The Best Lookouts in Christchurch and Beyond
If there’s a backyard worth exploring, it’s ours. Soak up our picturesque region from mountains, beaches, lush pastures, and rolling hills. Head to the Port Hills for an easy 180 city vista, or explore a 360 landscape from a mountain top.
Grab your camera, a backpack picnic, and head to our pick of the best views in Canterbury.
Close to Christchurch
Coopers Knob and Summit View Car Park
Coopers Knob is the highest point on the Port Hills offering spectacular views of Lyttleton Harbour and some of the best rock formations in the region. Starting just north of the Gibraltar Rock carpark on Summit Road and only 20 minutes one way, this is a short and sharp way to get your endorphins flowing – and do some easy rock scrambling on the top of what was once a large volcano.
Another contender for the best view of Lyttleton Harbour is the Summit Road car park.
Sign of the Takahe
For the best shot of Christchurch, you can’t beat the Sign of the Takahe. A one-hour walk, you can check out the castle – a historic building planned by Harry E.G. Ell in 1918 - and its café afterwards, or keep going along the Harry Ell track to the Sign of the Kiwi. Take a detour over to the nearby Christchurch Adventure Park which has plenty of trails, outdoor seating and craft beer.
Starting at surf-spot Taylor’s Mistake, this stunning track offers epic views of Pegasus Bay and the Kaikoura ranges. With World War II gun emplacements, rugged coastal cliffs, and the potential for dolphin or even whale-spotting, this is one that really can’t be missed.
Only a three-hour walk, you’ll have plenty of time to stop in at Sumner on the way home for some ice cream at Utopia Ice or something more filling from Burger Stop.
Packhorse Hut track from Kaituna Valley
Perfect for families and new hikers, this one to two-hour walk can also be done as an overnighter – or you can carry on for a mountain summit.
Passing through a farm and native-bush filled valley, using stepping-stones to cross a valley stream, you can picnic at the 9-bunk stone hut before turning around. Alternatively, continue for another two to three hours to Mt Herbert Summit if you want even better views, including a good look at Lake Ellesmere. Gebbies Garden Café offers epic coffee and snacks on the way home.
Further afield from the city
Akaroa and Banks Peninsula
If you’re up for a day hike and a bit of a sweat, Stony Bay Peak, or Taraterehu, is an 806m high peak above Akaroa with unbeatable views of the harbour and Banks Peninsula. About four hours return depending on your fitness levels, the track starts and ends in Akaroa – a gem of a weekend spot and foodie haven. Explore more.
Avalanche Peak - Arthur’s Pass
If you’re not afraid of a small rock scramble at some serious height, you can’t beat Avalanche Peak for stunning river valley and bush-covered mountain views. A two-hour drive from Christchurch, the track is just minutes’ walk away from Arthur’s Pass village, gateway to the West Coast.
Scaling 1833m, you’ll need to allow 6 to 8 hours return. The track passes through bush, tussocks, and even snow depending on the time of year. Check for DOC updates in case you need crampons. You’ll need to do this outside of winter though – the mountain is named so for a reason.
Stop off at Castle Hill on the way home for another quick bonus view – and some excellent rock formations.
Mt Isobel – Hurunui
Only an hour and a half from Christchurch, Mt Isobel offers stunning views and an opportunity to relax in a resort town, Hanmer Springs.
Different routes vary from between three to six hours return. Climb through European and Japanese larch, or mountain beech and manuka, or fit in a waterfall view as you head to the summit for panoramic views of Hanmer Basin and beyond. One for experienced hikers, it’s best to get in before winter – snowfall can close the track.
For excellent views of the Southern Alps and seals, Kaikōura is the ticket. A hike to the top of Mt Fyffe (8 hours return) offers some seriously breathtaking visibility over the Pacific Ocean.
For those wanting less elevation, spend up to three hours on the Peninsula Walkway getting close to some seals – or explore Puhi Puhi reserve for a 30-minute walk through native bush. Stay in Kaikōura and experience some next-level fish and chips at Coopers Catch – including gluten-free options.
Tekapo and Aoraki/Mount Cook
Outstanding alpine views or unbeatable starry skies – Tekapo’s wide skies have it all. Mount John, a world-famous International Dark Sky Reserve, is only a 1.5-hour walk from Tekapo Springs. Refuel at the Astro Café overlooking a spectacular alpine vista before completing the short Summit Circuit Track.
Stay in Tekapo and eat breakfast overlooking the world-famous turquoise lake and Church of the Good Shepherd. The regional park offers walking and biking options or take a short drive to Lake Pukaki - with views of Aoraki Mount Cook, picnics don’t get much better than this.
If you’ve got an extra night, head up to Aoraki Mount Cook Village to explore a secluded valley at the base of New Zealand’s tallest mountain – you definitely won’t regret it!