Enjoy cafés, markets and boat trips at this scenic European port town, steeped in history and bordered by volcanic hills.
The quaint harbor at Lyttelton sits on an ancient volcanic crater. The steep hills rising around the port town reach a height of 1,640 feet (500 meters), and are known as the Port Hills. In the town, you’ll find an excellent choice of restaurants, shops and cafés. Observe sea and birdlife out on the deep harbor with cruises run by local operators.
Lyttelton makes a great day trip from Christchurch, as it is linked to the city by a road tunnel through the Port Hills. At just over a mile (1.9 kilometers) long, the tunnel is the country's longest underground route. Lyttelton was close to the epicenter of the 2011 earthquake and many buildings were destroyed. However, like Christchurch, the town still has much to offer visitors.
The surroundings provide plenty of opportunities for hilly or coastal hikes, as well as many scenic picnic and swimming spots. Around the Port Hills area there are also plenty of adventure sports to enjoy, including mountain biking. Visit the nearby Quail Island by boat. Used as a leper colony during the first settlements, it’s now a picturesque nature reserve.
Lyttelton was the port of entry for English settlers coming to the new settlement of Canterbury, and the first four ships of immigrants arrived soon after the dock was constructed in the late 19th century. You can still see the original stone dock here at the harbor. It’s the last of its kind in the South Island.
Saturday mornings are a great time to visit Lyttelton, when you can soak up the lively atmosphere of the farmers market as you enjoy your morning coffee. This popular market attracts visitors from far and wide, as well as locals, who shop for freshly caught fish and other local produce.
From Christchurch, you can reach Lyttelton by car or bus via the road tunnel. Cruise into the harbor on a ferry from nearby Akaroa, Kaikoura and Timaru ports.