Getting out of the City: Walks and tramps in the wider Canterbury region for families
One of the best ways to encourage a lifelong love of the outdoors is to start out young and do it as a family. Walking is a great place to start and once you have built up confidence and stamina, you can tackle some more challenging tramps.
New Zealand has so many options to choose from, and often many are closer than you think. For instance, if you are based in Christchurch or in the wider Canterbury region, you have an abundance of trails at your doorstep. Whether it is views of the coastline, surrounding summits or the Canterbury Plains, each walk is worth it.
Destination ideas for families by Jen and her family from Backyard Travel Family
Easy Walks for families: 1-2 hours return
One way to entice young kids on a walk is to find wildlife. Harts Creek near Leeston is such a great spot as the birdlife in the wetlands is flourishing. The 2.7km track will take about an hour return, plus your birdwatching stops. The track is a mixture of grass and boardwalk which is easy for little legs. It can get a bit wet at times, so gumboots can be a great addition.
The end of the walk is a covered bird hide overlooking the water. Quiet kids will be able to spot swans, ducks, pukeko, white herons, Canadian Geese and more. It’s a perfect spot for morning tea.
Mt Sunday, Hakatere Conservation Park
Mt Sunday is a great first summit for kids. Don’t be intimidated by the name, it's more of a big hill than a mountain (but don’t tell them that). This walk will take around 90 minutes return and is mostly flat, except for the big hill at the end that takes only 10-15 minutes to climb.
Mt Sunday was actually a Lord of the Rings film location, so if you are struggling to encourage older kids to join, then perhaps they will love this movie reference. Standing on top of Mt Sunday you will find the most incredible views of the mountains and a sense of vastness in the area. Do be aware, it's often crazy windy up at the top, so pack a jacket and some warm layers.
Castle Hill in Arthurs Pass National Park is less of a walk and more of an exploration. The collection of rocks to explore and climb here will be enough to keep the whole family entertained for at least a few hours.
Do be aware that the altitude here is almost 750m above sea level. This means that it does experience snow in the winter and can be extremely hot during the summer. Check in with the MetService weather forecast on the Plan My Walk app to ensure you are well equipped.
McHughs Forest, Darfield
If you are wanting to get the kids into walking at an early age, there’s nothing better than a surprise around every corner, literally. The Darfield Fairy Door Walk in McHughs Forest (just north of Darfield) is a wonderland that will have the kids skipping along the trail to see what they discover.
The walk takes around 60-90 minutes to toddle around, is stroller and dog friendly too (on a leash). Older children may also enjoy the biking trail that circumnavigates this walk.
Challenging day tramps for families with walking experience
For kids who need to exert some energy, why not take them for a day trip into the backcountry. With the right preparation and a good handful of determination, these can be great challenges for the family.
Lake Coleridge is a beautiful area to explore and if you haven’t been, you’re in for a treat. The Peak Hill track will take you across farmland, then up the ridgeline to the summit. This is quite a lung burner so be prepared to take plenty of breaks.
The view from Peak Hill is something else with 360-degree views of Lake Coleridge, the braided rivers and the Southern Alps - it really is quite spectacular. While it is a good uphill challenge, the 4–5hour return journey is most certainly worth the effort.
One thing to note is the track is fully exposed, and there is no shelter from wind, rain or sun so factor this into your planning. A few essentials on this trip are a rainjacket, warm layers, a hat and sunscreen. You can use the Plan My Walk app’s gear list function to help make sure you pack everything you need.
Woolshed Creek, Mt Somers Track
Woolshed Creek, in the Mt Somers area, is such a popular walk for families. It is a good length day walk, taking 4-6 hours return, or it is the perfect first overnight walk. The Miners Track is the easiest trail to Woolshed Creek Hut. The track description suggests a generous 3 hours to reach the hut via this trail.
Kids will love exploring the old coal mine along the way, which makes a good pit stop at the top of the hill. Once at Woolshed Creek Hut, kids can play in the stream and even take a side trip to the water caves for some reprieve on a hot day.
If you have older kids who are looking for a further challenge, consider the Rhyolite Track. There are some bigger climbs and a bit of scree to negotiate here which more experienced walkers may enjoy.
MSC TIP: If you’re looking for more information about this area, the Mt Somers Track videos shines some light on these amazing tracks. Watch it here
Little Mt Peel is not so little at all. In fact, there is almost 1000m of elevation gain on this trail. So this track is a great challenge for older kids or experienced walkers. The track description recommends allowing 2-3 hours to reach the summit on the Deer Spur Track (the easier of the two options), however with kids, I would allow 3-4 hours. This track is uphill almost the whole way, so it will require a number of breaks and plenty of food.
The views are what you have come for on this track, so choose a clear day if you can. From the summit of 1311m, you will be able to see Mt Hutt, Mt Somers, out to the coastline and across the Canterbury Plains. There is a small shelter just before the top which is a good place to get out of wind and weather while you fuel up.
A trail in alpine territory means the weather can change very quickly. Make sure you are well prepared for this track by ensuring you have the correct gear; the weather is favourable on the day and you’ve let someone know where you are going. You can log these details on the Plan My Walk app.
Keeping safe with your family
The most important thing, besides having fun of course, is to keep safe in the outdoors. If you haven’t downloaded the Plan My Walk app, then just go do it. Whether you are just new to the outdoors, or are an old hand, it has all the basics to keep you safe. Gear lists, weather for your walk, a place to save your walking wishlist and even a system to inform your loved ones where you are going.
Look after yourself Aotearoa. Now get out there and explore!
If you have tracks that you have discovered near you? Let us know! Use #MakeItHomeNZ on your social media and share your adventures.
Further info to get your prepped!
- Learn about camping | What to take, where to set up and stay comfy in the outdoors
- Watch how-to videos | Learn packing tips, basic skills and more in our video library