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Destination Showcase: Christchurch, New Zealand with Katy Winton & Joe Nation

Jan 14, 2022
by Jay French  
One of the best places to catch a sunrise in Christchurch.
One of the best places to catch a sunrise in Christchurch.

Christchurch, New Zealand.
South Island Road Trip - Stop Two

Photography & Words: Jay French
Riders: Katy Winton & Joe Nation

Ōtautahi Christchurch, rebuilt, refreshed and situated superbly in the heart of the South Island, is a perfect place to start your South Island riding road trip if you're flying in from abroad. Established back in 1856, Christchurch ticked along pretty quietly until a couple of big shakeups in the early 2010s. After the earthquakes, the city was given a facelift and now sits revitalised as a symbol of resilience. It's one of five gateway cities to the Antarctic, hosting bases for multiple nations needing access to the icy continent. Ōtautahi makes a fantastic gateway for you to head North towards Kaikoura, Nelson and the Marlborough Sounds. South towards Dunedin, Wanaka and Queenstown, or West towards the Alps, Arthurs Pass, and the entire West Coast.

The riding in Christchurch has evolved as well, with the addition of the Christchurch Adventure Park, which opened in 2016, allowing access to a greater spectrum of riders wanting to get into mountain biking. The park comes complete with a host of green and blue trails, a bunch of progression features, and everything right through to jump lines and double blacks.

Ōtautahi - Christchurch City


Mountain Biking in Christchurch is focused primarily around the Port Hills, with tracks crisscrossing up and down, from East to West. Out on the flat, there are two XC focussed forest parks, Bottle Lake Forest and Macleans Island. For those with a bit more time to spend on their journey and the desire to ride some more advanced trails, the North Canterbury foothills offer some challenging rides, and there's the epic network of trails around Craigieburn, Castle Hill, and Cheeseman as you head West. However, these deserve their own showcase at another time.

New cafes, bars and restaurants are popping up constantly in Christchurch. There's so much variety and so many exciting options, it's a struggle to choose which ones to suggest. If you're on your bike, then you're never too far from a bite at the end of your trail. If you want an abundance of choice, just make your way into town (which is only 7 minutes away from the hills), where the options are endless. New eateries like Riverside Market and Little High genuinely offer something for everyone. You have all the new bars and restaurants along the terrace to choose from, too. As you make your way further from the city centre, you can find culinary delights along New Regent Street, old favourites along St Asaph Street, and all kinds of different options stashed away in every corner of the city, just waiting to be discovered.

Joe and Katy grab some gelato from Riverside Market.
Joe and Katy grab some gelato from Riverside Market.

Golden Hour Cruising the Traverse with views to the Southwest.
Golden hour cruising the Traverse with views to the Southwest.

A couple of sheep remain unfazed by Joe and Katy speeding past.
A couple of sheep remain unfazed by Joe and Katy speeding past.

Christchurch mountain biking trails





Port Hills East and Lyttleton


The sun rises in the East, so therefore it makes a great place to start if you're getting into your riding early. Mt Pleasant trig is one of the highest points along the Crater Rim, aptly named as it runs around the tops of the port hills, which form the outside rim of a long-extinct volcano situated deep below, what is now; Lyttleton Harbour. From here, you can head East towards Godley Head and a host of interesting WW2 gun emplacements and history via the Greenwoods track. A little rocky and a little janky in places, it'll get the blood flowing as you make your decision where to go next. Carry on down Captain Thomas and end up in Sumner for brunch sitting at a delightful outdoor table, or head over the Godley Head track and ride Anaconda down into Taylors Mistake for a surf check. Or, head right and explore the Lyttleton trails with a stop in at the Lyttleton Coffee Company for a superb cup of coffee and a feed, or to check out the farmers market on the weekend.

Up and over the stile and the track get s going properly.
Up and over the stile and the track get's going properly.

Katy hot on Joes heels as they head out towards the head of Lyttleton Harbour.
Katy hot on Joes heels as they head out towards the head of Lyttleton Harbour.
There are some really fun features in this track mixed in with a few more challenging.
There are some really fun features in this track, mixed in with a few more challenging.


The top of Lyttleton trails where you can see into Lyttleton township and the harbour.
The top of Lyttleton trails where you can see into Lyttleton township and the harbour.

These trails are packed with fun little features.
These trails are packed with fun little features.
It s really beautiful in here at the moment and so much fun to ride.
It's really beautiful in here at the moment, and so much fun to ride.

The crew at the Lyttleton Mountain Bike Club are working on and extending the trails and they re super fun.
The crew at the Lyttleton Mountain Bike Club are working on and extending the trails and they're super fun.

Breakfast and a delicious oat flat white at the Lyttleton Coffee Co. This is a cool place to visit.
Breakfast and a delicious oat flat white at the Lyttleton Coffee Co. This is a cool place to visit.

Port Hills East mountain biking trails





Christchurch Adventure Park and Victoria Park


Victoria Park is the OG riding spot in Christchurch, consisting of mostly blues, blacks and double blacks. It's where you go to find some core Christchurch downhill. The addition of the Adventure Park has also helped to open this area up to a newer group of riders too. Using the lift to gain access to the top of the hills, you can make the brief pedal up the Summit Road to the top of Vic Park and make your way down any of the dozens of trails on offer, featuring see-saws, rock gardens, road gaps and all sorts of interesting features. Halfway down Vic Park, you can take an exit to the West which spits you back out into the Adventure Park to finish your lap and jump back on the lift. If you're happy to stay in the confines of the park, you'll find plenty of new trails in there such as new additions; Addiction and Double Vision.

Other than the chairlift, there's another feature of the park you can't miss, and that's the cafe. There aren't many places where you can grab a Cassells on tap and sit outside amongst tall pines, watching riders and zipliners come down the mountain. If all the riding has caused you to build up a bit of an appetite, you can head inside, or, roll on down the road to a local favourite, Moon Under Water; Where you'll undoubtedly find a pile of like-minded riders, there to enjoy a burger and something from their delicious and wide range of beers on tap.

Views above the Christchurch Adventure Park top tower across Christchurch to the Southern Alps.
Views above the Christchurch Adventure Park top tower across Christchurch to the Southern Alps.

The chairlift to the top of the hills is a real draw card.
The chairlift to the top of the hills is a real draw card.
Checking out the distance to all the other spots.
Checking out the distance to all the other spots.

Dropping in to Christchurch Adventure Park with the city centre in the distance.
Dropping in to Christchurch Adventure Park with the city centre in the distance.

Coming into the top of Victoria Park among the pines.
Coming into the top of Victoria Park among the pines.
Open berms at the top of Vic Park before getting down into the trees.
Open berms at the top of Vic Park before getting down into the trees.

Still able to find the green room on the Port HIlls.
Still able to find the green room on the Port HIlls.

Classic Vic Park trail Sesame Street with its fun features including this wall-ride to drop.
Classic Vic Park trail Sesame Street, with its fun features including this wall-ride to drop.

Switchbacks.
Switchbacks.
Loess Rider offers a great chance to work on your cornering with plenty of opportunities for practice.
Loess Rider offers a great chance to work on your cornering with plenty of opportunities for practice.

Golden hour in the pines.
Golden hour in the pines.

Loess Rider is one of the original CAP trails and still holds up well today.
Loess Rider is one of the original CAP trails, and still holds up well today.

Inside the Cave.
Inside the Cave.
Outside the Cave.
Outside the Cave.

Rehydrating with some Cassell s at the cafe is a great way to end a ride.
Rehydrating with some Cassell's at the cafe is a great way to end a ride.

Bikes are welcome at Moon Under Water.
Bikes are welcome at Moon Under Water.

Christchurch Adventure Park mountain biking trails





Port Hills West and Huntsbury


Home of the 2021 NZ XC National Champs; Halswell Quarry is another spot offering something for everyone. This pedal access spot is super compact but offers a ton of variation. Climbing, descending, switchbacks and jumps, if you've got an hour to spare, you can spend it cruising around here.

Once you've had your fill at Halswell Quarry, you can make your way up top again via Kennedys Bush and head East, making your way to a staple Christchurch trail, the Bowenvale Traverse. This trail can be ridden in either direction, with views stretching out across the city, all the way to Pegasus Bay, Kaikoura, and the Southern Alps. The Traverse makes its way between a couple of classic pedal loops, up Rapaki, and then down Vic Park, Bowenvale or Huntsbury. Huntsbury has only a couple of options to get down, but what it lacks in choice, it makes up for with fun. The track cruises over rocks, tussocks, and jumps, filtering its way down into the Bowenvale Valley and finally connecting to the Bowenvale Bonus Track. The sunset from the top is pretty epic, and in classic New Zealand style, you can be riding whilst the local sheep look on.

Dusty Canterbury conditions in Halswell Quarry.
Dusty Canterbury conditions in Halswell Quarry.

This park was designed to pedal around all climbing trails are well made and make for fun loops.
This park was designed to pedal around, all climbing trails are well made and make for fun loops.
Halswell Quarry is a fun place to lap.
Halswell Quarry is a fun place to lap.

Dropping off the Traverse and into Huntsbury at the best time of day.
Dropping off the Traverse and into Huntsbury at the best time of day.

The usual crowd gathers around to see what s going on.
The usual crowd gathers around to see what's going on.

Fun features to play on.
Fun features to play on.
Joe chases Katy into the sunset as the lights of Christchurch come on.
Joe chases Katy into the sunset as the lights of Christchurch come on.

Taking in the golden hour hues.
Taking in the golden hour hues.

Couldn t resist a golden hour wheelie.
Couldn't resist a golden hour wheelie.

Port Hills West mountain biking trails





If you've never been to Christchurch, then it's probably time to change that. For those that haven't been back for a while, then you're going to be in for a pleasant surprise. Ōtautahi is bursting with laneways and new spots ready for discovery, art, food, culture and surprises around every corner. It's a wonderful place to start an adventure.

Spring time weather making some crazy scenes in the foot hills.
Spring time weather making some crazy scenes in the foot hills.



Local Knowledge

Getting to Ōtautahi Christchurch: Ōtautahi Christchurch is super easy to get to. Christchurch International Airport hosts more than 130 international flights a week, with connections to 16 NZ airports. The city sits at the heart of the South Island and state highways link you to all the main centres across the mainland. Exploration of the South Island begins and ends in Ōtautahi Christchurch.

The Climate: Ōtautahi Christchurch enjoys a temperate climate, and experiences all four seasons throughout the year. Summer is defined by warm Norwest winds, firm trails and dusty turns. Winter brings southerlies and snow from Antarctica, with frosty days followed by clear blue skies. The city gets less rainy days than NZ’s other major cities.

Wildlife: Canterbury is a haven for native wildlife, with guaranteed sightings of dolphins, seals and birdlife. Trails overlook Akaroa Harbour, home to Hectors Dolphins – the world’s smallest – with similar offerings including native seals in nearby Akaroa Harbour. Accessible by kayak, paddleboard or nature cruise.

Must Dos: Ōtautahi Christchurch is the South Island’s bustling urban hub – the obvious basecamp and kick off point for adventures. Wander the rebuilt CBD to find Riverside Market, an indoor farmers’market and retail laneway, and check out the Ōtākaro Avon River Precinct for riverside walks through the city. Margaret Mahy Playground and Rauora Park offer urban play and a sealed pump track, and Christchurch Adventure Park boasts some of the best and most accessible downhill riding in the Southern Hemisphere.

Local mountain biking groups:
Gravity Canterbury (downhill / enduro)
Single Track Club (mainly cross country / enduro)

Bike Repair Shops:
Chill - Explore with Us
Velo Passion Project (Cracroft)
Basic Bikes (Colombo St, Cashmere)

Bike Guiding:
Adventure South
Chill - Explore with Us
Natural High

Bike Shops:
Evo Cycles (tower junction)
The Hub (tower junction)
Cycleways (Tannery)
Chain Reaction (Moorehouse Ave)
Goat Cycles (Barrington St)


