Road Trip Destinations: Christchurch to Kaikoura

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By Ben Selby

If there is one coastal drive in the South Island which is more popular than almost any other, it has to be the stretch of road from Christchurch, through Cheviot and along the coast to Kaikoura. With its views, legendary seafood and great community vibe, Kaikoura is certainly a hot spot. Plus, with a great number of sights to see on the way, scenic vistas and beautiful winding roads, it makes for yet another grand day out for you and your classic car. Here is how you do it.

Starting in downtown Christchurch, point your classic’s nose in a northerly direction and head up SH1. The quickest way if you start in central Christchurch is to drive along Cranford Street until you get to the start of the newly completed Northern Corridor. Once on it, you simply shift into top gear, or overdrive if you have, and let the cruise begin.

As you cross the Waimakariri river, head through Woodend and passed Pegasus, you are well on your way. A quick jaunt along SH1 and you begin to notice the scenery beginning to change, the Canterbury plains are becoming less and less. Plus, the high country with its hills and rolling downs draws ever closer.

Not long after you arrive in Leithfield. If you have the time, it is worth stopping at Leithfield beach for a park up and take in the Canterbury coastline. Look up the coast on a good day and you can almost see Kaikoura.

Rejoining SH1, you carry on north through Amberley. This town has a number of great cafes and antique stores. If you fancy a bite to eat or a peak at something unique for the study, then definitely stop here.

Leaving Amberley, you then head through North Canterbury Wine Country of Glasnevin. In this area are Mount Brown Estates, Pegasus Bay, Torlesse Wines, Waipara Springs Winery, Mountford Estate, Black Estate Wines, Fancrest Estate, the list goes on. Best of all, each winery is within minutes of each other off SH1.

Leaving wine country, the road starts to rise and fall as you cross the Hurunui river. While the roads at this point are not the most technical challenging around, they are a great way for you to relax and let your classic flow from bend to bend with no real effort required on your part.

The next town you will come to is Cheviot. Cheviot has been a popular place to stop along this route. Check out the Number Eight Café or the Cheviot Team Rooms if you have time. Following on from this another place to stop and take in some coastal views. After crossing the Conway River, take the next right onto Claverly Road. Follow this road until you get to Black Sand Beach. To rejoin SH1, simply go back the way you came.

Through the twisty turns and tight switchback roads heading towards the coast, it isn’t long before you find yourself driving along SH1 within metres of the coast. This is where the road is at its best. This road took a hammering during the Canterbury Earthquake but extensive work carried out as turned it into one of the best coast roads in the country.

Open the taps of your twin-cam or V8 and let it rip through the tight corners. Plus, we wont tell anyone if you decide to give it a rev through each of the small hillside tunnels. Keep your eyes peeled also for fur seals. They like to slob out on the rocks next to the road.

After a while of this, you finally arrive in Kaikoura. There is so much to do here. Sample some of the many seafood eateries or enjoy a craft beer at Emporium Brewing. Take a guided tour of Fyffe House, Kaikoura’s oldest home, or learn about the history of Kaikoura through the local museum. Of course if you have the time, how about a spot of whale watching?

For us classic car fanatics though, there is one place which is a must see. Harmon’s Classic Car Museum houses a private collection of American and British classic cars owned by father and son collectors Geoff and Bernard Harmon. Plus, as the museum is part of Bernie’s Diner, some good American style tucker is never far away.

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