Destination Showcase: Christchurch, New Zealand

Feb 14, 2019
by Jay French  
Christchurch from the top of Taylors Mistake.

CHRISTCHURCH, NZ
Gateway to the South
Photography & Words: Jay French


Prior to 2011, Christchurch was known as ‘The Garden City’ – renowned for its Cathedral, the Avon River, the tram and this interesting character known as “The Wizard”. Now, the city is better known for geological reasons. The earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011 gave the city a real shake-up, both literally and metaphorically. With the massive destruction was the chance for a fresh start, a new identity. Most of the traditional tourist stops were lost or cut off after the earthquakes. In their place emerged a host of new places and activities, showcasing the resourcefulness of the city and the people that reside there. Mountain biking is one of the activities that has really shone in the aftermath. Riders from all over the world are taking notice of something Cantabrians have been aware of for some time.

Christchurch is predominantly flat, flanked by hills and mountains to the North and South. The South Pacific Ocean meets the city to the East. It’s easy to navigate, with the central city being the place to go to eat and drink, while the hills, which are just about visible from anywhere, are the place to go when you’re looking to ride. Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island since it's an easy drive to the equally excellent riding of Queenstown or Nelson. The world-class Craigieburn trails are only an hour away, with other stunning locations close by. Christchurch Airport is geared up to receive riders as they start their adventure, only 15 minutes away from Christchurch Adventure Park. With international flights landing from everywhere either directly or through domestic connections via Auckland or even Australia, it serves as the perfect place to start the ride.

The riding in Christchurch is varied in type, and thanks to Christchurch Adventure Park, is now more easily accessible. The Port Hills are home to the park, and to the majority of the riding in Christchurch. There are a few places to ride on the flat and Mcleans Island and Bottle Lake Forest are home to XC trail centers, but for most riders, the hills are where the action is. We arranged for a couple of Christchurch’s finest riders, Sam Blenkinsop and Billy Meaclem, to guide us around the trails and show us what can be achieved in a day’s riding. All the areas that we visited were easily accessible by bike and all within a 10km radius from the heart of the city. With all the riding we had to discover, it was going to be a long day.


Port Hills East and Victoria Park

We started before dawn, at the very top of ‘Greenwoods’ track for a stunning sunrise lap down towards Godley Head. With the coast being so close, you could link this trail up to the ‘Anaconda’ trail, ending up in Taylors Mistake for a pre-breakfast surf. This trail is typical Canterbury, tight and rocky, with amazing views over to Lyttleton, out to the sea and back over Christchurch.

Sunrise next to the trig a perfect place to start the day.
Sunrise next to the trig, a perfect place to start the day.

Is there a better way to start the day
Is there a better way to start the day?
Riding into the rising sun towards Godley Head.
Riding into the rising sun, towards Godley Head.

Chasing light.
Chasing light.

Many sheep in New Zealand styles to get over fences are common.
Many sheep in New Zealand, styles to get over fences are common.
The grass is high at the moment which looks majestic in the morning sunlight.
The grass is high at the moment which looks majestic in the morning sunlight.

Ever get the feeling that you re being watched
Ever get the feeling that you're being watched?

Sam has no time for riding the corner as it was made.
Sam has no time for riding the corner as it was made.


Instead of dropping down to the sea, we used the Summit Road as a connection to head to our next zone, where we started above the Adventure Park and rode the ‘Gnarly Nun’, down to where it meets Christchurch staple, ‘The Flying Nun’, and pedalled across to Christchurch’s original home of riding, Victoria Park, where you find a diverse selection of trails. Pine forest, dark jungle, blue gums, dust, rocks, mud, and jumps, it’s all in there.


Dusty Gnarly Nun descents looking over Lyttleton Harbour.
Dusty Gnarly Nun descents looking over Lyttleton Harbour.
The first corner on Gnarly Nun provides a seriously scenic backdrop.
The first corner on Gnarly Nun provides a seriously scenic backdrop.

Sam and Billy stop to check out the views across the city to the foothills in the distance.
Sam and Billy stop to check out the views across the city to the foothills in the distance.

Billy chases Sam down through the lush greens of Vic Park.
Billy chases Sam down through the lush greens of Vic Park.

Out of the dust and into the pine forest.
Out of the dust and into the pine forest.

The East facing slope of Vic park is littered with Blue Gum and dusty trails.
The East facing slope of Vic park is littered with Blue Gum and dusty trails.

Plenty of features in Victoria Park to keep everyone happy.
Plenty of features in Victoria Park to keep everyone happy.

Wheelie good pan shot.
Wheelie good pan shot.


City of Christchurch

After the early start, the energy levels were on the decline so we decided to head into town for a recharge. Christchurch is exploding with new places to eat and drink. There are so many great options it’s becoming hard to decide where to start. We decided to head to C1 Espresso. They’re based in a heritage building in the center of town which pre-dates the earthquakes and they serve some of their fare through a pneumatic tube system. Iced coffees, some fancy lattes, and a giant muffin later, we were ready to explore the city center while it was far too hot for serious riding.


