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Named after the English town made famous by Chaucer, Canterbury is the most populated province on New Zealand's South Island and home to the exciting city of Christchurch. Its natural scenery, which includes the country's highest mountain, and a plethora of outdoor activities, are its main draws, while the towns and cities within its confines are also used as bases for those looking to explore the more remote places of interest elsewhere on the South Island.
Who to Book With
Unsurprisingly, the majority of Canterbury car hire companies are based in the region's main city, Christchurch – home to GO Rentals, Omega, Euro Car, MX5 Rentals and Renny Rent-a-Car. Most of these companies are unique to the region or New Zealand, but reservations can be made online.
Best Time to go
Deciding on the best time to visit Canterbury depends on what you want to do. December to February is when New Zealand experiences its summer. At this time it can get rather hot, despite some spots of wetness. In winter, the South Island is drier than other parts of the country and there is still more than enough sunshine to enjoy outdoor activities. The best time for self-drive holidays is considered to be between December and February.
Need to Know Essentials
Those that are about to collect a rental car should have the following documents:
- Valid UK driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Secondary photo ID
- The credit card used to complete the reservation
- Printed confirmation of the rental reservation
Given how curvy the roads are in this part of the country, drivers should exercise patience and expect some trips to take longer to complete than the map suggests. As a result of the earthquakes that occurred in 2010 and 2011, some areas of Christchurch’s CBD are still cordoned off, so the local tourism board should be contacted for exact details about access. Generally speaking, the city's roads are flat and easy to navigate due to the grid system, however. Trips out of the city and around Canterbury require a hire vehicle.
Given that the public transport network, which includes buses and trains, is limited to merely the main routes between the major cities in Canterbury, car hire is required if you want to go farther afield. For travelling around Christchurch, trams and buses can be relied upon in addition to taxis. Some tourists also like to rent bicycles.
The tram is used for navigating Christchurch, running from 09:00 to 21:00 in the summer and 09:00 to 18:00 in the winter. The west coast and east coast of the South Island are also linked by the TranzAlpine.
As with car rental companies, the majority of taxi companies in Canterbury are based in Christchurch. The best-known companies are Christchurch Radio Cabs and Christchurch Taxis Chritax Ltd. While fixed fares can be agreed for considerable distances around the province, the meter will be turned on for journeys around the CBD or the suburbs of Christchurch.
Canterbury Regional Council supplies bus transportation around the province, including in Christchurch. At the moment, there is a temporary station located on Tuam Street. A typical fare is around £1.60 per person, but Metrocards may also be purchased for savings.
It goes without saying that the majority of museums, galleries and tourist attractions in Canterbury are found in Christchurch. There are also many other points of interest around the region; visitors can divide their time between the Southern Alps, including the iconic Mount Cook, former colonial towns such as Akora, and coastal haunts like Otago.
Route 72 - This is arguably one of New Zealand's most scenic roads, boasting stunning landscapes and many areas of unspoiled countryside. This road leads to Arthur's Pass and eventually the Southern Alps, the Tasman Sea and destinations scattered along the South Island's west coast.
Otago to Christchurch - This journey will forever be engrained in any driver's memory, mainly because of the seemingly endless amount of rugged coastline on show between the two destinations. Naturally, there are plenty of other towns to stop-off at along the way.
Akaroa - This is worth the effort it takes to get there, as visitors won't be disappointed by this former French colonial town. Stunning scenery and unique eateries abound, while swimming with dolphins in the nearby sea is also an option.