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When many think of Oxford, a beautiful town set the heart of England which played host to one Inspector Morse and his MK2 Jag on TV tends to spring to mind.
However, for those in the South Island, Oxford is a Canterbury town which has plenty to offer, especially as a destination for classic car fans and owners. The drive loop from Christchurch to Oxford and back is also a treat with a grand concoction of winding curves, long straights and stunning vistas. Here is how you can get your Oxford fix.
While you can simply go northwest along Tram Road and go to Oxford direct, the loop around Ashley Gorge is by far the most enjoyable. Starting from central Christchurch, it’s a matter of finding the SH1 going north. Once you are moving along the Northern Motorway, follow it until you arrive at Woodend.
Here you take the first left before Woodend onto Rangiora/Woodend Road. This is so you can bypass the heavier traffic going through Rangiora. Follow this road until you arrive at Golf Links Road and turn right. By now you will be passing Rangiora Golf club so be aware of players crossing the road to get to the 18th hole. At the end of Golf Links Road, turn left onto Coldstream Road passed Mainpower Stadium, over the railway line and turn right onto Cones Road.
It is here you where you venture over the Ashley River and head towards the Canterbury High Country. The road starts to turn as you venture past the Ashley Football club, here you turn right onto Hodgsons Road. Here you start towards Okuku so stay on the main road which eventually becomes Birch Hill Road.
Passing streams, farmland, hedgerows and paddocks, the mountains get ever closer. Before long you the road starts to twist, rise and descend. The section through Glentui is especially technical and if you have a well-balanced handling car, you can have some serious fun.
Through Glentui you arrive at Ashley Gorge. Here you can visit the grounds of the Ashley Gorge Kiwi Holiday Park. Drive through to the grounds and you can access the Ashley River. It’s a great place for a picnic or walking beside the river itself.
Moving on, it is a matter of following Ashley Gorge Road past Starvation Hill and before you know you are arriving in Oxford itself. Oxford is a linear town with the town centre revolving around Oxford Road. It was once a logging community and once featured two railway stations, East and West Oxford. These were closed down in 1959 but some the original line still remains.
Oxford has plenty of gift shops and the popular Oxford Farmers Market takes place every Sunday morning. Here you can sample locally grown produce, delicious edibles and other gifts, all with live music playing in the background.
Wanting lunch? You are spoiled for choice. Cruisy Days Diner is very popular as a retro 50s style diner with curly fries, thick shakes and more. Plus, everything from the décor, music and staff all reflect the theme, so rolling up in your 57 Bel Air would be more than ideal.
There is also Black Beech Wine bar. Here you can enjoy a glass of the finest vintage or Three Boys Craft Beer. The popular Café 51 is also a thriving culinary hub. After lunch you can also have a wander around the town, checking out the museum and Oxford Art Gallery.
Heading back to Christchurch, follow Oxford Road south east before turning right onto Tram Road. Tram Road stretches on for mile after mile, perfect for a post lunch cruise home.