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Canterbury is a large district on the east coast of the South Island and stretches from the Southern Alps in the West across the plains to the sea, and from Kaikoura in the north to the Waitaki River in the south. Mt Cook in the Southern Alps, New Zealand's highest mountain, is in Canterbury as are Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki and the Mackenzie Country.

Canterbury - Lyttelton and the Harbour
Canterbury - Lyttelton and the Harbour - Credit- Peter Hunt

The first European settlers in the area were John and William Deans who came from Scotland, but the first organised groups of colonists arrived in 1850 in the port of Lyttelton and walked over the Port Hills to settle in Christchurch. These settlers came from England and Christchurch has had a reputation for being an English city.

Canterbury - Canterbury plains and Southern Alphs
Canterbury - Canterbury plains and Southern Alphs - Credit- Peter Hunt

If you walk on the Port Hills or ride the Gondola and look to the south and west Canterbury looks rather like a patchwork plain. The farm lands extend to the foot hills of the Southern Alps and sheep stations were established on the steep slopes of the foothills.

For many years Canterbury was an important wheat growing area, but now most land is used for sheep and cattle farming and recently dairy farming has increased markedly.

Canterbury is often divided into three areas - North Canterbury with Christchurch city as its main centre, mid-Canterbury with Ashburton as its town centre, and South Canterbury with Timaru as its city centre and port.

Many attractions draw visitors to the area. Christchurch offers city life - restaurants, bars, theatre, museums, galleries. Mt Hutt and a number of smaller fields offer skiing. Arthur's Pass draws climbers who want to explore the Arthur's Pass National Park. Hanmer with its hot pools is a mecca for those wanting to relax there year round, even with snow on the ground. Akaroa, a village first settled by the French, attracts visitors because it has a different atmosphere and there are boat trips on the Akaroa Harbour.

There are many golf courses and other sporting facilities, swimming pools, rivers to fish in, white water rafting, jet boating, beaches and much more - something for everyone.

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