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Kiwi towns

What’s so great about Darfield where to go

  • 5 minutes

Selwyn District, Darfield is a hub for holidays focused on activities in the Canterbury region from garden tours to winter ski trips. The lively rural town offers visitors cafes and shops. Darfield with the backdrop of the Southern Alps has walking trails over hills and past waterfalls. There is the challenging Torlesse Tussock Reserve to the fantastical natural limestone landscape of Castle Hill to walk and explore. Darfield, sitting on the fertile Canterbury plains, between the between the Rakaia and Waimakariri rivers offers visitors water sports, off road adventures and a chance to relax and revive.

WHAT TO DO HIGHLIGHTS

  • Gunyah Country Estate garden tours and morning tea in an English style country garden
  • Walking trails from fairy trails in McHugh Park to scenic Washpen waterfalls
  • Darfield Farmers Market (weekly)
  • Pop into Springfield for a selfie against the largest doughnut in New Zealand
  • Spend the day exploring Ashley Rakahuri River / gorge – The Gorgeously Gorgy Loop Track kiwi guardians (Department of Conservation)
  • Check out nearby Methven and Rakaia Gorge, either jet boating or walking over the historic bridge
  • The great outdoors at night West Melton Observatory. Canterbury with its lack of night sky pollution is an ideal location for Canterbury Astronomical Society – Home
Gunyah Country Estate, New Zealand @Gunyahcountryestate Gunyah Country Estate @Gunyahcountryestate
West Melton Observatory @Selwyn West Melton Observatory @Selwyn

WASHPEN WATERFALLS

The adventure walk starts at the old Washpen Woolshed and through a reserve filled with lush native bush and wonderful birdlife. This unspoilt area is easily accessed tracks, stairs and boardwalks.

You can swim in the bottom pools. The bridal waterfalls have a drop of 22 metres and have a constant flow throughout the summer.

The loop walk is approximately 2 hours. The well maintained track is steep in parts. No dogs or prams (buggies) are allowed.

Washpen waterfalls, New Zealand @lisas.adventuress
Washpen waterfalls @lisas.adventuress
Washpen waterfalls, New Zealand @backyardtravelfamily
Washpen waterfalls @backyardtravelfamily

Highlights

  • Swimming in the bottom waterfall pools
  • Bluff lookout overlooking the Canterbury plains
  • Stone Lake, complete with rowboat for visitors to give it a go. (former quarry). Picnic tables located nearby
  • Heritage farm equipment creating a great backdrop for rural photo moments

Admission fee (private reserve situated within a high country working farm. Fee includes complimentary walking sticks to use while on the trail. Payment is cash via an honesty box in the self-service small visitor centre (toilets nearby).

ASHLEY GORGE SCENIC AREA

Ashley Gorge loop track view, New Zealand @DOC
Ashley Gorge loop track view @DOC

KIWI GUARDIANS AT ASHLEY GORGE are fern-lined forest floors, filtered sunlight and bird song.

  • Pack your togs and picnic for a trip to Ashley Gorge and discover this new walking track developed and maintained by local volunteers. Nestled in the foothills of the southern Alps, the walk provides great views over the Canterbury Plains.
  • The easy walk passes through an interesting combination of established beech/podocarp forest and regenerating bush as a result of a major fire in the 1930s which left some pockets of forest standing. Can you see the difference?
  • The local volunteers also run a great programme to trap stoats, rats and possums to protect the native wildlife. You might see some traps and also great birdlife as a result of the trapping.
  • The team has just finished a new track that branches off the loop track to a waterfall (extra 1 hr 30 min return).
  • Cool down with a swim in the Ashley Gorge afterwards.
Ashley Gorge Loop Track @DOC
Ashley Gorge Loop Track @DOC

Know before you go:

  • Easy flat walk for young and old, but there are a series of steps from the road by the bridge to the track.
  • Park in the Ashley Gorge Reserve and follow the track across the bridge to the steps.
  • Toilets, picnic amenities and a shop for drinks and ice-creams are all at the reserve. There is also a camping holiday park if you wish to stay overnight.
  • Dogs are very welcome on a leash on both the track and the picnic area.

Source DOC Ashley Gorge Loop Track

MCHUGH’S FOREST PARK

McHughs Forest Park is a 43 hectare public recreational reserve on the edge of Darfield town in the Selwyn District of the South Island of New Zealand. It was established in 1893 as a plantation forest for timber and shelter, dominated by Douglas fir but with a mix of other exotic conifers. A number of trails wend their way through the forest. A favourite place for families and kids is the fairy trail. The entrance to the fairy walk is unmissable with a glorious fairy signpost and giant fairy door at the start of the walk (near the toilets). While the doors do not open (unlike Hanmer Springs) it is an engaging activity for kids to find the next door. The loop track has over 40 doors meaning lots of energy is spent finding doors.

