewarding.