Winter is the perfect time of year to explore the dizzying alpine peaks and postcard-perfect coastal towns of the South Island. We’ve got your itinerary sorted with these adventures just a few hours outside of Christchurch.

Head north to Kaikōura for whale watching
A cruisy two hours and 20 minutes from Christchurch, you can get up close to the world’s largest toothed predator. The beautiful coastal town of Kaikōura has options to see the giant sperm whale by boat, fixed wing aircraft or helicopter. It’s not just whales you’re likely to see in this deep ocean canyon, but also seals and dolphins. In fact, Kaikōura is a great base for all nature of wildlife experiences, with plenty of hikes, complete with epic sea views, around Mount Fyffe and the Seaward Kaikōura Range.

Blast along the Rakaia River by jet boat
Visitors to the South Island often go specifically for its adventure activities. One of these experiences, located just over an hour from Christchurch, is a jet ride down the Rakaia River with 12-odd other fearless souls. The Discovery Jet boat has 15-minute, 30-minute and 45-minute options. We recommend taking the longer trip, to really make the most of hurtling through the centre of the Rakaia Gorge and incredible high-country terrain of Mount Hutt and the Southern Alps. All this just 75 minutes from Christchurch.

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Take a rainforest walk through the Oparara Basin Arches
Located in Kahurangi National Park on the west coast via a spectacular drive through Arthurs or Lewis Passes, are the Oparara Basin Arches; three forest-covered limestone arches framing the Oparara River. Accompanied by pristine rainforest, bring your lunch with you for a picnic in nature. Access is through the guided tours, which range in length from two to five hours and include lunch or refreshments depending on the tour chosen. Sturdy walking shoes and a torch are a must, as you’ll explore caves within the rainforest setting.

Explore Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
A roadtrip from Christchurch down the inland scenic route (Highway 72) will take you through some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand. From stunning Lake Tekapo it’s just a short drive to the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. It’s New Zealand’s highest mountain, at 3754 metres high (so needless to say you’ll need extensive hiking experience for that). In general, this region is a year round snow experience populated by glaciers and alpine ranges, with walks for all ages. There’s a range of accommodation options too, from high country chalets to lodges with views from Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo, to the Aoraki/Mount Cook alpine village. At night check out the Big Sky Stargazing experience; a 60 to 90-minute tour with hot chocolate provided.

Explore Tasman Glacier
While you’re in the Aoraki area, make your way to one of the few lakes in the world that contains icebergs. You might want to brave the heli-hike – a stunning 25-kilometre helicopter ride with up to two hours’ hiking on the ice with crampons. There’s also 2.5-hour boat trips, which are more family-friendly but no less spectacular.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Christchurch NZ.