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9 Kid-Friendly Walks in Canterbury

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Canterbury Walks With Kids

Canterbury has an abundance of outdoor adventures perfect for families. Explore some of the best short walks around Canterbury that the whole family will enjoy. Soak up mountain views, coastal panoramas, test your rock hopping skills or native bird spotting. Canterbury has something for all types of walkers.

Read on to discover our recommendations for the top kid-friendly walks in Canterbury, put together with help from our friends at Backyard Travel Family

Children's Bay Akaroa, the Rhino Walk

Get adventuring and take the family to hunt for some giraffes and rhinos in the wild. Okay, so they’re not real animals, but the sculptures along this walk make this an exciting little hike for the kids. 

This Banks Peninsula walk takes you to a picturesque viewpoint over Akaroa, ideal for a family selfie. The giant metal rhino sculpture at the little summit makes for a great picnic spot and turnaround point. Or, if you’re up for more views, continue the track around the peninsula to Takamatua to make this a 3-hour circuit track (there aren’t any more animals to find though).

Good for: adventurous preschoolers and primary aged kids +
Walk length: 60-70 minutes return

Riccarton Bush, Christchurch

Feeling like a world away, you wouldn’t think this short walk is only minutes from Riccarton Mall. This tranquil inner-city walk will transport you to a peaceful haven. Your little ones will love the incredible bird life at Riccarton Bush so bring them along for this short toddler-suitable walk.

It will take little feet around 15-20 minutes (depending on how many birds they find) to navigate the boardwalks and little loop tracks. As a bonus, this is also a Toyota Kiwi Guardian walk. Sign your kids up and collect medals from sites around New Zealand while learning about nature and earning cool rewards.

Good for: Stroller-friendly walk, toddlers +
Walk length: 10-20 minutes

Mt Sunday, Ashburton Lakes

Does “my precious” mean anything to you? If your family are Lord of the Ring fans, then they may enjoy a walk to Mt Sunday, aka Edoras, the capital of Rohan. While there are no remnants of the filming left, true fans will still recognise the magic of this location.

Even if you’re not a fan, the views are insane, particularly after a good snow. This kid-friendly walk is 60-80 minutes return and is mostly flat, except for the final 15-minute hill to the top of Mt Sunday. Kids will love crossing the swing bridge and the 360-degree views from the summit. Beware, the top spot is notoriously windy.

Good for: Adventurous preschoolers / primary school kids +
Walk length: 60-80 minutes

Washpen Falls, Windwhistle

A hidden waterfall, breathtaking views, swimming holes... have we got your attention yet? The Washpen Falls track is a private trail (small charge) taking around two hours to explore. Stay a little longer for a picnic or swim, it’s a fabulous kid friendly walk and a favourite amongst locals. The trail heads through the forest, around stunning rock overhangs and up to the viewpoint with widespread views over the Canterbury Plains. From the viewpoint, wind your way down to the beautiful Washpen Falls and enjoy the trickling waters and birdsong as you ease your way back to the start of your loop.

Good for: primary aged kids +
Walk length: 2 hours

The Groynes, Christchurch

The Groynes is a great place for a family day out. Not only does it have a few great playgrounds, boat hire and kids fishing, but it’s also a great place for a walk. The Island River Loop is a lovely stroll at 2.8km long, but if the kids are looking for something more exciting, check out the Groynes orienteering course. A fun way to encourage the whole family to walk and explore.

Download a free copy of the two orienteering courses, then pick from the white 1.9km course (easiest) or the yellow 2.6km course (slightly harder).

Good for: Strollers, primary school-aged kids and above (preschoolers would be great on bikes here)
Walk length: 1-2 hours depending on how fast they are at finding the clues.

Kura Tāwhiti Conservation Area - Castle Hill

On the way to Arthur's Pass and the West Coast is the playground of the rock giants, or so we’d like to believe. It's a great natural playground for kids (and big kids), with boulders to climb, tracks and trails to follow, and is for an epic game of hide-and-seek. While this is less of a marked track and more a spontaneous discovery trail, we challenge you to log your steps and see how far you walk today.

Good for: primary aged kids, teenagers, those with adventurous hearts
Walk length: 30 mins up to 3 hours of exploration

Trig M Track, Lake Lyndon

If you’re moving from family walk into family tramp territory, the Trig M Track near Lake Lyndon is a great starter hike. Don’t be put off by the steep start to this tramp. While this is an uphill hike, the incline is not so bad after the first 20 minutes. The highlight of the Trig M Track are the beautiful views over Lake Lyndon and on a clear day, you can see across the Canterbury Plains and out to the ocean. It's particularly pretty in cooler months, with snow-capped mountain views surrounding the summit.

Good for: beginner trampers, primary aged kids + (and particularly capable preschoolers)
Walk length: 2-3 hours return

Woolshed Creek, Mt Somers

Looking for your first family overnight tramp? Woolshed Creek near Mt Somers in Mid Canterbury has the perfect track. Take the easier Miners Track if you are taking younger kids (2.5-3 hours) or the Rhyolite Track for those looking for a challenge.

The modern Woolshed Creek Hut awaits you with 26 beds, double glazing, and a roaring fire. It's the perfect start to your hut bagging adventures. Side trips to the Emerald Pools and Water Caves will keep the family entertained as will a quick dip in the creek out the front door of the hut.

Good for: beginners on their first overnight jaunt and adventurous preschoolers who are used to walking longer distances 
Walk length: Around 3 hours each way

Be prepared, stay safe

Wherever you choose to hike with your family, make sure you do so safely. Sturdy shoes, a waterproof rain jacket, and water are your main essentials. It’s also important to ensure someone knows where you are going and when you plan to return. Many New Zealand walks do not have cellphone reception, so a personal locator beacon (PLB) is a great addition to your backpack.

The Plan My Walk app by the Mountain Safety Council is a great place to start planning your family walk. With weather forecasts, gear lists and safety information, it will arm you with the essentials for getting your family into the outdoors.

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