The region of Canterbury consists of four distinct districts; North Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, the city of Christchurch, and South Canterbury. Each region has dramatically contrasting scenery, with the jagged peaks of the magnificent Southern Alps rising sharply from the vast flat expanse of the Canterbury plains.
Banks Peninsula was the scene of earliest European interest in Canterbury. It drew flax traders in the 1820’s, whalers in the 1830’s and a party of French settlers in 1840. The Peninsula itself has many sites and buildings of historic interest.
The site of Christchurch, now the largest city in the South Island, was swampy in pre-European times, when small Maori settlements dotted the area. The city was founded in 1850 when a body of European settlers arrived in the first four of many immigrant ships. Earliest Christchurch was wooden, but it is renowned today for its nineteenth century stone Gothic buildings. The city is described by many as "the most English city outside England"
Canterbury is dotted throughout with grand homesteads, fine churches and the evidence of early industry, and traces of Maori presence can also be seen.
Visual signals were important features of any port, necessary for communication between ship and shore, in pre-radio times. The Timeball has sustained considerable damage during the Canterbury earthquakes, and has been dismantled. Please stay away from the site.
The smooth walls of limestone outcrops in South Canterbury and North Otago provided an ideal canvas for early Maori.
In 1864 Bentley Coton bought 50 acres of land at Hororata and built a small cob cottage that originally consisted of five rooms. This wonderful historic place suffered extensive damage during the earthquake in September 2010. It is currently being rebuilt and is not open to the public. The Hororata Historical Society opens the Museum on-site on fine Sunday afternoons, September-May.
"Must do" checklist
Following the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, please check whether these places are safe to visit and open before you set out.
Ngaio Marsh House
Canterbury Museum, Christchurch Arts Centre
Port to Plains heritage trail (blogspot)
High Street Stories - augmented reality app or website
Walk the Bridle Path
Bridle Path website - put yourself in the shoes of early immigrants to Canterbury
Stoddarts Cottage, Diamond Harbour
Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage, Akaroa
Te Ana Ngai Tahu Rock Art Centre, Timaru
Burkes Pass Heritage Trail
View a youtube video about the Timaru's historic water supply
Find out more about Canterbury's heritage by visiting the website for Christchurch and Canterbury tourism.