C1 still standing strong.
C1 still standing strong.
Sam replenishes his energy with a tumeric Latte he s very conscious about what he puts in.
Sam replenishes his energy with a tumeric latte. He's very conscious about what he puts in.

As for the rest of us Iced Coffee over ice cream with a mega muffin. The body is a temple.
As for the rest of us, iced coffee over ice cream with a mega muffin. The body is a temple.


We cruised around the streets, checking out the new pump track near the Margaret Mahy playground, where you’ll find slacklines to try and big grassy areas to chill on, or to try a tuck no-hander if that’s your thing. Billy amused the tram passengers by manualling alongside it as it rattled down the terrace, and Sam took in an impromptu performance by a busker on New Regent Street. We cruised along the new city promenade, past the iconic bridge of remembrance before making our way to our next spot.


Sam Blenkinsop Lowrider - through the trees.
Sam Blenkinsop, Lowrider - through the trees.

Or potentially a place to walk the dog Not these guys.
Some people might think of this area as a good place for a picnic.
Some people might think of this area as a good place for a picnic, or potentially a place to walk the dog? Not these guys.


Billy proving he s got the balance skills.
Billy proving he's got the balance skills.


The new pump track in town proves great for a jib session.
The new pump track in town proves great for a jib session.

Sam enjoys a performance by one of the Christchurch City Buskers on New Regent St.
Sam enjoys a performance by one of the Christchurch City Buskers on New Regent Street.

Giving the tram passengers some different views.
Giving the tram passengers some different views.

Iconic Christchurch spot the Bridge of Remembrance.
Iconic Christchurch spot, the Bridge of Remembrance.

Taking a leisurely roll down beside the Avon River.
Taking a leisurely roll down beside the Avon River.


Christchurch Adventure Park

It was time for us to check out the Christchurch Adventure Park. This is the place that really put Christchurch on the riding map with its year-round lift assisted riding. It’s your first port of call if you’re new to the city and looking to ride. They can sort you out with a bike and gear, or lessons and guiding if you fancy, even sightseeing or a zipline tour if you’re not here to ride. The village at the Adventure Park is perfectly situated to grab a bite and a cold one when you get off the hill, with a full café and Cassels and Son on tap.


Sam and Billy walk past the bar at the Christchurch Adventure Park on their way to the lift.
Sam and Billy walk past the bar at the Christchurch Adventure Park on their way to the lift.
Second best way to get to the top if taking a heli isn t an option.
Second best way to get to the top, if taking a heli isn't an option.

Riding the lift can be pretty daunting sometimes.
Riding the lift can be pretty daunting sometimes.


There was no time for indulging though, we were here to ride. We started off with the newly opened 3rd Base trail, a dusty and feature-laden black trail, before bumping back up the lift for a Christchurch staple - ‘Throw the Goat’ into ‘Yoda’ and finally ‘Handle the Jandal’. Steep rock faces and singletrack into flowy jumps back to base. Lastly, we headed up to the top for a last sunset lap, the flagship jump trail ‘Airtearoa’. Not before a quick breather and biscuit of course. With the trail heading west it’s perfect for catching that last light before you call it a night.



Plenty of green to be found in the Park as well.
Plenty of green to be found in the Park as well.


The chairlift is a great place to watch people riding the network of trails below. This is above Handle the Jandal
The chairlift is a great place to watch people riding the network of trails below. This is above 'Handle the Jandal'

Pilots view of the cockpit.
Pilots view of the cockpit.
A well situated picnic table at the top provides the best stop for a bikkie with a view.
A well-situated picnic table at the top provides the best stop for a snack with a view.

The view out to the city from the top station of the chairlift.
The view out to the city from the top station of the chairlift.

The first rock section on Yoda.
The first rock section on Yoda.
Straight into some rocky single track.
Straight into some rocky single track.

Thrilling riding even for the pro s.
Thrilling riding, even for the pros.

Billy and Sam tackle one of the gnarlier lines in the park.
Billy and Sam tackle one of the gnarlier lines in the park.
Sam shows his style and comfort on a bike over the tables on Airtearoa.
Sam shows his style and comfort on a bike over the tables on Airtearoa.

Sunset Whips on the top section of Airtearoa.
Sunset Whips on the top section of Airtearoa.

The flagship jump trail in the Adventure Park. Not for beginners.
The flagship jump trail in the Adventure Park. Not for beginners.
typical beautiful Canterbury sunset makes for a beautiful silhouette shot.
Typical beautiful Canterbury sunset makes for a lovely silhouette shot.

If it doesn t go on the gram did it even happen
If it doesn't go on the 'gram, did it even happen?

Last train of the night better make it a good one.
Last train of the night, better make it a good one.
Billy gets one last sunset banger for the story before heading down.
Billy gets one last sunset banger for the story before heading down.

With the tiniest amount of light left in the sky it s time to go.
With the tiniest amount of light left in the sky, it's time to go.

What a way to end a huge day of riding.
What a way to end a huge day of riding.

We were out all day from dawn until dusk, but we still barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer here in Christchurch. For us, it was time to relax and get something to eat. Maybe we’d head to Little High, where you can get a little bit of everything, or local favourite Smash Palace, where you can ride right in. Christchurch is on the up and up right now, there’s so much going on and the riding just gets better and better. With the riding so close to the city, and epic locations all around, it truly is the gateway to riding in the South Island.



Christchurch Adventure Park mountain biking trails

Follow us on Instagram: Sam, Billy and Jay

Pinkbike would like to thank:
Christchurch Adventure Park
Christchurch International Airport
Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism

Regions in Article
Christchurch


39 Comments

  • 21 0
 Could you please stop making me jealous...
  • 1 0
 I was about to say the same! Makes me realise I didn't ride enough when I was briefly there a few years ago! What an amazing country!
  • 19 0
 Ha poor guy diggin in his nose has no idea he's now forever on PB
  • 6 0
 I had the good fortune to stay out in the small town of Sumner (adjacent to Godley Head) for a few weeks and we explored the local trails there including Anaconda. One of the greatest signs I've ever seen in a riding area was posted there: "This section of track is for mountainbiking. Walkers and runners please keep clear of cyclists".

Priorities!
  • 2 0
 @sngltrkmnd: Dog walkers are the worst. They actually believe those signs don't apply to them.
  • 4 0
 As a resident of Ch Ch, it's great to see an article that shows off a bit more of 'our place' not just CAP. Good job, well done. Smash Palace is a great place for a brew and Little High has a feast of eateries. Now, I really should get out and ride sometime...
  • 6 0
 ...when every photo could be POY.
  • 3 0
 Bloody amazing article. Feeling pretty lucky I grew up there as kid, unlimited BMX tracks, random DIY urban off-road bike tracks. Earthquakes definitely changed things for us. RIP Matty.
  • 2 0
 I cut my teeth on the early Port Hills tracks in the late 90's while living in Governors Bay. I haven't lived there since 2003 and the last time I visited Christchurch CAP was closed with the fire damage and the CBD was still pretty wrecked and chaotic. It's great to see that the city has embraced mtbing to this extent since the quakes. Feeling kind of homesick but CHCH has changed so much.
  • 5 1
 Kiwis seem to have their shit figured out. Kinda wish my folks had pulled the trigger on immigrating there in the 80's.
  • 3 1
 So blessed to have grown up here, This place was booming with bikes right before the earthquakes and it’s seems to continue to flourish post quakes. Dam you for filling me with Homesickness!
  • 4 0
 shouts "New Zealand is terrible!" as he books tickets, rooms and rental car.
  • 1 0
 Looks awesome. Any decent riding on the Banks Peninsula? My Grandma grew up there, it'd be awesome to explore the area on bike some day. Need to go visit the distant cousins before they become more distant.
  • 1 0
 I think it's road riding only. I visited CHCH some years ago and got the vibe that it was protected forest on the peninsula.
  • 1 0
 Mostly road and gravel bashing plus some 4wd tracks with some cool coastline and ridgelines if that's your thing.
  • 3 0
 Absolutely nailed it Jay! Showcases the amazing region we live it perfectly!
  • 1 0
 Sure is embarrassing getting caught picking your nose in a public place. Even worse having the photo posted on the internet for millions to see. Nose-picking train guy will never live this down.
  • 3 0
 "It is crucial that you smile in every riding picture!"
  • 2 0
 Perfect timing. Bike is packed and I'm heading there today for the weekend.
  • 2 0
 Jay French is a boss. Love the shots and the support of Kiwi riding communities.
  • 2 0
 Timing of this article cannot be any sweeter given I'm flying out to Christchurch next week..
  • 1 0
 If you want a local to show you around let me know!
  • 1 0
 I lived in chch for a year until pretty recently. Real fun place to live if you're into bikes. I had the port hills and the adventure Park right on my doorstep. Too good.
  • 6 4
 This article is wrong. It's horrible here. Cold, flat, and boring. Stay away. Auckland or Sydney is better.
  • 2 0
 Come to Melbourne, just give me your ticket to NZ in exchange.
  • 1 2
 Boo... you sound like a bit of a dick!
  • 3 1
 Ski season is sooo over rated - wish I were there instead of here
  • 2 0
 no gloves or glasses? Kiwis R tuff.
  • 2 0
 Love the pic of the Tram TREK
  • 2 0
 Hell yes boiis. Good work !
  • 2 0
 Great work az always Jay!
  • 2 0
 Bikepark looks so much different without trees
  • 2 0
 Epic story bro! Photos are pretty sweet too haha
  • 1 0
 Blenki running that Assegai tire makes me wanna try it even more!
  • 2 0
 awesome pictures
  • 2 0
 That beauty...
  • 4 6
 The wind blows like allllllllll the time!
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