McHughs Forest Park, New Zealand @freshprinceofsamoa
McHughs Forest Park @freshprinceofsamoa
McHughs Forest Park @camilee93
McHughs Forest Park @camilee93

TIPS

  • Dogs on leash allowed
  • Tracks are largely flat
  • Beginner bike trails
  • Car park 315 Horndon St, Darfield
  • Trails are clearly marked as well there is an information board before entering the park

The forest park was created in 1893 to provide a plantation shelter belt where no natural forest occurred. The forest is a mixture of large mature Douglas-fir along with other large trees. There are a number of different flat tracks weaving through the forest.

McHughs Forest Park, New Zealand @camilee93 McHughs Forest Park @camilee93
McHughs Forest Park, New Zealand @camilee93 McHughs Forest Park @camilee93

TE HUANUI ART GALLERY

The Malvern Community Arts Council (MCAC) is a not-for-profit community group of volunteers that is committed to develop, facilitate, and support arts events and activities in the district so that the community can fully enjoy and participate in the arts locally.

The Malvern Community Arts Council organises a number of activities in Malvern including:

  • Te Huanui Art Gallery
  • Darfield Artweek – an exhibition of nearly 300 works held each October, now in its 40th year
  • scholarships for young artists
  • performing arts events
  • special exhibitions, and
  • workshops
Te Huanui Art Gallery in Darfield, New Zealand @Te Huanui Art Gallery in Darfield
Te Huanui Art Gallery @Te Huanui Art Gallery in Darfield

(formerly the Selwyn Gallery) is a modern community gallery that showcases and retails a wide variety of New Zealand art by established and emerging artists. ounting eleven monthly exhibitions each year, the gallery comprises an exhibition space (Gallery 1) and a cash-and-carry space (Gallery 2).

Lake Ida ice skating, 1949 @Reddit
Lake Ida ice skating, 1949 @Reddit

RYTON TRACK TO LAKE IDA

Highlight

  • Remote wilderness sub-alpine landscape
  • Natural ice skating (conditions permitting)

Tussock sub-alpine high country landscape. The track feels remote and New Zealand’s wilderness surrounds the walker. The track begins from a small car park situated between Lake Selfe and Lake Evelyn that follows the base of Little Mount Ida around to Lake Ida. Outdoor natural ice skating enthusiasts monitor the lake for quality ice. The lakes are shaded creating the right winter conditions.

  • Length: 5.8 km (one way) return same route
  • Grade: Easy / Moderate, ascent 151 metres

TIP

The best place to keep up with the lake conditions are on Aardwolfs Natural Ice Reports. Reports have been kept up to date by the community of Ice Skating enthusiasts that enjoy skating on the naturally frozen lakes
Nearest settlement Windwhistle

NOTE

Check Fish & Game Canterbury Lakes brochure for details on getting to the lakes

Location
Darfield to Lake Evelyn (Harper Rd)

Westview Park, Darfield, New Zealand @Healthy Kids
Westview Park, Darfield @Healthy Kids

FESTIVALS

  • Annual A&P (agricultural and produce) Show, a stalwart for urban visitors to obtain a genuine look at rural life

WHERE TO TAKE THE BEST SELFIE

  • Springfield doughnut (a few km down the road)
  • McHughs Forest Park fairy doors

WHAT TO DO WITH KIDS

  • Westview Park has a rope climbing frame, swings, slides, flying fox and skate area. The park is also home to the historic Homebush Rail Station and a section of rail track
  • McHughs Forest walks
  • Ice creams from the local convenience store

TOWN SLOGAN (informal)

  • The town under the Nor’west arch … The characteristic cloud form appears above the mountains when the north-west winds blow.

WEATHER

POPULATION

  • 2,900

WHAT KEEPS THE PLACE TICKING

  • Fonterra, dairying and rural service hub
Darfield main street in spring, Canterbury, NZ
Darfield main street in spring

WHO TURNED UP AND NAMED THE PLACE?

  • The name was given by John Jebson after a place in Yorkshire, England. The original name means Field frequented by deer. It was first known as White Cliffs Junction, then Horndon Junction, which was changed in 1879 owing to confusion with Hornby Junction. The land was converted into a pastoral landscape in the 1850s by the Deans brothers for the cattle station Homebush. Then the railways brought settlers and the beginnings of a town. Source Darfield NZ History

JUDGMENT

  • Don’t speed through Darfield on your way to Arthur’s Pass and the West Coast, to the ski fields, the foothills, the rivers and lakes, take time and explore a mid Canterbury rural town.

TRAVEL PACK INFORMATION

Check Selwyn district towns nearby What’s so great about ….

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