Presented by Christchurch


Regions in Article
Christchurch


36 Comments

  • 15 0
 So good to see this, photography is awesome, ChCh is a seriously underrated biking zone, coverage like this puts it deservedly on the Map though, looking at the set-up with year round lift access at the Bike park it's a solid contender for either an EWS or UCI DHI \ XC........do it!!
  • 4 0
 Absolutely loved the images.
  • 3 18
flag Curse-of-the-foot-long-sub (Jan 14, 2022 at 13:44) (Below Threshold)
 Cap is shit
  • 5 0
 The Christchurch Adventure Park has recovered really well from the 2017 fire that destroyed most of the original trail network. It took a while, but the range and quality of trails has gotten much better over the last couple of years. Would be cool to see a round of the EWS here one day
  • 7 0
 Best thing about riding there is tuning your hat fm to RDU 98.5FM
  • 3 0
 RDU 98.5FM
“KILL YOUR TELEVISION”
  • 2 0
 And don't forget 8k.nz, streaming from Christchurch. For you lot that are interested in music that's off centre.
  • 8 1
 If only you could somehow get into New Zealand.
  • 24 17
 Good news, you can! After a brief two week prison stay (prices start at just $5000!) and you too can be in New Zealand!
  • 4 1
 @litany: don't know why you're getting down voted. I thought it was funny
  • 6 1
 @mdinger: It’s pinkbike, for some reason people get more offended than most social media sites.
  • 3 0
 @BikesNRussets: Social media is designed to direct you to likeminded people. This separates you from dissenting views so you feel secure and validated.

Pinkbike selects for mountain bikers. I wager that's the reason.
  • 1 0
 @Injuredhippo: Yeah, no algorithms here hahahaha. Yet: @notoutsideceo
  • 3 0
 Great write up about my home town - makes me feel proud!
This is just the mountain biking side of things - BMX, Road, Gravel and CX are also thriving scenes in and around Christchurch. There is literally something for every kind of cyclist.
Once NZ borders eventually open () , it is a must visit place!
  • 3 0
 Had no idea Christchurch had this much to offer for local trails. Loved what little time I spent there when living in Queenstown. Need to go back!
  • 4 0
 Crumbs! Do I miss NZ!

Side note: Joe Nation sounds like a cartoon characters name, like Johnny Bravo or something
  • 5 0
 Great to see moon under water featured; must visit bike location in Chch!
  • 1 0
 Ahhh the memories! And I so miss that place. My in-laws lived in Redcliffe and I could bike right out the door up to Mt. Pleasant and choose my poison. Great trails and great scenery. Alas, the big earthquake in 2010 created too much damage and they relocated to Australia. I'd go back in a heartbeat after this pandemic is over.
  • 2 0
 Oh man this makes me miss NZ. So many of my old haunts here. Used to live just around the corner from the moon under water. Such a good pub!
  • 5 0
 Epic imagery Jay French
  • 2 0
 Be 7 years in april when I lived in chch . Not sure why I left. Didn't bike as much as I wanted to, but got a good few weekends in.
  • 3 0
 Sure hope these two visited Mt Vic, Makara, Wainuiomata, Waimapihi, Belmont and Dirt Farm
  • 2 0
 Pretty cool series. I'm not sure I'll ever set foot there, but it feels just a little like I have.
  • 1 0
 what's it like to live in New Zealand?

I have no qualified reasons to justify my desire to do it but I've always had it in my mind that NZ would be on the list.
  • 3 0
 There's lots of friendly and chilled out people living here. We have fantastic social welfare. The legal minimum annual leave entitlement is 20 days, in addition to the 10 annual statutory holidays. The mtbing is top quality through both islands. The climate is favourable to an almost limitless range of outdoor activities.
  • 4 0
 @notsofastoverfifty: I agree with all of that, I loved my time living in NZ, but there's no denying the cost of living is eye watering.
  • 1 0
 @notsofastoverfifty: @agraber:

I'm in the same boat. I'm pretty comfortable in the US, but I would like to live abroad again for at least part of the time my son is growing up and NZ is at the top of the contenders list. We recently realized that my wife at least qualifies for a long term need visa, so we've starting seriously considering it. i might qualify too, but it's less clear. As @commental: says though, the prices are pretty high, so we would have to make sure we could find two jobs before we could move and that might be tough. If the housing bubble breaks a bit there before here, though, we might be able to swing it more easily.
  • 1 0
 NZ is awesome, people are so chilled and friendly. Shame we wont see Katy on that yellow Giga again.
  • 2 0
 That pic of the top of lyttleton trails. Wow!
  • 2 0
 Loving these articles. Missing home for sure.
  • 1 0
 All those pictures are so good, even though the most impressive is the on of the two sheep...
  • 2 0
 wow, looks mint...nice place to live....do they do Fish N Chips
  • 3 0
 NZ in general has hundreds of chippys. The quality may not always be like that of the UK though. Christchurch in particular has a few UK style Fish & Chip shops with curry sauce, mushy peas and gravy options.
  • 1 0
 @JNZ: yum!!
  • 2 0
 one day, one day...

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