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Picton - Christchurch

Get ready for Picton to Christchurch: Wineries, Wildlife and Water! Grab the whole family and hit the road for this two-day trip taking you from one of New Zealand's premier wine-growing regions along the east coast of the South Island.

Picton to Christchurch
Total Distance 426 Km
Approx driving time 4 hours 34 minutes
Today Picton25°
Christchurch27°

Over the years, Picton has evolved from a hop-on, hop-off place into the kind of spot that makes you want to stay a few days. Away from the ferry terminal, the foreshore buzzes with fun family activities: kids can sail model yachts, have a spin on the merry-go-round or have a fun game at the mini-golf course. EcoWorld Aquarium has feeding sessions, touch tanks, behind-the-scenes tours and close-up encounters.

Blenheim

A 20-minute drive south from Picton brings you to Blenheim, the hub of Marlborough and New Zealand's premier viticultural region. Join a wine tour, customise your own cellar-door tour, check out the Vines Village for great shopping and dining options or visit Makana Confections. For a spot of history and culture, the Brayshaw Heritage Park, the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and the Omaka Classic Cars museum are worth a visit.

Visit Rakautara's iconic 'Nin's Bin', where the freshest crayfish are peddled from a caravan embedded in the rocks by the sea.

After spending time in Blenheim, head south to where tiny townships offer up lots of treats: The Store at Kekerengu, a cafe enviably situated on the beachside with extensive terraces and fabulous views; seals at Ohau Point; their pups frolicking in the pool beneath the Ohau Waterfall, a five-minute walk inland; and visit Rakautara's iconic 'Nin's Bin', where the freshest crayfish are peddled from a caravan embedded in the rocks by the sea.

Picton: EcoWorld Aquarium

Marlborough Museum at the Brayshaw Heritage Park complex

Kaikoura: whale/dolphin/seabird-watching and Maori culture

Waikari's Maori cave art to discover; and the heritage Weka Pass Railway

Hanmer Springs: Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa

Waipara - one of New Zealand's fastest growing wine regions

Christchurch: Hot air balloons

Christchurch City: Funky cafes and bars

Christchurch: International Antarctic Centre

In Picton it's well worth driving up the Kenepuru Sound; the winding road has abundant lookouts and resorts to visit.

Enjoy a chilled glass of our world-famous Marlborough sauvignon blanc while dining alfresco on Picton's waterfront.

Just before reaching Kaikoura, be sure to check out Ohau Point. This rocky outcrop is a popular hang-out for seals and their pups.

Dine on fresh seafood in the town with a name that means 'to eat crayfish' - Kaikoura. The plentiful waters surrounding this township inspired the fitting name.

While in Kaikoura check out Fyffe House, built in the 1850s and a remnant of Kaikoura's whaling days.

Waipara is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in New Zealand and cellar door tastings here are not to be missed. Savour the offerings of a small boutique-style winery then dine in style among the vines with a platter for two at one of the larger vineyard estates.

Over summer Christchurch buzzes with events, including the World Buskers Festival, the Festival of Flowers, the Chinese Lantern Festival and the Ellerslie International Flower Show.

Conquer your fear at Adrenalin Forest - it's best described as a multi-level aerial obstacle course. Negotiate a series of rope bridges, Tarzan swings and flying foxes from platforms constructed in the tree canopy - take up the challenge!

Coastal Kaikoura

The ultimate marine destination

From the depths of the deep green of the ocean comes a long call: "Eee...

Camping Country

Every nook and cranny hides a camping spot

In the days before easy air travel, summer camping was a national past...

Akaroa and Banks Peninsula

A hint of French charm

In a town bearing signposts such as 'Rue Jolie' and 'Rue Balguerie', v...

Marlborough Wine Trail

Wine Tasting and Gourmet Delights

Savour the tastes of Marlborough, New Zealand's largest grape growing ...

Christchurch City

Cycling, kayaking & punting through the Garden City

In 1997, Christchurch was judged 'Garden City of the World' in the Nat...

Kaikoura

From here, it's on to surfing the legendary breaks of Mangamaunu in the company of rare Hector's dolphins, before arriving in the whale-watching capital of New Zealand, Kaikoura. Book a place to stay in this amazing town for the night; there's a great array of attractions to keep everyone entertained here.

After a hearty breakfast, it's time to spend half a day or more viewing sperm whales, dusky dolphins, royal albatrosses and, occasionally, orca and blue whales, as they feast here above the Hikurangi Trough - a huge, submarine chasm where warm northern waters mix with a nutrient-rich Antarctic flow to attract a wealth of marine life.

From whale-watching tours to swimming with dolphins, albatross watching, snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, and rides in glass-bottomed boats, Kaikoura offers a marine-based activity for everyone. For landlubbers there's the local arts and crafts trail, the Maori Leap Caves, wine tasting, skydiving, Maori Tours, quad biking, the Kaikoura District Museum, horse trekking, golf and much more.

Hanmer Springs

In the afternoon, take the Inland Kaikoura Road westwards to Hanmer Springs and Hurunui. Soak up the alpine village atmosphere and enjoy a relaxing dip in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and a spa treatment. If you enjoy something a little more adventurous, try one of Hurunui's many mountain bike trails, quad biking or jet boating.

Heading back down south, you'll come to the Waipara Valley, where pinot noir, riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes thrive in a warm microclimate.

Mt Cass Walkway offers glorious views from its unusual limestone landscape, while inland there's Waikari's Maori cave art to discover, and the heritage Weka Pass Railway.

Soak up the alpine village atmosphere and enjoy a relaxing dip in the Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and a spa treatment.

Christchurch

When you reach Christchurch, take time to enjoy the atmosphere. Known as the Garden City, Christchurch boasts an upbeat cosmopolitan vibe; it's brimming with eclectic cafes, high-street designer studios and hot lunch spots along the Avon River.

Be sure to catch a footy match - this city is rugby-mad and the atmosphere is unbeatable. Try punting on the Avon River, enjoy a scenic gondola ride, take in the breathtaking vistas from a hot-air balloon at sunrise, experience the vibrant nightlife, meet the locals in Hagley Park and just explore and enjoy yourself. Road trips are all about the journey, but in this case, the end destination is just as exciting!

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Swimming with dolphins is an experience worthy of many superlatives, but above all it has to rank as one of life's great privileges. Being in the water as inquisitive dolphins swim among your group is truly humbling.

The dusky dolphins that inhabit the waters off Kaikoura year round are playful and acrobatic, and their mad antics are also extremely exciting when viewed from a boat.

Soon after the dolphins spot an audience, they usually leap out of the water and flash their luminous white bellies. As they become more excited, their tricks increase - there's side-slapping and spins, and somersaults both forwards and back.

They put on such an amazing display and seem to enjoy it so much that it's hard to believe that they're wild.

With snorkelling gear and wetsuits provided, there's no excuse not to take to the water for an experience to remember.

To top it off, the Kaikoura coastline offers a wealth of other wildlife too. Eco-tourism activities abound, from albatross spotting to snorkelling with seals and whale watching.

While Akaroa is a charming, laid-back village, don't be fooled into thinking there's a shortage of activity here. Rather, this French-influenced town is a brilliant family destination with plenty to offer.

A walk through the town reveals a generous number of quality restaurants, and boutique shops are in abundance. Much of this activity is along the foreshore, the ideal setting for a picnic.

The scenery is fantastic and there are countless vantage points to take in the beautiful views of Akaroa and its harbour, which is famous for its wildlife. Akaroa is the only place in the world where you can swim with Hector's dolphins - the world's smallest and rarest - and this is an experience you'll treasure for years to come.

If you would rather stay out of the water, you can watch dolphins from the boat or take a nature tour where fur seals, white-flippered and yellow-eyed penguins and other birds can also be spotted.

The likes of walking and tramping, farm tours, swimming, surfing, sailing, horse trekking, fishing, kayaking and mountain biking should keep you busy.

At a more relaxed pace, the Akaroa Museum delves into the town's Maori history and its French connection. Or you could take an audio tour to learn about the past while enjoying a pleasant stroll around Akaroa.

If you're a food and wine devotee, then dining among the vines at a Marlborough winery is an absolute must. It's well known that the region produces amazing sauvignon blanc, but to really take advantage of Marlborough's tasty treats, you need to indulge in a meal at a picturesque winery.

It's been said that no wine anywhere in the world tastes like the wine of Marlborough - the balance of extraordinary purity and intensity of flavours and aroma is superb. When you dine at a vineyard, an expert will be able to recommend one of these exquisite local wines to complement each dish, taking your meal to another level altogether.

And what can you expect in the way of cuisine? Seafood is definitely on the menu here - the region is known for producing delicious oysters, Greenshell mussels and scallops, as well as fish. If you're not into seafood, don't worry - there's also an array of dishes available at vineyards to suit your tastes, whatever they may be.

If you've seen any of the Jurassic Park movies you've probably wondered what it would be like to live in the dinosaur age. Now, you won't see a T-Rex in Kaikoura, but you might see the closest thing to one! Giant sperm whales that usually patrol the deep seas are drawn in to the shallow sea shelf just off the east coast of the South Island by strong currents.

Opt to watch the whales from a tour boat at sea level, or gain a bird's-eye perspective of these ocean giants in a flightseeing plane. Whether by air or by sea, you have a 95 per cent chance of sighting the majestic sperm whale. Operators even provide partial refunds if you don't see one at all. Not bad, considering this is a unique opportunity to witness a prehistoric species at large.

While the sperm whale is undeniably the star of the show in Kaikoura, there's a cast of other creatures that you're likely to see too. Dusky dolphins, fur seals, wandering albatross and other migrating whale species may also be cruising through Kaikoura on your tour - heading for Antarctica or simply playing in the South Pacific.

Bienvenue a Akaroa! If you're not up to speed on your French, what we're trying to say is that you'll be extended a warm welcome when you reach this charming Banks Peninsula town. So why the French greeting? Well Akaroa is the site of the only attempt to establish a French settlement in New Zealand, which is immediately evident upon your arrival.

Take a stroll down Rue Jolie or Rue Lavaud - these French-inspired street names are just the start; much of the architecture, shop names and restaurant cuisine have an obvious French feel while the blue, red and white flag is not out of place here.

To learn more, make a beeline for the Akaroa Museum, which delves into the town's French connection. Or you could take an audio tour to learn about the past while enjoying a pleasant stroll around Akaroa.

Half an hour from The Square in Christchurch, Godley Head sits guard at the entrance to Lyttelton Harbour. Built in 1939 as a coastal defence fort, Godley Head is one of the top ten coastal defence heritage sites in the country - Christchurch's answer to Devonport's North Head. You can explore this ancient defence zone on foot, but careful as many of the gun enplacements and buildings have been closed due to earthquake damage. However, many walking tracks in the area have since been reopened.

 
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